“The world by 2049 will be defined by the realization of Chinese power,” write Bradley Thayer and John Friend, referring to the centenary of the founding of the People’s Republic. “China,” these American academics tell us, “will be the world’s greatest economic and political force.” Must Americans accept the inevitability of Chinese dominance of the international system?
If China’s explosive economic growth since the beginning of reform in 1979 is a unique success story, no less impressive has been the concomitant growth of its military and political power, as well as its global influence. Few could have predicted that within one generation of Richard Nixon’s visit to Beijing in 1972, China would vie with the United States for the banner of global leadership. By any measure, China’s efforts to surpass American predominance in the world must be taken seriously, and in some cases, may even seem to have succeeded.
If you had told me 30 years ago America would be in another Cold War with another communist superpower by 2019, I would not have believed you. If you had told me that, simultaneously, socialism would be the height of fashion with young Americans, I would have directed you to a psychiatrist. But here we are. Three decades ago Francis Fukuyama published his seminal essay “The End of History?”, hailing the victory of liberal capitalism over all its ideological competitors, but especially over communism. The essay he needs to write today is “The Upend of History?”