China’s history is one of cycles – it unifies, it fragments, then it unifies again. The duration of each phase varies, as do the causes of each breakdown, but for hundreds of years the cycle has been reliable. The last devolution followed the European intervention in the 19th century, starting a period of regionalism in which strongmen effectively controlled parts of the country. The Chinese civil war, launched in the 1920s and culminating in the Communist victory in 1949, followed by Mao Zedong’s reign, marked the beginning of the current era of centralization.
Looking at China today, it’s plain to see that the likeliest cause of the next devolution – if there is one – will be financial. China has taken on an enormous debt burden so that it could support state-owned enterprises, which help prop up employment and economic growth. To be sure, China’s economic growth in this era of unity is unprecedented. But the consequence of its approach is an array