Analysis / China Takes Over the World

Like more than a few other… questionable tropes in this vein, this has some (emphasis on some) grounding in history.

The reason why the South and East China Seas are called that (and why those names are liable to trigger an Internet Backdraft when mentioned on more than a few Vietnamese, Filipino, or Korean forums) is because they marked the traditional realms of Chinese influence, as their shipbuilding more or less dwarfed everybody else's until the Japanese Westernized in the late 19th century.

Their land military was also in no way not a force to be reckoned with, though the neighboring nations had better luck with it than they did the navy (for example: see the original Tet offensive or the disastrous Sui invasions of Korea).note  As a result, China could generally push around every other nation in the neighborhood – except Japan – in a way no European power (even Rome) ever could, and often forced them to swear allegiance to the reigning dynasty of the time (a major objective of Zheng He's famous voyages), to the point where on paper the far East generally consisted of "China" and "Chinese Tributaries". Of course, the tributary status was generally a joke unless enforced – which generally was not done save for those that were extremely close by, like Korea – and even then they realized on some level there was land outside of what was under their control. This lasted more or less until the West came knocking in the 19th century and China basically imploded on itself and spent the next century-plus rebuilding.

PISA, the Program for International Student Assessment, maintains that China has the best education system in the entire world… which of course gives rise to the debate of whether or not every other country (mostly the United States) should adopt the Chinese education model and its teaching methods. Of course, a close reading of the data reveals that PISA was only testing the best schools and the best students in Shanghai and Beijing, a.k.a. the children of the elite rather than the education system used by the vast majority of the country.

Many foreigners living in China laugh when Westerners (particularly Americans) bring up the possibility of Chinese domination. The People's Republic has spent most of its time since the 1980's growing its economy at a ridiculously rapid rate, at the expense of the environment and quality of life. Corruption is endemic and made worse by China's top-down centralized bureaucracy – agencies often operate as their own fiefdoms, which the government simply does not have the time or manpower to adequately police. Dissent is not tolerated, with virtually all instances of discontent swiftly crushed and swept under the rug without addressing their causes. The government could handle all this because it kept posting massive economic expansion year after year, and the middle class in the cities kept growing with it. However, 2015 has seen China's economy finally cooling down, and no one (as of this writing) is quite sure what's going to happen next.

Most damning, a highly patriarchal society coupled with the One Child Policy (and the fact that girls, unlike boys, are not legally required to financially support their parents in their old age) resulted in the mass termination or abandonment of girls (usually through abortion but sometimes via infanticide, orphaning, and human trafficking). This has led to one of the most lopsided gender imbalances in the world, with tens of millions of Chinese men destined to never have families. Recent trends show that as a result of the One Child Policy, China's population is actually expected to shrink dramatically over the next one hundred years, simultaneously producing a situation in which over half the population will be aged 50 or older. The policy was finally abolished on January 1, 2016 by basically raising the cap to two children, but the effects of 30+ years of this policy will be seen and felt for decades to come.