Although the U.S. is gradually slipping behind China in terms of economic power, diplomatic influence, and potential hard military power, China cannot replace the U.S. as a world leader simply because it is a communist party-led state. However, China can and will become the new world superpower as a benevolent dictator in international relations.

The world as we know it has changed drastically over a year and a half. Under the Obama administration, the U.S. was striving for new trade partners to expand the U.S. sphere of influence and drag itself out of the recession in 2008. China was still considered a possible strong trading partner and ally, but that prospect slowly faded during recent elections.

First, Britain left the European Union. swayed by a nationalist ideology running through almost every Western society today. As more states begin to recede from international relations and trade deals, they will be outdone by less-developed, more authoritarian countries. Britain was one of the first countries struck by nationalism, but it was definitely not the last.

Small yet powerful factions in both Britain and the U.S. have not benefited from globalism in the same ways other citizens have and thus want to withdraw from it. The U.S., and to a smaller degree, Britain, are some of the world’s leading economies and military powers and thus have a responsibility to the international community. By choosing to turn inwards, both are relinquishing their leadership to another country. Luckily, nationalism has caught enough momentum to overturn the whole E.U. France and Germany still hold mostly liberal governments, but their control and popularity have greatly diminished. These advanced democracies are still holding their own as respectful, strong states.

Other states have fallen victim to the one thing they believed made them superior: the voice of their citizens. However, the one nation that rose above the carnage is China.  Where these democratic governments are often forced to the will of the people and follow the path their voters have chosen, the Chinese government is not constrained by the feelings of its citizens and thus can maintain long-term goals.

China has established itself as the most powerful country because of its mammoth economy and rising military power, which are all connected by a strong stable government that can set long-term goals. China is not yet the leader of the world only because its ruling body was not voted in by the people and fails to provide many freedoms to its citizens. In a world almost completely led by democratic governments, China’s borderline tyrannical government cannot become the beacon of hope that the US once was, but its authoritarian and forward thinking dictator can push countries to act against their will for the greater good. Unlike the U.S., China’s strength doesn’t come from  “hard power” or the ability to make military threats. Rather, China uses “soft power,” passive diplomatic actions and economic threats or incentives, to persuade governments to work in their favor.

In 2014, China finally overtook the U.S. in GDP Purchasing Power Parity, and while it still lags behind in Nominal GDP, if its growth rate stays where it is, China’s nominal GDP will be larger than the U.S’s by 2028. And now, with the US pulling out of the Paris climate accord, the People’s Republic has become the largest country in the accord. While this does not place China as the leader in world politics, it significantly boosts its world status and places it roughly even with the U.S. in terms of raw political power.

This means that nations will look to Beijing for leadership and approval rather than Washington. China has become the new trend-setter for the world; it not only provides crucial exports to almost every nation in the world, but it also demonstrates itself as the sole power with the stability to tackle global issues such as climate change.

China not only has a large economy but also a reliable government. As a result, countries can trust that the vital imports from China will not disappear unless they act against China’s interest.

Not only is China more trustworthy in the eyes of its trade partners because of its unwavering objectives, but it also has a rapidly growing economy which attracts many foreign investors. China’s unchanging leadership allows it to develop long term goals in both domestic policy and foreign policy without influence from a small yet powerful minority.

Yet even with all its power, China cannot become the leader of the world like the former U.S. Its authoritarian regime simply does not agree with many of the world’s governments as Beijing does not provide what democracies believe to be a basic human right: the freedom of speech. The recent territorial claims in the South China Sea and the refusal to acknowledge international rulings have not helped China’s international standing either. No country can completely fill the US’s shoes. Instead of becoming the world’s leader, China will become its benevolent dictator.