As a matter of history, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) has never deployed significant numbers of troops overseas since its founding as a guerrilla force in 1927. Conversely, the US has maintained signficiant numbers of troops overseas in places such as Korea, Germany, Italy, Okinawa, the Phillippines, and elsewhere on a more or less constant basis since World War II.
Given America's capitalist advantage coupled with the continued preponderance of US military power, how is it that China with its emerging economy is gaining in economic influence and prestige at the expense of the US? Prof Nouriel Roubini and Dr Ian Bremmer offer the following explanation for America’s changing fortunes in recent years:
From 1945 until 1990, the global balance of power was defined primarily by relative differences in military capability. It was not market-moving innovation or cultural dynamism that bolstered the Soviet bloc’s prominence within a bipolar international system. It was raw military power. Today, it is the centrality of China and other emerging powers to the future of the global economy, not the numbers of their citizens under arms or the weapons at their disposal, that make their choices crucial for the United States’ future.Perhaps America could learn a lesson about economic policy from the Chinese experience. With the US now enduring a dramatic economic decline, perhaps our nation should begin a public debate regarding how scarce economic resources can best be allocated between “guns” and “butter” in the coming years...
Source: Bremmer, I and Roubini, N (2011, January 31), The G-Zero World: The New Economic Club Will Produce Conflict, Not Cooperation, Foreign Affairs.