There is a saying, “empire follows the sun” and if that is the case then it has come full circle . . . . almost. China is attempting to position itself as the next world power. To be the one that replaces the United States. But there are four problems.
1) The “sun” has yet to make a full rotation. If the Pacific nations can find a way to unify they could could be the next world power because of all the seabed they control with the associated mineral rights. A lot of the islands that several Asian nations are contesting would fall to this potential nation as well as control of the sea routes that are essential to those same Asian nations.
2) The days of geopolitical empires are coming to an end and have been since the end of the industrial age in the 1990’s when the world started become the information age. The future will be alliances based on knowledge instead of how much land or how many people you have. It won’t be access to material resources, or the lack of access that matters. It will be access, or lack of, to information that will matter. Information is the ultimate power.
3) A fusion economy. When fusion reactors come online the days of not enough to go around will end. Fusion reactors will make all nations independent of one another which is both good and bad. The world economy will be turned upside-down and the established order will end. There will be no empires based on manufacturing ability or scarcity. There will be a kind of global civil war of the old order fighting the new.
4) The stability of the US. If the US falls into civil war, which looks increasingly likely, but not soon, the US will be busy with it’s own affairs and not look out for world peace. That would seem like a good thing for China with an opening to supplant the US. But it actually be the worse because all the nations that seek to become empires will be free to pursue their goals leading to WW III. You can see that is all the nations trying to position themselves – Europe, Russia, China, Turkey, Egypt, Iran, India and Islam as a whole. China is bounded on three sides by rivals, Russia, India and Islam and all three have nuclear weapons.
China’s course into the future could be the move from communism to community, from adversary to friendly competitor. But would the PLA allow it? I doubt it. A military thrives on fear and to paraphrase, “you cannot simultaneously be afraid and confident”. How to do that? The information is out there.
Sun Tzu gave China the Art of War and now it needs something more, someone like Marshall McLuhan to see the information age, not as a medium, but to stay relevant and be meaningful rather then insular. Otherwise China will need the Art of War as the US collapses in civil war and a new dark age engulfs the whole planet much as when the Roman Empire fell
The future is a gift. But for China that gift could be ashes, the ashes of a world at war, unless it finds a different way, a way the world as a whole wants to follow as it has the US. China cannot follow the example of the US, China is too old of a culture for that. But because China is so old it may have forgotten that it was once like the US and evolved to what it is now. That energy needs to found again.