45

China

   

            China's back.  Again.  In the summer of 2010, China’s economic output officially passed that of Japan, ending the island nation’s 42-year reign as the second largest economy in the world, and symbolically closing the book on the darkest two century chapter in China’s history.  For those familiar with China’s epic story, a couple hundred-year slump was nothing new for the civilization rooted in the Mandate of Heaven where rulers rise and fall, foreign powers briefly oppress, and civil wars, famine and destitution cripple the country.  But in the end, China always recovers.

            In 2010, after two centuries of embarrassment at the hands of Japanese and European invaders; after the maniacal, narcissistic misdirected and debilitating rules of first Empress Cixi and then decades later MaoTse Tung; and after a string of civil wars, purges and lethally foolish reforms, Chinaentered the 1980s uncertain if it would ever recover.  When the protests at Tiananmen Square in 1989 presented to the world a people willing to stand in front of an oppressive system (aka “tank”) to demand their just human rights, many believed that, like the Soviet republics, the age of communist rule in China would soon come to an end.

            The forecasters were not even close.  From those protests, China didn’t dissolve into chaos, but instead went on a two-decade economic, military and political evolution that pulled the nation from a backwards “century of humiliation” and advanced it to become a superpower threatening to dislodge the United States of America from its pedestal.

            Look at the stats.  China’s 2011 GDP surpassed $7.3 trillion (only the United States produced more).  China exports $1.9 trillion in goods every year (tops in the world).  Over the last twenty years, China’s economy has grown at a double-digit percentage rate for all but four of those years (and in five of those 20 years, they surpassed 20% growth).  China now holds the three largest banks in the world (replacing Bank of America and Citibank).  China graduates over a million scientists and engineers from college every year (the United States barely hits 250,000 graduates, and its two leading majors are business and psychology).  China has supplanted Japan and the Baby Tigers (South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore) as the regional economic and military power.  China has 240 nuclear bombs (fourth most on the planet) and maintains an active military of close to 2.5 million soldiers (nearly twice that of second place America).

            The 2008 Beijing Olympics were a symbolic coming-out party for China.  From its Opening Ceremonies to its mildly disturbing ability to control the weather, China showed the world that it had arrived and was not merely a nation able to...