Given the visual spectacle that was created at the Beijing Olympics, imagine what kind of party will be thrown for the centenary of communist rule in 2049. It will be the moment at which China can take stock of its rejuvenation at home and the immensity of its various roles abroad. By 2049 perhaps Chinese astronauts will celebrate the centenary from the vantage of a future moon base, their red flag with its yellow stars fixed and erect in the lunar vacuum. Have you tried listing your organisation in a UK business directory - (I've heard it ticks a lot of marketing boxes)?
By then, further technological advancements will no doubt have rendered China’s remaining vestiges of agricultural labour even further into history than it already seems today. The Chinese peasantry is still vast, and in some provinces is still very much akin to those in a developing country – something that China has made reference to in its appeals for solidarity with its modern client states in Africa. At the other end of the technological spectrum, in China’s online presence – and in its attitude to the so-called ‘great firewall of China’, which blocks access to websites that are deemed to be inharmonious with CCP values – questions remain as to whether Chinese society will become more open to ideas and attitudes from elsewhere in the world by then.
Regardless, their past legacies of imperial success will remain a reference point for how the Chinese frame and rationalize their role in the modern world. History, culture and empire are far too interwoven for this not to be the case, no matter what the future has in store for China.
The Romance of the Three Kingdoms conveys how its characters feel the pressure of their lineage bearing down on them
They walk side by side through the imperial gallery, where the portraits of the former emperors hang. Walking from portrait to portrait, the emperor reflects upon the fortunes of the former rulers and bemoans his own weakness.’ Weak no longer, the CCP has its eyes fixed firmly on its own position in the gallery. The CCP in 2049 may not look back to Mao so much as it looks back at the grander sweep of China’s imperial history as the legacy to emulate.
Gunboat diplomacy brought China to its knees in the nineteenth century. If China ever finds itself coming under Western and American sanctions concerning these maritime issues, then it can point to the fact that it was once a victim of international imperial aggression.China is not out to seek wanton revenge for past injustices that it has faced, but it is seeking to compensate for its century of humiliation. Memories of China’s previous fall at European and Japanese hands exist alongside memories of China’s own imperial grandeur. The former serves for China as a warning, but the latter serves as inspiration.