A recent BusinessWeek article, provocatively titled "Why India Will Beat China," laid out a case that India has a bigger chance of success at attaining global superpower status than China.
The author lays out some compelling reasoning for this unlikely-sounding conclusion, including the argument that democracies like that of India, while sloppy and unorganized affairs, tend to encourage slow/steady growth while also bringing ideas like "rule of law" into play (important for domestic stability as well as for international investment re: IP protection). He also points out (too quickly in my opinion) that India is focusing on so-called "sunrise" industries (such as high tech and other knowledge-based industries), while China has no doubt focused on the lowest common manufacturing denominator, at the expense of other industries (something I've heard other smart people argue).
I was chasing down an unrelated item and came across an opposing view at Business Pundit. In author Drea's opinion, those messy democracies aren't all they're cracked up to be:
”Rule of law” is an exaggeration in some places. . .You can’t mobilize a sick, starving population without the infrastructure to give them their basic needs. You can, however, argue about their rights in a parliament without actually building them a well.
The author argues that it is physical infrastructure, not governmental infrastructure, that builds a solid middle class. That seems like an equally solid argument as well, and I would call it one way or another for you, but really what do we here in America know about manufacturing a middle class? We're busy destroying ours (through criminally stupid economic policy), dismantling it and exporting it in pieces to China and India. Maybe they're just planning on relying on U.S. imports, who knows.
The conclusion of both these pieces is, in effect, that the only thing standing in between China and dominant superpower status is, well, China itself -- and at this point, they're probably both right.