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China: The 2025 Scenario (Part IV)

Why does the world not necessarily need to fear a powerful China?

May 24, 2007

Why does the world not necessarily need to fear a powerful China?

If China can continue its progress toward a reasonably well-off society, it is not far-fetched to consider the possibilities that, by 2025:

China in the Times to Come
by Chas W. Freeman
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

The Chinese yuan may have long since joined the dollar and euro as one of the principal currencies in world trade and reserves and helped to bring into being a new and more flexible global financial system in a world more secure in its prosperity.

Private investors in the West may be as heavily invested in the Hong Kong and Shanghai stock exchanges as in New York or London — and private Chinese investment may play a significant, sometimes dominant, role in global markets, including the United States’.

Thanks to continued economic growth and the appreciation of its currency, China may have the largest economy on the planet, while Americans continue, by a considerable margin, to have its most formidable military.

The nature of Taiwan’s relationship to the rest of China may have been peacefully resolved, taking with it the only conceivable casus belli between the United States and China.

China may have evolved a system in which rule by law, if not perhaps the rule of law, has brought about a high level of domestic predictability and tranquility.

The habits of consultation, based on mutual respect, and the policy transparency that characterizes democracy at its best may have become integral to Chinese politics — even as the Chinese Communist Party, whether by that or another more accurately descriptive name, continues in power.

China and the United States may both be in the process of establishing a sustainable presence on Earth’s moon.

Contributions to the advancement of science and technology by Chinese may once again be at least proportional to China’s share of the world’s population.

China may have begun, with the United States, to lead the way — not in the destruction of the global environment, but in its rehabilitation.

The mounting attractiveness of China’s political and economic success may have challenged America to rediscover and reassert the values and practices that for long made others see the United States as the last, best hope of humankind.

China may have joined a united Europe, India, Japan, Brazil, Russia, the United States and other major powers in a concert of nations that can actually accomplish some of what President Roosevelt hoped the United Nations could do — bringing about a harmonious and largely peaceful world order, increasingly free of both want and fear, and respectful of individual and collective rights as well as of the cultural diversity of humankind.

There are, of course, many far darker scenarios than these. You have heard them all. All that is required to realize them is to behave as if they are inevitable, and to interact with China as though they were.

But there is surely nothing more inevitable about pessimistic outcomes than about the brighter possibilities I have outlined, which are, I think, close to what most Chinese would very much prefer. Such outcomes are not beyond our common grasp, if we work to achieve them.