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?