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"Let China sleep
for when she awakes,
she will shake the world"

Napoleon Bonaparte


Many authors have predicted a glorious future for China. They believe that the country will soon rise as an economic "superpower" (Overholt, 1993) and re-establish itself as a new empire (Terrill, 2003). They have speculated that this new powerful China would threaten the world order or at least challenge the dominance of the only remaining superpower of today, the United States of America. A few authors have even speculated about a Chinese master plan to destroy America (Qiao / Wang, 2002).

Other authors, however, believe that China's economic bubble will burst and that the emerging empire will collapse. David Shambaugh (2000), for instance, has found indication that China is inherently unstable; Callum Henderson sees "China on the brink" (Henderson, 1999), Charles Wolf and colleagues have pointed out several "fault lines in China's economic terrain" (Wolf, et al., 2000), James Miles believes that the country is actually in disarray (Miles, 1996) and Gordon Chang has even predicted the coming collapse of China (Chang, 2001).

This Web site also investigates the question whether China will dominate the 21st century. We will analyze current trends in key sectors of the Chinese society - such as trends in human development, natural resource use, economic performance, infrastructure expansion, the development of scientific and technological capacity, military strength, as well as cultural and social stability.

In our analyses we assume that China's development in the 21st century will depend on exactly the same factors and must be evaluated with precisely the same criteria as any other country of the world. While in the past an intimate knowledge of China's social, cultural, political and historical peculiarities may have been necessary for understanding its development, this knowledge alone is now insufficient in assessing the country's future. China is no longer a mysterious Asian culture which has to be "explained" to the western world by ethnographic studies. It has become an ordinary country. An international investor will compare China's labor cost advantage to the situation in Eastern Europe or Mexico; fast-food chains are selling the same Hamburgers and chicken wings in Beijing and in Boston; for an investment banker it is no fundamental difference to make money on Shanghai's or New York's stock exchange; the tourists in the "Forbidden City" expect the same service as they would visiting Vienna's Schönbrunn Castle of Maria Theresia; the consumer's dream of buying an Audi car is common among China's and Germany's middle class; farmers are as disadvantaged in Sichuan as in most countries worldwide; the environment is as devastated in parts of the Ukraine as it is in parts of China; and corruption is as common in Rumania or Bulgaria as it is in the People's Republic. When China joined the WTO she finally became a global player after decades of opening-up with the same opportunities and problems as any other internationally relevant nation.

The Chinese leaders have understood that in the 21st century, China can no longer survive as a closed and self-sufficient nation that develops by its own rules. To flourish, it must be an open society with links to worldwide flows of capital, resources, skilled labor, technical expertise, and mass communication. As any other country in the world, China will have to cope with international standards and regulations, will have to adapt to the scrutiny of international mass media, will be subject to global environmental changes, and will depend on international political alliances.

Does China have the appropriate human development for such an open society in the 21st century? Does the country have adequate energy resources at its disposal? Is the economic sector organized so that it can effectively participate in a global economy? Does China have appropriate social institutions to cope with the projected aging of the population? Will it establish the rule of law and control corruption? Are China's research centers and universities organized in such a way that they promote human creativity and excellence in engineering? Can the administration function efficiently? Is the political system stable enough to guarantee inner peace? Is there an effective mechanism to recruit competent leaders? These are (some of) the questions that will determine China's future.  

In this Web site we analyze whether China has the necessary natural and human resources, the appropriate economic structure, the right political vision and the necessary military strength to become the new superpower of the  21st century.


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This section was updated on 20 February, 2012

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Copyright © 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 by Gerhard K. Heilig. All rights reserved. - 18 April 2012