I have long believed that we were due for a fall. Luckily for most of us it will be a long one: just as the Mediterranean didn't fill in a day, empires don't fall overnight. Instead we have a long and dark old age to look forward to, as our once-powerful engines - of industry, of capitalism, of democracy - can no longer exert the same force they used to.
Old men don't get old with the flick of a switch, and neither will our culture fall with a single act. Instead, we'll find that more and more our power is simply not attractive anymore. The young bucks are taking centre stage now, and the best we can do is die gracefully.
We could change it, but we won't. We started off young, full of ideas and drive and we changed the world, but an old man's attention turns to protecting what he has, and we slowed down. Wages went up, worker and consumer protections raised the cost of business, everything started to cost more, so we asked those who didn't suffer these luxuries to prop up our lifestyle. They built it for us, in their slums and dirty windowless factories, with their shocking records of abuses and accidents, and we paid them handsomely.
And now, flush with our money, they're coming of age. We still want their labour and they still need our money, but they're slowly weaning themselves of a need for our expertise. They have their own consumer class, they have tremendously more people, and they've got the drive we've lost.
They're already casting about for lower prices from the lower classes, and soon - very soon, for I see these cycles becoming shorter - they'll be in our position. Old, too soon decrepit and too soon realizing their engines are slowing down too.
Ten years ago China's gross domestic product was one eighth of Americas. Today it is one quarter. In twenty years, it'll be more. With five times the population, China's engine will boom far harder and faster than America's, which was harder and faster than Britain's.
That's the cycle, ever more rapid.
Such is life.
I don't see that China's empire will be more than superficially as effective at changing the world. At the same time they're building their engines, they're modernizing and trying to shepherd their people from mud huts to skyrises. Their rise took less than one lifetime, and to be frank I don't think such incredibly fast expansion can be maintained. Their engine is more fragile, perhaps doomed to flame out as hard and fast as it started.
We're in for a pretty interesting show. =)