This December 1958 article from Time Magazine analyzed China's "Great Leap Forward" policy and attempted to predict what Beijing's global position would be in the decades to come. Some items worth noting:
- China's population was projected to grow to a billion people by 1980, and to be at over 2 billion by the turn of the 21st century. That is actually close to the truth - China's one-child-per-family rule, instituted in 1980, resulted in approximately 400 million people not born over the past 30 years. In the absence of this policy, China's population today would be around 1.8 billion people.
- The article quotes British Socialist MP Richard Grossman writing that Chinese Communism is "far the biggest and far the most formidable mass movement in human history - a movement which 'within the next decade' may transfer the center of the world to Peking." The British politician may have been off considerably, but current events are shaping up much in Beijing's favor, as modern China already holds a formidable global power status.
- "As recently as World War II, Winston Churchill could impatiently dismiss as 'unrealistic' U.S. insistence that China have big-power status. Yet today, barely 15 years later, Red China is universally acknowledged as the most formidable military power in Asia. Within the Communist bloc, when China speaks, Khrushchev listens." Back In 1958, Soviet leadership was much more confident of Soviet Union's position vis-a-vis China, but few can deny today that when Hu Jintao speaks, both Medvedev and Putin are listening carefully. Even President Obama listens attentively to what his counterpart is saying in China. And Beijing''s growing military power pushes existing relationships and commitments across Asia to the limit.
- "What the Russians have to fear from Mao's China is not that it will desert to the West or 'pull a Tito,' but that it will one day seize leadership of the Communist world." Well, China does lead the Communist world - or what is left of it - but Beijing did better than "pulling a Tito" (a reference to a Yugoslavian economic and foreign policy that was largely independent of the USSR). Today, China is on track to become the second largest economy in the world, with current Russian economy far behind its vast Asian neighbor.
- "When Britain's Sam Watson forecast to Khrushchev that the Chinese would one day flood either north into Siberia or south into Australia, Khrushchev's reply was: "I'm all in favor of Australia." Today's Chinese economic expansion is utilizing Russia's eastern economic resources, and many in the Russian political and economic establishment are concerned that their country is becoming a raw material annex to Beijing, while many in Moscow worry that largely empty lands east of the Ural Mountains are slowly being colonized by the ever-increasing numbers of Chinese immigrants.
Submitted by Yevgeny Bendersky, Editor Real Clear World