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JSPES, Vol. 41, No. 4 (Winter 2016)
pp. 42–67

China and the Mandate of Heaven

K. R. Bolton

Athens Institute for Education & Research

The rise of China economically is viewed by both pessimists and optimists as a juggernaut that for good or ill is unstoppable. Geopolitical theorists see threats posed by China to U.S strategic interests, there are others, particularly in the economic and financial sectors, who regard China as a welcome player in globalization. In general, whether looked on with alarm or optimism, China is considered from a modern Western historical perspective as proceeding in a lineal, progressive manner on the basis of economic development. Such economic reductionism is inherently one-dimensional, and does not take into account a myriad of other factors that history over millennia has indicated as factors in the rise and fall of nations. With China’s economic development come imperatives pushing for disruptive changes in culture. These factors include ecological, social, moral, and demographic problems that the facades of China’s economy often obscure, but ones that could lead to decline in ways analogous to other nations and civilizations. Interestingly, China’s traditional perspective on history has been of dynastic rise and fall. This paper considers whether China’s traditional historical outlook might be a more reliable guide to China’s future than the unlimited optimism of “progress,” or “march of history,” that China has adopted from the West.