China is the other great civilizational center. The primary one being the Indo-European ensemble (which crucially incorporated Egypt, where a lot of what came to be known as Greek mathematics, was discovered).
To understand Europe, the last 500,000 years have proved necessary (Neanderthals started to burn coal, 80,000 years ago, foe example, and explored immensely deep caves, 165,000 years). In the case of China, the evolution of the last 5,000 years are crucial to understand how China became China.
China is the other great civilizational center. Much of what China uses as civilizational instruments was developed in situ, from writing, to the number system, to much philosophy. However, that philosophy was unbalanced, too much under the influence of Confucius (whose works have been under care from the same family inside the same city for 60 generations or more).
China developed an examination system which, in theory, enabled the most cognitively qualified to rule. Thus Mandarins and not aristocrats were in command. At least in theory.
This system, admirable in principle, was flawed in practice, as China got terminally invaded at least twice. The Mongol invasion came close to annihilation, when some of Genghis Khan’s generals proposed to exterminate the Chinese and change the ecology! (The generals knew they could turn much of China into a steppe similar to much of Mongolia, by cutting the forests and bringing massive herds of cattle, goats, sheep…)
The primary civilization center is the Indo-European ensemble (which crucially incorporated Egypt, where a lot of what came to be known as Greek mathematics, was discovered).
Now we have basically just one civilization, worldwide, so the misadventures of China are highly instructive.
To understand Europe, the last 500,000 years have proved necessary (Neanderthals started to burn coal, 80,000 years ago). In the case of China, the last 5,000 years are crucial.
Now, granted all and any explanation can only be incomplete. What is important is to introduce new ideas, and that includes new hierarchy in what is more important, and what is not.
Right now, China seems severely influenced by the Germany of the Second Reich, and its incredible fast scientific, technological, mercantilist, and economic expansion… At the cost of a more general, more pacific mood. That uncanny comparison is quite a bit spooky. An evidence is the madness about the south of the South China Sea.
As in Germany, starting 165 years ago, increasing aggressiveness towards foreign powers seems to be the glue which increasingly keeps the dictatorship together. In the case of Germany, the increasing aggressiveness, which had started by attacking Denmark in 1853, went on with the catastrophic apotheosis, encouraged by the US presidency. of the savage surprise attack on the world of August 1914. Naturally enough, it was followed by the encore of Nazism. Yes, it’s not a reassuring comparison. But the same psychohistorical forces are in play. Psychohistory rules national moods and the actions they lead to (Isaac Asimov wrote a book on this; the real, live, historical case was the second foundation of the Roman Empire, the “Renovation of the Roman Empire made official by Roman emperor Charlemagne…).
On the reassuring side, China adopted, and accepted to be guided, by a huge chunk of Western philosophy, a Franco-German contraption sensitive to the nastiness of great capital. That was a huge philosophical revolution, but it was made possible only by a great openness of mind (in part learned in Paris by the top leader of Communist China, such as Chou En Lai and Deng Tsiao Ping)
China used to rile against capital. Yet, who has the most capital under command in the world, after the USA? China.
Nevertheless, to accept a distant philosophy, extremely alien to China, China had to open its collective mind and eyes gigantically. And intelligence itself is something one can learn to acquire.
The kindest attitude with China right now may well be to show to it that its aggressiveness in the south of the South China sea can only lead to war, even a world war. And that China cannot win it. Australia has started to do just that by acquiring, with US help, a fleet of the best submarines in the world, made in France. (In World War Two, after the Americans learned to make torpedoes which actually exploded, their submarines were one of the main factors in closing the Pacific to the fascist Japanese military.)
The Han are dominating the Middle Kingdom as never before. One hundred nations are now submitted to them. Their languages are even disappearing. (My own daughter is learning Mandarin, BTW.) That’s all very good for the Han. They are now very much richer than before, not just from their considerable industry and genius, and change of philosophy, adopting instead European philosophy. Those increased riches also come from occupying Tibet and Xinjiang.
The Han should not push their luck with aggressive military and imperialistic distractions. Adopting just a piece of European philosophy and history, while ignoring the rest, plenty of Dark Side in full evidence and how to control it, can only lead to an unbalanced mind. And, from there, dangerous, irreversible courses of action… Of the sort Europe is all too familiar with.