China has overtaken Japan as the second biggest economy in the world after the United States, the New York Times reported yesterdayCrikey asked Dr Michael Paton, from the University of Sydney, how China has solidified its position as a world superpower — despite the growing impost of environmental regulation.

What has enabled China to become such a dominant figure in today’s economy?

China has had a continuous written culture and long ago established a framework for the administration of finance and engineering. The Chinese invented paper money during the Song Dynasty and what many people forget is that an economic power has always been there. Basically, China has used their ‘Great Wall’ mentality to protect them from foreign impact and as a result have been able to emerge back into the world relatively unscathed by the economic issues plaguing other countries.

Why was Japan usurped?

There is a similarity between British and Japanese culture. Both rose to prominence for historical reasons and geographical reasons. Besides the geo-politics of America and Japan in regards to satellites, geography no longer holds as much importance. Globalisation has ultimately led to Japan’s lessened economic importance.

Will China move beyond the United States as the leading global economy?

It is doubtful that they will usurp the United States, because of their environmental problems. The United States are comparatively new and while they have also created environmental problems, they have been quicker to see them. We have to stop assessing this issue on terms of ‘whose got the biggest and best economy’ and begin thinking in terms of matriarchy, how we are all going to survive in the environment around us, with limited resources. China is heavily reliant on trade and foreign investment. China has had huge problems environmentally; they’ve been abusing their resources and looking over short term.  China is a fertile country and had a really good early environmental science but didn’t listen to the logic of this science enough.

Will Australia now strengthen its ties with China?

Australia has had an advisor to China’s previous president; in Shanghai there is an emporium centre started by an Australian-Chinese … there are many old relationships between Australia and China that go unrecognised.

What impact do you think this will have for China’s relations with the rest of the world?

China is home to many competing philosophies, not just Confucian, including Marx and Nietzsche. One has to remember that east and west are not as indivisible as everyone makes out… This is an over simplified dichotomy. China is a combination of both Eastern and Western philosophies and not as foreign as many believe.

Will this change the way that Capitalism is viewed as economically superior to Communism?

Power structures in the West are encompassed within a socialistic framework, and if we take this socialistic framework and apply it to China, one sees that there is communism in a socialist aspect, but held within a capitalist framework. America is much more free market, because it’s new and easier for them to be a free market, but China still operates in a capitalist system.