The People's Republic of China turns 60 this Thursday, prompting experts to take the long view on the nation's trajectory in the world. As the country grows, struggles with domestic unrest, and projects increasing influence, observers debate what path China is forging. What do its last 60 years say about the next 60?

  • Government Control on Populace Loosening  James Fallows suggested that China's "obsessive over-preparation" for the anniversary celebrations underscored its slipping authoritarianism. "Over the past three years, I've emphasized maybe a million times how diverse, churning, individual-minded, and generally resistant to control much of today's China seems." Fallows dismissed "the standard Western press references to a big, omniscient, all-powerful Chinese regime effortlessly working its will on the populace, whether in a good way by installing green technology or in a bad way by squashing dissent."
  • China, World Leader, Surpassing the West  Joshua Kurlantzick exalted China as a dominating global economic force for good. "China is arguably in the best economic shape of any country in the world today," he wrote. "In fact, in some regions, like Southeast Asia, China already may have surpassed the influence of the United States, the traditional foreign power. In many other parts of the world, too, China now promotes a model of economic development that, for the first time, poses a real challenge to the free market, democratic Washington Consensus." Kurlantzick suggested the Chinese model may now be more appealing than the American. "With Western countries retreating from the free market themselves, and using massive state intervention, China's model of economic development guided by a state-dominated industrial policy and combined with authoritarian politics, suddenly looks more enticing. After all, according to the International Monetary Fund, China alone will comprise nearly 75% of all global economic growth between 2008 and 2010, proving, without a doubt, that the People's Republic has become the world's economic engine."
  • China Emerging as Tough but Cooperative  Jonathan Holslag and Gustaaf Geeraerts anticipated a forceful but productive role for China in the global community. "China's foreign policy will be a mixture of growing assertiveness and constructive engagement. Already it defends its interests abroad by means of a very agile economic diplomacy, skilful bargaining in multilateral organisations and, if necessary, by backing up its overseas presence with a robust security policy," they wrote. "Yet the Chinese know that restraint will be necessary as long as they rely on foreign consumer markets. This makes enhanced co-operation with other protagonists inescapable, but Beijing will be keener to determine the terms of its partnerships." They added, "The US will thus continue to figure at the top of China's diplomatic priorities, followed by regional powers, such as India, Japan and Russia."
  • We Ignore China's Green Push 'At Out Peril'  Thomas Friedman called China's green policies "The New Sputnik" challenging the U.S. "I believe future historians may well conclude that the most important thing to happen in the last 18 months was that Red China decided to become Green China," he wrote. "China is embarking on a new, parallel path of clean power deployment and innovation. It is the Sputnik of our day. We ignore it at our peril," he warned. "Unfortunately, we’re still not racing. It’s like Sputnik went up and we think it’s just a shooting star. Instead of a strategic response, too many of our politicians are still trapped in their own dumb-as-we-wanna-be bubble, where we’re always No. 1, and where the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, having sold its soul to the old coal and oil industries, uses its influence to prevent Congress from passing legislation to really spur renewables."