THE WORLD HAS been watching for China’s rise for a very long time. ‘Let China sleep; when she wakes she will shake the world,’ said Napoleon. Even at the end of World War II, when China lay devastated by decades of internal warfare and invasion, divided between warring armies, plumbing the depths of poverty and de-industrialisation, and accounting for less than 5 per cent of global GDP, President Roosevelt included it among his ‘four policemen’ of great powers that would steward global order from the Security Council of the United Nations.
Twenty-six years later, with China in the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution, and further impoverished by the Great Leap Forward (and still producing less than one-twentieth of global GDP) the United States was prepared to use it as the great swing player in its global tussle with the Soviet Union. It is as if the world had kept a mental space for a Chinese great power, long before China had the material means to fulfil that role.
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