Measuring a nation’s military capabilities is more than counting troops, weapons and GDP. There’s also the human factor. In that area China is running into problems. For example thousands of the smartest people in the country still go off each year to attend graduate school in the West and do not return. Many of the graduate students from the 1970s and 80s have returned and many have founded hugely successful businesses. But now a third of China’s most successful businessmen (and some women) are moving their families and fortunes overseas. Many of these economic refugees are obtaining dual citizenship wherever they can. Many are sending their wives to give birth in the United States, so that some of their children will be United States citizens. These refugees already have moved over half a trillion dollars in assets out of China and at current rates that will double in the next three years.
These wealthy refugees fear the pollution and corruption in China and are losing faith in the current government (a dictatorship run by the Chinese Communist Party) to set things right before the country collapses into another period of civil strife and economic collapse. There is little faith in the armed forces, who are seen as just another bunch of corrupt government bureaucrats.
While the government says that everything is under control, the one group of non-government employees most likely to know what’s really going on are running for the exits. The government quietly tries to stem this exodus but fears doing so openly because of the risk that might trigger widespread panic. But many Chinese are noticing the gradual disappearance of the families that used to occupy the mansions and luxury apartments are gone, many of them for good or most of the time. This is not good for morale.
Optimists see this as another source of pressure on the government to institute real reforms and clean up the pollution. The government says it is doing this, but there is not yet a lot of evidence. Going through the motions is no longer enough and the wealthy voting with their families and assets is sending a pretty clear message.