As things stand now it is set to become the world’s top power sometime this century. It is so large that once it reaches the level of development seen in the West, no country, apart from maybe India, will be able to stand up to it. Not even America.
But besides India, three other things could stop it:
- Oil. There does not seem to be enough oil in the world for China to complete the growth of its industry. A new system of power will have to be found.
- The greying of China. For the past thirty years Chinese parents could only have one child. This has succeeded all too well: now China will face a sudden drop in its labour force while having to support more and more old people.
- Civil war. The communists still rule China, but for how long? And what happens when they fall? When the emperor fell in the early 1900s it was followed by a generation of civil war. In the past when the ruling party fell, war followed.
The cycle of history that China has followed for thousands of years:
- Warlords: The country is divided among warlords, who are always fighting one another. The country is poor and torn by war. This can go on for centuries.
- The emperor: in time the country is united under one man. His family or, in the case of Mao, his political party, rule the land and bring peace. Prosperity returns. The new rulers may be foreigners, like the Mongols and Manchus, or they may bring in foreign ways, like the communists.
- Corruption at the top: After a long period of rule, after maybe centuries, the men at the top grow corrupt. They no longer care about anything but themselves. The government weakens and, no longer able to hold the country together, it falls apart. Warlords appear and the whole cycle begins over again.
Although China has been ruled by foreigners and has taken on some of their ways, in the end it is China that conquers the conquerors: if not the conquerors themselves, then their children or grandchildren become Chinese. China is simply too large.
Like America, India and Saudi Arabia, China is at the heart of one of the four great living civilizations of the world. Like India it is close to being a universal state for its civilization.
Unlike Western and Muslim civilization, religion is not a driving force. Nor does it see itself as a universal civilization for all mankind.
China is an empire. It rules not just the Chinese but also Turks and Tibetans in the west, some Mongols in the north and the Tai and Burmese in the mountains of the south. China has grown bit by bit down through the ages by people like these at the edges becoming Chinese.