China takes the long view, making plans that will take decades and generations to carry out. That's the tradition, which has been disrupted for the last two centuries by economic, political, military and diplomatic disasters. But now, despite an unpopular communist police state government, most Chinese see a future full of good possibilities.
This, two decades after the government brutally put down the protests at Tiananmen Square. The mostly young protestors wanted democracy and honest government. Since then, China has gotten neither. The government only offered prosperity, and most Chinese accepted the offer. But China's planners know that the growing prosperity has created, as it always does, a larger class of educated, ambitious people who also control most of the economy. In the West, this led to democracy. This was so the educated classes could be placated, and assured that their interests were represented in the government. This is the direction China is moving, with things like allowing businessmen to join the Communist Party. This was unheard of two decades ago, when far more Chinese officials still believed in communism. Few do today. But they do believe in hanging on to their jobs. Communism was a disaster for China, but it's been great for the several million Communist Party officials who make their living running the country. This includes the hundreds of thousands of members who are military officers. Even though this groups is probably the most corrupt within the party, they also understand that the Chinese Communist Party could disappear tomorrow, and the nation would still need the military. So officers feel their jobs are safe, no matter what. This makes the civilian party members nervous, because, two decades ago, the party had to depend on the military to put down the Tiananmen Square protests. The police would not do it, nor could the party muster sufficient volunteers from among party members (some of the demonstrators were party members.)
As one of the founders of the of the Chinese Communist Party put it, "power comes out of the barrel of a gun". Thus the communist politicians also have to quietly plan their own exit from power. That's how things are done in China. Eventually, the world will be "surprised" when China is suddenly electing provincial and national leaders. These new leaders will respect the pensions and privileges of their predecessors, only jailing the most corrupt (and overly greedy) of them. That's the way it's done now, and that won't change overnight.
War with the U.S. is not an option, at least not as long as China is a major trading partner with America, and holds nearly $2 trillion in U.S. government debt (bonds). In addition to the trade, and hopes that the dollar will not have a meltdown and destroy a chunk of the value of that $2 trillion, there is much U.S. technology (civil and military) to steal. Overall, America is useful.
War with Taiwan is not an option either. As China allows more economic links between the two countries, they know that, eventually, the two will be one. Many Taiwanese know that as well, don't like it, and are scrambling, against heavy odds, to avoid the loss of independence.
May 16, 2009: In Papua New Guineas second-largest city, Lae, locals rioted and looted Chinese owned shops. There was also violence between local and Chinese workers at a new Chinese financed mining operation. As is often the case with "overseas Chinese", some of the locals resent the success of the foreigners. The Chinese usually have better business skills, and work harder, than the locals. Thus, for over a thousand years, these Chinese traders have settled down in any area they could reach (from east Africa to Indonesia.) Now, the overseas Chinese are everywhere, taking risks and building businesses in dangerous places. Most of these overseas Chinese marry only other Chinese, thus maintaining their ethnic identity, and ties with China. Although most of the overseas Chinese are anti-communist, the respond well to Chinese government requests for cooperation and information. It's good business and, communist or not, the government officials are dependable and useful.