China cannot be a superpower. It faces the same problem that the former Soviet Union faced: the problem of language and culture. Russian language and culture are not popular outside the borders of Russia—this made it hard for the Soviet elite to develop cultural bonds with the people in other nations. For extending their domination over other nations, they had only two options: orchestrating a communist type bloody revolution or taking direct military action. Both options proved immensely costly for them. The funding of communist revolutions in South Asia and South America, and the endless wars in Afghanistan and other places, bankrupted the Soviet Union.
After the dissolution of the British Empire in the 1940s, the USA gained the title of a superpower. But the American superpower status was to a large extent founded on the legacy of the British Empire. During the two hundred years of the British Empire, the British had firmly implanted their language and culture in several nations. English became a global language. The USA could take advantage of the linguistic and cultural achievements of the British Empire to exercise soft power on several nations. They didn’t have to fight too many battles to establish their dominance—much of their global power has always been exercised through cultural, linguistic, and economic systems. In fact, after 1950, whenever the USA has relied on military might to exercise power over other nations, it has failed to make any kind of headway: Vietnam, Cambodia, the Korean peninsula, parts of South America, the Middle East, parts of Africa.
China does not have the linguistic and cultural legacy which the British Empire bequeathed on the USA. Therefore it is impossible for China to be a superpower without projecting its military might. But the military measures are unlikely to succeed in most instances, as the Soviet and American experience shows.