Considering post-industrial economic might is so influential in our globalized world, education is more important now than ever before (see this post). China, already a rising industrial power, is looking to become the next world leader in services that require an educated workforce — as are many other emerging and developed nations.
What defines a global "superpower"? In the past, it was the size of national armies or possession of nuclear weapons.
But now there is a more important (and peaceful) benchmark: the size and prestige of university systems.
And, while the US is still the global higher education "superpower", China will soon be knocking it off top spot if current trends continue.
China is now the largest higher education system in the world: it awards more university degrees than the US and India combined.
Hopefully as China's population becomes educated they will make a further push towards democracy. Under free conditions, education will surely flourish even more as more people are given the opportunity to study and the system becomes less corrupt and restricted, hopefully with available aid from the government.