Note: to see the bigger version of this infographic, click here.
Balance of Superpowers: Comparing the US and Chinese Armed Forces
Note: to see the bigger version of this infographic, click here.
Whether China is busy championing trade deals outside of the US dollar, buying up some of the world’s biggest companies, taking over foreign housing markets, or building massive networks of nuclear or wind power grids, it is clear that the country is a world power to be reckoned with.
To be considered a true force, China also needs to be able to back up its economic and political might with a top notch military. Today’s infographic compares the armed forces of China with the United States.
In terms of military spending per capita, China is the new kid on the block. Although it has increased in recent years, China is still behind Russia, Turkey, South Korea, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States. However, the country does make up for it with in absolute terms by its sheer population. In terms of total military expenditures, China spends the second most worldwide with a total of approximately $216 billion per year, which is about one-third of the US.
In GDP terms, China spends about 2.1% of its annual GDP on military, and the United States spends 3.8%.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the two superpowers is influence in other parts of the world. The United States has 133 military bases outside of its territory, and China has zero. More specifically, the United States has bases in multiple jurisdictions that surround China: South Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Japan, Singapore, Guam, Afghanistan, and Diego Garcia, a set of small islands in Indian Ocean.
Original graphic by: SCMP
The People’s Republic of China: 70 Years of Economic History
How did China go from agrarian economy to global superpower? This timeline covers the key events and policies that shaped the PRC over its 70-year history.
Chart: 70 Years of China’s Economic Growth
View a high-resolution version of this graphic here.
From agrarian economy to global superpower in half a century—China’s transformation has been an economic success story unlike any other.
Today, China is the world’s second largest economy, making up 16% of $86 trillion global GDP in nominal terms. If you adjust numbers for purchasing power parity (PPP), the Chinese economy has already been the world’s largest since 2014.
The upward trajectory over the last 70 years has been filled with watershed moments, strategic directives, and shocking tragedies — and all of this can be traced back to the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on October 1st, 1949.
How the PRC Came to Be
The Chinese Civil War (1927–1949) between the Republic of China (ROC) and the Communist Party of China (CPC) caused a fractal split in the nation’s leadership. The CPC emerged victorious, and mainland China was established as the PRC.
Communist leader Mao Zedong set out a few chief goals for the PRC: to overhaul land ownership, to reduce social inequality, and to restore the economy after decades of war. The first State Planning Commission and China’s first 5-year plan were introduced to achieve these goals.
Today’s timely chart looks back on seven decades of notable events and policies that helped shape the country China has become. The base data draws from a graphic by Bert Hofman, the World Bank’s Country Director for China and other Asia-Pacific regions.
The Mao Era: 1949–1977
Mao Zedong’s tenure as Chairman of the PRC triggered sweeping changes for the country.
1953–1957: First 5-Year Plan
The program’s aim was to boost China’s industrialization. Steel production grew four-fold in four years, from 1.3 million tonnes to 5.2 million tonnes. Agricultural output also rose, but it couldn’t keep pace with industrial production.
1958–1962: Great Leap Forward
The campaign emphasized China’s agrarian-to-industrial transformation, via a communal farming system. However, the plan failed—causing an economic breakdown and the deaths of tens of millions in the Great Chinese Famine.
1959–1962: Lushan Conference and 7,000 Cadres meeting
Top leaders in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) met to create detailed policy frameworks for the PRC’s future.
1966–1976: Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution
Mao Zedong attempted to regain power and support after the failures of the Great Leap Forward. However, this was another plan that backfired, causing millions more deaths by violence and again crippling the Chinese economy.
1971: Joined the United Nations
The PRC replaced the ROC (Taiwan) as a permanent member of the United Nations. This addition also made it one of only five members of the UN Security Council—including the UK, the U.S., France, and Russia.
1972: President Nixon’s visit
After 25 years of radio silence, Richard Nixon was the first sitting U.S. President to step foot into the PRC. This helped re-establish diplomatic relations between the two nations.
1976–1977: Mao Zedong Death, and “Two Whatevers”
After Mao Zedong’s passing, the interim government promised to “resolutely uphold whatever policy decisions Chairman Mao made, and unswervingly follow whatever instructions Chairman Mao gave.”
1979: “One-Child Policy”
The government enacted an aggressive birth-planning program to control the size of the country’s population, which it viewed as growing too fast.
A Wave of Socio-Economic Reforms: 1980-1999
From 1980 onward, China worked on opening up its markets to the outside world, and closing the inequality gap.
1980–1984: Special Economic Zones (SEZs) established
Several cities were designated SEZs, and provided with measures such as tax incentives to attract foreign investment. Today, the economies of cities like Shenzhen have grown to rival the GDPs of entire countries.
1981: National Household Responsibility System implemented
In the Mao era, quotas were set on how many goods farmers could produce, shifting the responsibility of profits to local managers instead. This rapidly increased the standard of living, and the quota system spread from agriculture into other sectors.
1989: Coastal Development Strategy
Post-Mao leadership saw the coastal region as the potential “catalyst” for the entire country’s modernization.
1989–1991: Post-Tiananmen retrenchment
Early 1980s economic reforms had mixed results, and the growing anxiety eventually culminated in a series of protests. After tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square in 1989, the government “retrenched” itself by initially attempting to roll back economic reforms and liberalization. The country’s annual growth plunged from 8.6% between 1979-1989 to 6.5% between 1989-1991.
1990–1991: Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges open
Combined, the Shanghai (SSE) and Shenzhen (SZSE) stock exchanges are worth over $8.5 trillion in total market capitalization today.
1994: Shandong Huaneng lists on the NYSE
The power company was the first PRC enterprise to list on the NYSE. This added a new N-shares group to the existing Chinese capital market options of A-shares, B-shares, and H-shares.
1994–1996: National “8-7” Poverty Reduction Plan
China successfully lifted over 400 million poor people out of poverty between 1981 and 2002 through this endeavor.
1996: “Grasp the Large, Let Go of the Small”
Efforts were made to downsize the state sector. Policy makers were urged to maintain control over state-owned enterprises to “grasp the large”. Meanwhile, the central government was encouraged to relinquish control over smaller SOEs, or “let go of the small”.
1997: Urban Dibao (低保)
China’s social safety net went through restructuring from 1993, and became a nationwide program after strong success in Shanghai.
1997-1999: Hong Kong and Macao handover, Asian Financial Crisis
China was largely unscathed by the regional financial crisis, thanks to the RMB (¥) currency’s non-convertibility. Meanwhile, the PRC regained sovereignty of Hong Kong and Macau back from the UK and Portugal, respectively.
1999: Western Development Strategy
The “Open Up the West” program built out 6 provinces, 5 autonomous regions, and 1 municipality—each becoming integral to the Chinese economy.
Turn of the Century: 2000-present
China’s entry to the World Trade Organization, and the Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor (QFII) program – which let foreign investors participate in the PRC’s stock exchanges – contributed to the country’s economic growth.
2006: Medium-term Plan for Scientific Development
The PRC State Council’s 15-year plan outlines that 2.5% or more of national GDP should be devoted to research and development by 2020.
2008-2009: Global Financial Crisis
The PRC experienced only a mild economic slowdown during the crisis. The country’s GDP growth in 2007 was a staggering 14.2%, but this dropped to 9.7% and 9.5% respectively in the two years following.
2013: Belt and Road Initiative
China’s ambitious plans to develop road, rail, and sea routes across 152 countries is scheduled for completion by 2049—in time for the PRC’s 100th anniversary. More than $900 billion is budgeted for these infrastructure projects.
2015: Made in China 2025
The PRC refuses to be the world’s “factory” any longer. In response, it will invest nearly $300 billion to boost its manufacturing capabilities in high-tech fields like pharmaceuticals, aerospace, and robotics.
Despite the recent ongoing trade dispute with the U.S. and an increasingly aging population, the Chinese growth story seems destined to continue on.
China Paving the Way?
The 70th anniversary of the PRC offers a moment to reflect on the country’s journey from humble beginnings to a powerhouse on the world stage.
Because of China’s economic success, more and more countries see China as an example to emulate, a model of development that could mean moving from rags to riches within a generation.
Visualizing the Decline of Confidence in American Institutions
Americans rely on several institutions for their services and safety—but how has their confidence in institutions changed since 1975?
Every day, the public relies on a number of major institutions for services and safety. From banks and governments, to media and the military—these institutions play an important role in shaping life as we know it.
Yet, today’s interactive data visualization from Overflow Data shows that America’s confidence in institutions has drastically waned. The data relies on the General Social Survey (GSS) to provide a 40-year overview of how sentiment has changed with respect to 13 different institutions.
Select an institution from the drop-down menu below to see how confidence has changed over time
The Erosion of Confidence
Overall, confidence in most institutions has eroded. Americans find it especially hard to trust their government: the “great deal of confidence” metrics for Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Executive Branch were low to begin with, and have declined further since 1975.
That said, the biggest overall drop belongs to the press, which saw 50% of surveyed Americans saying they have “hardly any confidence” in it in 2016. This is nearly a three-fold increase from 1975, when that number was just 19%. Of course, with the rise of fake news in more recent years, the erosion of confidence in media doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
Here’s a look at the two extremes of sentiment regarding the studied institutions, showing how the opposite measures of “hardly any confidence” and a “great deal of confidence” have changed since 1975:
|🏦 Banks & Financial Institutions||Hardly any||10.9%||31.2%||+20.3 p.p.|
|Great deal||32.3%||14.1%||-18.2 p.p.|
|🗳️ Congress||Hardly any||26.2%||52.6%||+26.4 p.p.|
|Great deal||13.6%||5.9%||-7.7 p.p.|
|🏫 Education||Hardly any||13.0%||17.5%||+4.5 p.p.|
|Great deal||31.5%||25.6%||-5.9 p.p.|
|🏛️ Executive Branch||Hardly any||29.7%||42.4%||+12.7 p.p.|
|Great deal||13.4%||12.8%||-0.6 p.p.|
|🏬 Major Companies||Hardly any||22.9%||17.3%||-5.6 p.p.|
|Great deal||20.5%||18.3%||-2.2 p.p.|
|🏥 Medicine||Hardly any||17.8%||13.4%||-4.4 p.p.|
|Great deal||51.8%||50.6%||-1.2 p.p.|
|🎖️ Military||Hardly any||14.8%||7.6%||-7.2 p.p.|
|Great deal||36.3%||53.4%||+17.1 p.p.|
|💪 Organized Labor||Hardly any||31.5%||22.6%||-8.9 p.p.|
|Great deal||10.2%||13.9%||+3.7 p.p.|
|🙏 Religion||Hardly any||23.0%||26.4%||+3.4 p.p.|
|Great deal||25.8%||20.0%||-5.8 p.p.|
|📰 Press||Hardly any||19.0%||50.0%||+31 p.p.|
|Great deal||24.5%||7.6%||-16.9 p.p.|
|🥼 Scientific Community||Hardly any||7.4%||6.1%||-1.3 p.p.|
|Great deal||41.7%||42.1%||+0.4 p.p.|
|📺 Television||Hardly any||23.4%||43.1%||+19.7 p.p.|
|Great deal||18.4%||9.8%||-8.6 p.p.|
|⚖️ U.S. Supreme Court||Hardly any||19.2%||17.4%||-1.8 p.p.|
|Great deal||31.8%||26.3%||-5.5 p.p.|
Banks and financial institutions have also suffered a bad rep in the public eye. Their “great deal of confidence” metric has dropped sharply from 32.3% to 14.1% in four decades.
One major exception is the military, which emerges as the most trusted institution. Americans’ faith in the military has also shown the most improvement, with a 17.1 p.p increase in a “great deal of confidence” since 1975.
The Split Widens Further
While measuring public confidence in institutions can be subjective, it provides an understanding of where Americans want to see change and reform take place.
For more on how Americans perceive different institutions and the issues that affect them, see how the public is divided based on political affiliation.
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