Does China Want to Be Top Superpower?

New book says China's goal is to replace the U.S. as leading superpower.

ByABC News
March 2, 2010, 9:20 AM

BEIJING, March 2, 2010 — -- "China's grand goal in the 21st century is to become the world's No. 1 power."

These words were written by Liu Mingfu, a senior colonel in the People's Liberation Army, in a new book titled "China's Dream."

For those watching the phenomenal economic rise of China and seeking to divine its ambitions, this 303-page book offers some ideas about the country's quest for global leadership.

"To become the world's No. 1 has been China's century-old dream. It was this dream that inspired three generations of great Chinese leaders, from Sun Yat Sen to Mao Zedong to Deng Xiaoping," Liu wrote in a passage reflecting a growing nationalist sentiment shared by many Chinese.

Colonel Liu, a professor at the National Defense University -- an elite academy tasked with training senior PLA officers -- urges China to replace the United States as the top global player by building its economy into the world's biggest and complementing it with a formidable military.

Liu said it would take 90 years for China to catch up with the United States, roughly divided into three stages: 30 years to match its gross domestic product; 30 years to equal its strength in military and cultural spheres; and another 30 years to equal, if not surpass, its per capita GDP.

"The duel in the 21st century between China and the United States is over which one will be the global champion. In the past 500 years, different countries have emerged as the global champion -- Portugal in the 16th century, followed by Holland, then England in the18th and 19th centuries, and the United States in the 20th century," he writes. "It will be China's turn to be the global champion in the 21st century."

But he makes it clear in his book that he does not view conflict with the United States as inevitable.

"The competition between China and the United States will not take the form of a world war or a cold war. It will not be like a 'shooting duel' or a 'boxing match' but more like a 'track and field' competition. It will be like a protracted 'marathon.'"