I read some pages in Chinese history today. I thought about a program I recently watched detailing the incredible feats of engineering now underway in that land -- highways, bridges, dams and cities that dwarf anything in the West.
For thousands of years, the land we in the West call "China" was at once a place of immense mystery and incredible innovation. Clock mechanisms, paper, silk, gunpowder,sailing technology, ship rudders, the compass and other inventions enriched her culture and then crossed the borders into the West. Her explorers traveled the world.
Then she turned inward. She became weak. The rising West took full advantage and China suffered. And she has never forgotten.
Now we are in 2011 and China has again become the colossus of Asia. She has, her admirers will say, finally regained her historic, rightful place in the world. There's just one problem. She's carried with her into the new century the ragged remnants of a Western political disease called communism -- jettisoned most of its basic philosophy but hung onto its most loathsome symptom, an obsession with tyrannical control over her own people. She insists on it, for stability.
Who knows what the future holds? Will the Middle Kingdom ultimately become a democracy, allowing full freedom of speech, worship and the press? Or will it forever manage to alienate those inalienable rights?
China must also now share the globe with nations unborn in the days when she, Persia and Imperial Rome alone ruled the world. That day has passed forever. How will she behave amongst new friends, foes and rivals? Will the global community ultimately bless or curse her modern rise to power?
Ask a Tasman, if you can still find one, how enlightened the British Empire was in its behavior towards his ancestors ... or a Cherokee how the rising U.S. nation treated his people ... and these are the "good guys" of history. What will be said of China? The page is yet unwritten.