Big things are happening on TV Tropes! New admins, new designs, fewer ads, mobile versions, beta testing opportunities, thematic discovery engine, fun trope tools and toys, and much more - Learn how to help here and discuss here.
There [China] is a sleeping giant. Let him sleep! For when he wakes, he will shake the world.
Both the younger and older sister trope to Japan Takes Over the World, China Takes Over The World is when a future version of China, these days usually the People's Republic of China, becomes a major military and economic power rivaling, if not exceeding, the United States. It may also be one of the major powers backing or participating in a Third World War. Combining the Yellow Peril and the Red Scare, the PRC and its militaryassets provide a useful foil for the United States and the European Union, be it on the way international trade swings or on issues such as a certain island.
This trope has existed in one form or another since the early 20th century, when fears over mass immigration of Asians led to racist and xenophobic political actions by European, British Commonwealth, and US governments. It actually predates not only the People's Republic of China (which won the Chinese Civil War in 1950) but also the fall of the Empire Of the Qing (in 1911).
The People's Republic of China began to focus on export-driven growth (and thus gain economic influence in the world) under the economic reforms of Deng Xiaoping, but it wasn't until The Nineties that it began to assert itself as a world power. Since the mid-to-late 2000s, this trope has become firmly established as China in Real Life grew into its present position, though The New Russiais still often used as a source of plots andcharacters (the connections between the two nations sometimes being mentioned).
Like more than a few other ... questionable tropes in this vein, this has some (emphasis on some) grounding in history. China is one of the oldest civilizations in the world, and at several points in its history more-or-less controlled (or at least had dominance over) virtually all of their known world.
While this trope is not quite discredited yet, it might have a short life expectancy. Nowadays, the Chinese are a fertile market for Western media. To get their goods to Chinese consumers, American media companies have to get approval from government gatekeepers, who have the power to censor works that they find inappropriate. As such, media companies must keep a friendly relationship with the Chinese government and avoid creating or distributing works that portray the Chinese negatively even if those works will not be distributed in China. This dynamic is exemplified in the production of the 2012 Red Dawn remake, which changed its villains from the Chinese military to the North Korean military to avoid offending the Chinese government.
Sub-Trope of Take Over the World. See also America Takes Over the World.
There was a So Bad, It's Good movie in the 1960s called Battle Beneath The Earth with Red Chinese forces using a high-tech laser system to dig tunnels under the Pacific Ocean to sneak entire armies through and invade the United States from within.
In the early James Bond films, there were at least three implicit attempts by supervillains to wreak havoc that were being directed from China.
In Dr. No, the eponymous Big Bad is in the employ of SPECTRE to topple American rockets, but it is implied that they were hired by the Chinese (namely by the number of Chinese running around in his base - No is part Chinese, but there is no obvious reason why that should be relevant)
Goldfinger is more explicit as the Reds are in uniforms and Bond identifies a nuclear physicist as being from Red China (Oddjob is from Korea, if North then a Chinese ally)
In You Only Live Twice, Diabolical Mastermind Blofeld is seen speaking to two sinister Asian types representing an unidentified government, in a plot to start World War III between Russia and America. The film is set in Japan but it is not them, as Japanese Secret Service helps Bond foil the plot.
The Man with the Golden Gun is a minor example; the eponymous assassin lives on a luxury island in Chinese waters "rent free" in return for "an occasional favour". His island has been turned into a power plant for a revolutionary solar energy device by a Malaysian conglomerate, but though it's in their territory, the Chinese don't seem to have much involvement in that.
In The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress the Chinese have taken over huge tracts of the Pacific (including Australia, New Zealand and Japan), and large sections of what had been Russia (interestingly, despite this move the Soviet Union is still presented as a major world power in the book).
The first chapter of C.M. Kornbluth's novel Not This August has the United States lose to an invading army of Soviet and Chinese forces, who proceed to split up and occupy the country. The rest of the book deals with the resistance movement against them.
There's a Kurt Vonnegut story that involves the Chinese people becoming microscopic and spreading across the world as a plague, killing half of the US population.
The Philip K Dick short story "Faith Of Our Fathers" is a particularly bizarre and unsettling riff on this.
A political ad by a corporate-funded right-wing lobby during the fall 2010 US electoral campaign depicts a history lecture in 2030 Beijing: the professor explains how Americans bankrupted themselves "and now they all work for us!" The ad was brought back for the 2012 election.
A 2012 political ad for US Republican Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra has a broken-English-speaking Chinese girl thanking his political opponent for helping the Chinese economy. Its accompanying website— since taken down due to bad publicity but conveniently archived— was a chop suey of vaguely Chinese images and Foreign-Looking Font use.
Anime and Manga
In Gundam 00, the Human Reform League, one of the three major superpowers in an early-twenty-fourth century Earth, is made up of China, Russia, India, and the ASEAN nations. Although it is strictly a very tight-knit international alliance rather than a single nation, it is heavily implied that China holds the greatest political sway in the HRL.
Star Trek: First Contact refers to the Eastern Coalition or ECON, one of the factions in the Third World War (and who Cochrane originally thinks the Borg's attack comes from) which is said to be a version of this in the Star Trek Expanded Universe, although it's not detailed in the film itself.
Ghosts With Shit Jobs is a mockumentary set in 2040 which predicts that the U.S. and Canada will become borderline Third World Countries which the wealthy Chinese outsource their menial occupations to.
Dragon Day (2012). China recalls all its unpaid debt from the United States; when they refuse to pay, the Chinese launch a cyber attack on the United States.
Black Star Rising by Frederik Pohl had China and India being the major powers after the US and the Soviets nuked each other to smithereens. Hilarity Ensues after aliens arrive, demanding to speak to the US president...and China has to come up with one, since they control North America.
Tom Clancy's novel The Bear and the Dragon has the People's Republic of China becoming a significant threat to world peace, building on Evil Plans from the previous two "mainstream" novels, Debt of Honor and Executive Orders. Though, part of their becoming a threat was due to drastically downsized armed forces of Russia and the United States.
The Seventh Carrier series of novels by Peter Albano has a Red Chinese missile-defense satellite system malfunction (or so they claim) and start laser-blasting anything with a heat signature hot enough to be a ballistic missile launch. Which means jet engines and missiles are useless — they get zapped the instant they get turned on. The characters strongly hint that they think this was some sort of plan by the Chinese to neutralize everyone else's advanced aircraft and missile systems and level the playing field, but the only attempt to conquer the world that follows this is an alliance of Arab Muslim nations led by Libya declaring war on Japan for some crazy reason. China seems to sit the war out on the sidelines.
Eric L. Harry's 2000 novel Invasion chronicles a, yes, invasion of the US by a rampant Chinese military. This is the final step after the Reds have invaded SE Asia and the Middle East, nuked Tel Aviv, wiped out a combined European fleet in the straits of Gibraltar and destroyed the bulk of the US Navy in a Curb-Stomp Battle off Cuba.
The plot of Frank Schätzing's 2009 novel Limit takes place in 2025. China is much like today, only more Cyber Punk-ish and competing with the USA over helium-3 mining sites on the moon.
Robert A. Heinlein's controversial Sixth Column has a "Pan-Asian Alliance", a combination of China and Japan (for some reason). They're stated to have conquered the Soviets and India before conquering the United States (they don't really mention what happened to Europe).
Heinlein also mentions in Starship Troopers that the "Terran Federation" arose after the Western nations had their asses handed to them by the "Chinese Hegemony" in a world war. Actually it was specifically stated to be an alliance of both the Western powers and Russia. Echoing mistreatment of POW's by the Japanese during World War II, but also an eerie foreshadowing of Vietnam, a key point of contention was the mishandling of the POW situation. While the Western powers freed Chinese POW's, the Chinese simply didn't bother to release the nearly 100,000 civilian and military prisoners they had taken. The humiliating defeat leads to near-anarchy in the West, which sparks the formation of the "Terran Federation" in which only soldiers have the right to vote, etc. The Feds spend the next full generation gradually recovering from the war and "trading butter for guns" to better prepare for the next one.
Chinese are sometimes the villains in Dale Brown books. Sometimes alongside Russians. Standout examples include Fatal Terrain where they nuke Guam and Executive Intent where they have the power-projection needed to amphibiously invade Somalia and Yemen.
Played with in the John Wells series by Alex Berenson. In the Ghost War, the renegade general intends to use an illusion of this to purge his enemies in the Standing Committee.
In Shadow of the Hegemon by Orson Scott Card, several powerful nations make a grab for power, starting with Russia (AKA the Second Warsaw Pact). However, after it's revealed that the person running the show is a murdering teenage psychopath, he flees to India where he proceeds to convince them to take over Southeast Asia, while Pakistan handles the Middle East. As it turns out, though, his real plan is to get China to obliterate the overtaxed Indian army and have free rein over Southeast Asia. Russia throws its political support behind China and expands the Warsaw Pact by promising to be more benevolent than the Chinese. The US, no longer being a real superpower, can't do anything beyond... selling new world maps.
In Snow Crash, "Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong" is right up there as one of many national franchises working to get the major market share in the Divided States of America, and "Kongbucks" are still real money, while American dollars are hyper-inflated to the point where people use them for toilet paper.
In the Dollhouse episode "Epitaph One", set in 2019, China is mentioned as being responsible for at least one case of mass personality-wiping. Though they clearly aren't the only ones. It seems like a global bandwagon, as different groups and governments tried to wipe out each other before they could be wiped, resulting in the End of the World as We Know It.
Discussed on Top Gear, when Jeremy and James examine China's growing automobile industry. The conclusion that they arrive at is that, in five years' time, everyone will be driving a Chinese made car. When we cut back to the studio for the closing credits, all three hosts have been replaced with Chinese ones, who, in subtitled Mandarin, announce that they will start their domination of the industry by taking over the show.
In the The Office episode "China", Michael gets paranoid and thinks China will take over America one day. Oscar calls him out on it, but unfortunately makes a goof that causes everybody to gang up on him.
Joked about in 10 O'Clock Live where Henning Wehn kept insisting that Europe must unite (under German leadership) to fight against China.
In the Transhuman Space RPG setting, China is one of the world superpowers (the leading military power; the EU is the leading technological power; the US comes second at both), and controls a significant chunk of Mars ("Rust China").
In Trinity, China becomes the leading economic and military superpower due to its vast industrial capacity and the goodwill generated when they drove off the increasingly ax-crazy Aberrants by threatening to nuke them out of existence. Even space travel is largely dependent on the Chinese with the majority of starships manufactured by them.
The PRC and an "Asian Commonwealth" becomes a major rival power to the United States in the plot of the Empire Earth: The Art of Conquest campaigns.
In Fallout, China ascends economically while the Soviet Union fades to become a second-rate, US-friendly state which presumably implodes with the rest of Europe during a prolonged war in the Middle East, setting the stage for a climactic nuclear war between the Commie Reds in China and the Raygun Gothic USA.
Deus Ex features China as the only remaining autonomous nation in the world, having abandoned the UN at the time it started wielding actual political and military power through UNATCO. The USA still claims to be a superpower, but this is pretty obviously not the case.
Even by the time of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, China is stated to be the global economic superpower. The largest human augmentation company in the world is based in the Chinese city of Hengsha, a two-tiered city.
The ending of Killer7 implies that by the 22nd century, China has succeeded the USA as the world's dominant superpower.
Done Up to Eleven in Capcom's Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor. China didn't so much take over the world, as it became the United Nations, such that the UN's blue logo is now red. And then the UN invaded the United States, and all hell broke loose. Subverted and then later inverted in the original Steel Battalion, where, while China stand-in Hai Shi Dao was an antagonist in the first game, Steel Battalion: Line of Contact recasts Hai Shi Dao fighters as patriots battling a hostile US-backed Pacific Rim Force.
In Code Geass, the Chinese Federation is one of the three major world powers, between the EU and the Holy Britannian Empire in strength. In R2 episode 16, they join up with the United Federation of Nations against Britannia.
Interestingly, a throwaway line of dialog in the first season implies that the nation is Communist, but R2 shows that this is primarily because the people in charge are greedy twits.
H. G. Wells' novel The War In The Air is among other things about a Chinese invasion of the United States using zeppelins in the early 1900s, eventually defeated by an American guerrilla army using ornithopters.
One of the earliest examples of this trope appeared in the 1928 novella Armageddon 2419 A.D. by Philip Francis Nowlan, which featured a certain Buck Rogers awaking in the 25th century in an America ruled by "Hans" and "Mongolians." The bad guys were the Han Airlords, Chinese who conquered America using airships in the late 20th century and ruled it for almost 400 years before American rebels defeated them with death rays and rocket guns.
The Chung Kuo series of science fiction novels by David Wingrove are set in a world-spanning Chinese empire
HP Lovecraft's story "The Shadow Out of Time" posits an Asian empire that takes the place of America as the world's one super-power some time in the future. "Nyarlathotep" shows a future resembling a Zombie Apocalypse with "yellow evil faces peering from behind fallen monuments" instead of zombies. In the short story "He", a visitor is given a glimpse of a hellish future New York: " the heavens verminous with strange flying things, and beneath them a hellish black city of giant stone terraces with impious pyramids flung savagely to the moon, and devil-lights burning from unnumbered windows. And swarming loathsomely on aërial galleries I saw the yellow, squint-eyed people of that city, robed horribly in orange and red, and dancing insanely to the pounding of fevered kettle-drums, the clatter of obscene crotala, and the maniacal moaning of muted horns whose ceaseless dirges rose and fell undulantly like the waves of an unhallowed ocean of bitumen."
An early example comes from the 1907 dystopian novel The Lord of the World, in which the Chinese and Japanese monarchies have united into "The Empire" and conquered all of continental Asia and Australasia, and are poising to annex Europe to their empire. Ironically this is viewed as a good thing by the sympathetic characters of the story, the persecuted Catholic Church, as it will free them from domination by the socialist forces in control of Western civilization.
Jack London's The Unparalleled Invasion has a slow (and very racist — it is a perfect example of the Yellow Peril concept, though not of the trope) version: a modernised Imperial China (it was written in 1910, literally a year before the Qing fell) expanding by having its growing population constantly move into bordering regions. Outnumber the natives, officially annex the place, start moving into the new bordering regions... ultimately, they're stopped by an international coalition using biological warfare to exterminate the Chinese population (the Unparalleled Invasion the title references). This is portrayed as a good thing.
Earth is not ruled by the Chinese of Quantum Vibe, but they do rule Mars (or Huǒxīng as they call it).
Chinese Empires did rule The World (Worth Caring About) for much of their history, in their own opinions. The Chinese nations and nation-states were much more modest in their clames, but most pan-Chinese Empires (the multi-national behemoths that emerged when one Chinese nation co-opted and/or conquered all the others) considered their Emperors to be the de jure ruler of the civilised world, with all other sovereigns either vassals or savages. Not that many bothered enforcing this worldview with any real vigour - warfare is expensive, especially when your men are operating far from home, and the world is really rather large.
Though not quite looking up to the Northern and Souther Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing Empires as their rulers, the Koreans and Japanese and other neighbouring civilizations acknowledged the cultural superiority of the Chinese Empires at the very least and sought to emulate Chinese courtly cultures during the greater part of their history. Prior the Empire of the Qing's relative decline whichever Chinese language was used by the monarchy of the current pan-Chinese Empire usually became the courtly dialect amongst said civilizations, Classical Chinese remained the diplomatic and bureaucratic written script, and knowledge of the Confucianism philosophers and Daoist and Buddhist spiritualists was widespread.
The Chinese region was undoubtedly the world's most (or second-most depending on how unified the Indian subcontinent was relative to China at the time) economically developed and sophisticated civilization between the time of Rome and The British Empire. There's a reason European explorers like Christopher Columbus spent so much time trying to find a shortcut to China, and it wasn't just all the high-quality manufactured goods.