China’s growing power is the single most influential driver of geopolitical change today. Notwithstanding Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, the United States has clearly identified China as its number one challenge. In June 2022, for the first time ever, NATO included China in its Strategic Concept, signaling a radical shift in the bloc’s security outlook.
But how mighty is China really? Measuring and comparing power between nations and across time is an imprecise exercise at best. Nonetheless, we can gain valuable information about China’s current power position if we compare it to the United States and Cold War-era Soviet Union—and consider three important concepts: polarity, hegemony, and the original definition of a superpower.