China’s future history not actually set in stone

A photograph taken by Chinese media outlet China Daily at the recent Copenhagen summit:

Apparently they picked this pic because it kinda looks like Obama is bowing to Wen Jia Bao.

The author of a recent NYTimes article suggested that the global financial crisis has catapulted China into a new leadership role in the world economy — it has essentially “fast forwarded history.” What’s interesting here is the rhetoric; it’s presumed that China was always already going to continue its “peaceful rise” to super power-dom.

Maybe that was just an unfortunate turn of phrase, but I think it also reflects the dominant point of view these days. I don’t want to write an essay about it, I just want to inject a few notes of skepticism: asset bubble, civil unrest, falling value of the dollar, Xinjiang separatism, demographic crisis, energy security, Taiwan, environmental degradation, coming leadership shift, decaying Leninist political structure…

It is actually a good article, and it even quotes from one of my professors! But China is facing a lot of unknowns, any one of which could/should make the popular narrative on China’s future global dominance somewhat more problematic.

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