Today marked the 30th anniversary of the Chinese government's crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square. So I figured it's an appropriate time to discuss what direction China will be heading in the decades to come.
The Western media has made a lot out of China's economic rise and the colonial aspirations embodied in its Belt and Road Initiative. But China's governing Communist Party is not immune to the cultural, economic, and environmental crises that are already destabilizing the rest of the world. In fact, a steady drumbeat of ominous economic warnings has been coming out of China for the past year or so. Moreover, Xi Jinping's self-elevation to the role of "supreme ruler for life" and his administration's increasingly brutal crackdown on dissidents, ethnic/religious minorities, and Hong Kong sovereignty seems to bely a sense of insecurity on the part of the Communist Party. A New York Times article, Xi Sets China on a Collision Course With History, does a great job of parsing these dynamics.
I think we can expect a major discontinuity to occur in Chinese governance in the coming years. The history of China's Communist Party strongly echoes China's imperial dynasties, and (so the saying goes) each of those dynasties came to a close when they fell out of favor with the Chinese people and lost the "mandate of heaven." Personally, I'm interested in seeing what happens in the mid-2020s. Many of us are predicting that, globally, that period will be marked by a collective turning away from darkness, so perhaps it will also be a ripe time for a mass reprisal of China's pro-democracy movement.
They all say this is the Chinese century. I wonder if that means after US decline, China will become the torch bearer, and innovation and technological and medical advances will all take place there. Last century Europe lost its leadership because of the two world wars, ceding the lead to the US. I'd hate to see the US decline in a similar fashion (could climate change be the trigger this time around? or will it via internal unrest, or the undoing by one incompetent nincompoop?)
I am wary for several reasons. Historically China was never a kind leader when it was the major power in Asia. Even its neighbors are wary of its rise, probably for this reason.
A good remote viewing target would be to see if China and Russia become kind countries. Germany and Japan were once brutes too (WW1 for Germany, 1930s and WW2 for both). They were bombed to ruins during WW2, but despite their being the aggressors, the US was very magnanimous towards them (something truly unique in history. Carthiginian peaces are more common). They mellowed out, became economic powerhouses and responsible nations, earning international respect. Now, can that happen to Russia and China? I wholeheartedly hope so, but I'm not holding my breath, especially with someone like Putin at the reins. I get the feeling they're working together to topple the US, then divide the world amongst themselves. What kind of rulers will they be?
An interesting article speculating what a China hegemony can be found here
Also keep in mind China has a lot of pent-up resentment towards the West and western ideas in general (including democracy) due to what it perceived as a century of humiliation
Will they forgive and forget, or are they just biding their time to get even?
I'm going to go out on a limb to address what Coyote said above: with regards to China, I'm not talking specifically about democracy. The US idea that democracy can take root anywhere, anytime is naive. You can't just barge in a country, change its leadership and hope "democracy just kicks in". First, you can't expect people who have never self-governed or taken civic interest in the democratic process to have the know-how to participate. You can see this difficulty in countries with "new" democracies (current Iraq, Eastern Europe post- Berlin wall fall). Even after the French revolution, Europe took nearly a century of unrest and other social revolutions to create the kind of democracies we have today. Second (and this is purely my speculation), there may be limits to the effectiveness of democracy once population or the government reach a certain size and complexity. I'm wondering if that's why we're seeing stresses in the American democratic system (all the bickering and deadlock instead of cooperation - you can see how a dictator can make a quick decisive decision quicker than a bickering parliament). Enlightened tyrants exist, but they're rare and few (sadly our leader is far, far from enlightened). Jeanne saw that by the 2060s only two democracies remain: NZ and Australia (a bleak outlook IMHO). It's kind of why I'm unsure democracy could ever take root in a country like China. India with its billion population seems to be a counterexample to my hypothesis, but their democracy doesn't seem effective like the Western ones (a lot of corruption).
When I thought of China during the Read the Future Night last week, I kept getting an image of Tiananmen Square and central Beijing, but except for a few bike riders and cars here and there, the area was almost completely devoid of people (I've been to Beijing, and Tiananmen Square is usually packed with tourists). More tellingly, the entrance to the Forbidden City was missing its giant portrait of Mao Zedong. I got the sense that this image was coming from the late 2020s. The lack of the Mao Zedong portrait could signify problems with the communist regime, while a depopulated Beijing could point to a collective abandonment of centralized governance (some on this site have been envisioning the same thing happening to the United States and that by the 2050s, Washington D.C. will be an abandoned ruin.)
@echec: I think you're correct to point out that democracy in China is unlikely to ever look like it does in the US or Western Europe. But when we talk about China as a collective, it's important not to lump the common Chinese people in with the governing elite (or the government-aligned business and intellectual elite). The elites may harbor lots of pent up resentment towards the West, but my interactions with common Chinese people as a one-time foreign exchange student made it abundantly clear that most Chinese don't care about global dominion; they want the same things as everyone else in the world: gainful employment, affordable groceries, good health, and a modicum of material comfort. It's going to get harder for the Communist Party to fulfill those basic desires as environmental crisis and economic collapse ramp up, and that's why I don't think it's unreasonable to expect that there will some rupture in Chinese society at some point this century (this just in: insect blights and the world's worst outbreak of swine fever have caused food prices in China to shoot up). There's no guarantee that democracy will take root in lieu of communism, but a future of runaway climate change and a broken growth-based economic paradigm makes the prospect of a global Chinese Empire equally questionable.
Democracy in China…yesterday I watched an old episode of Frontline (2006?) called The Tank Man. It’s a documentary about the man who stood in front of the line of tanks in Tiananmen Square. I recommend it to anyone who’s interested in China, a country I know very little about. There are some fascinating ideas here including (spoiler, sorry) the fate of the Tank Man—completely unknown. It was a time when university students, the children of the elite, stood up to the government (in some cases their fathers) and provoked a heroic workers resistance that resulted in the senseless slaughter of innocent people. It doesn’t end in 1989 though; the story continues to show how the Chinese Communist Party used capitalism to divert any more revolutionary resistance creating a two-tiered country like the Two Americas MLK spoke about, called China A and China B. The poor peasant farmers have become to modern China what the rural population was to England and America in the 19th century. I give this one 5 stars.
Does anyone know the title of a more recent study of China?
I haven't been to China lately, and I have not followed as much as I should have recently. I will have to look around for more studies.
I have my former AFS exchange student from China now in Shanghai and loving it. But our close (Chinese) friend in Hong Kong is thinking of moving to Europe. Now that Mainlanders are pouring into HK, it is changing quickly and not for the better. Foreigners are being pushed out and visas denied.
It is a mixed bag. Many Chinese, especially on the coast and in the cities, are doing well. As in many cultures, farmers are kind of near the bottom (unless it's a US conglomerate).
We don't want another Mao, and I doubt if the Chinese do too. I was there about 5 years ago, and it was really looking up. Those images of Chinese in little grey suits, poverty-stricken and with no future, is very different now. There are many wealthy Chinese (you can see that wealth, especially in Canada, particularly Vancouver and Toronto - where they can also get Canadian citizenship and buy up houses).
I was very disturbed when Hong Kong got turned over. I was there just prior to that. But now, Hong Kongers are very upset, some are moving (especially those with dual citizenships - our friend has three!). I really loved the old Hong Kong, but I have a feeling it will never be that way again.
On the other hand, China is a safe country, crime is low, food and housing cheap (okay, buildings are cheap, too), people are very animated, talkative and friendly. Many speak English. I really like China. But they make it very difficult for foreigners there. In Hong Kong, it was owned by the British, so living there was great then. Now...it's all changing.
China is definitely a country to watch. It is farther ahead of the U.S. in many ways, especially infrastructure. They have some of the best transportation in the world. Bullet trains abound. Granted, the buildings are not built great, but they can provide jobs by building more...
Personally, because I am apolitical, I love China. The people are so friendly, fun, talkative, direct, upfront, smart, and open. My daughter lives in Japan, but I do prefer China.
I think China is going to have some growing pains incorporating Hong Kong back into it. Hong Kongers do not want to be part of China. (I don't blame them.)
It's really a mixed bag, although I would guess that a lot of people don't realize how quickly they have grown and advanced. They are giving America a run for its money. I live in Silicon Valley, so we have a lot out here, and a lot of business with China.
I hope that their rocky ground currently settles. I think China has a chance to be a leader of the world, if they can get their political process in order. If one has never been there, then old stereotypes probably remain. But they are smart, ambitious and clever. I think our biggest competition is in Asia.
I don't know if any of you follow Laowhy86 or Serpentza on Youtube, but they lived in China for over a decade, married Chinese women, but with the current unrest, they came to the U.S. (although Serpentza - Winston) is from South Africa. Anyway, Laowhy86 gives good information on the current situation in China: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZYslMrDccs
Serpentza gives his take on Hong Kong: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQM0NL6fBU8
These guys are very up on what is happening there. Both are married to Mainland Chinese women.
For what it's worth, hope you find it helpful and interesting.
Thanks for the Tank Man suggestion, I'll try to check it out. As far as the Communist Party creating a two-tiered nation goes, that divide and conquer strategy sounds like a Chinese permutation of what has been going on in the rest of the industrialized world for the past several decades (the 1% versus the 99%). For a more recent study of China's economy, I highly suggest economist Tim Morgan's writings, which examine how China's economic growth has been powered by unsustainable debt. He specifically writes about how it's becoming difficult for China's government to guarantee financial security for its urban, professional population (China A). The causes of financial instability in China are the same source of instability in the rest of the world: our growth-based economic paradigm, powered as it is by limited fossil fuels, is beginning to run on fumes.
Edgar Cayce told a group of people that eventually China would become “the cradle of Christianity, as applied in the lives of men.” On another occasion, when a thirty-six-year-old book publisher asked about the destiny of China in 1943, just prior to his own trip to the country to serve in the capacity of a missionary, Cayce promised amazing changes in the country that would lead to more democracy and greater religious freedom. He also suggested that eventually the height of civilization would move from the West to the Chinese people: “And these will progress. For, civilization moves west.”
-- Edgar Cayce reading 2834-3