China's unprecedented growth has placed it on the verge of overtaking the United States as the world's preeminent power. Meanwhile, Chalmers Johnson, author of Blowback and The Sorrows of Empire, argues that America's preoccupation with militarism has all but sealed its fate as a nation in long-term decline. But if China surpasses the United States, what type of power will it become? In today's interconnected and globalized world, the answer affects each and every one of us.
In Pakistan and Afghanistan, China's humanitarian activities and investment in infrastructure have won it the hearts and minds of the people. Yet in Tibet and Xinjiang, China is reviled as an imperialistic abuser of human rights. Despite trumpeting its vision of an ethnic unity at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government has gone to great lengths to silence dissenting voices such as Rebiya Kadeer, de facto leader of the Uyghur people. Kadeer has replaced the Dalai Lama as Beijing's number one public adversary.
Will China follow in the footsteps of history's other great powers and use its strength to dominate its neighbors, trample ethnic and religious minorities, and become a 21st century empire? Or will a wealthy Chinese youth lead the country towards democracy, much like Taiwan? The international community shares responsibility in this outcome, but is it too dependent on Chinese trade to care? Whether it's a peaceful rise or potential threat, China's 21st century emergence as a great world power will change the lives of everyone.