x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

China's next dynasty

China's new leader Xi Jinping has advantages, and faces challenges, that his innumerable predecessors could never have imagined.

How many times, in China's 4,000 years of recorded history, has power passed from one ruler to the next? Only experts are sure how many dynasties there have been, each with a series of emperors. Often there was no one ruler; political unity was for many centuries more sought-after than accomplished over the vast land mass we now call China.

Now there has been a change of rule under the dynasty of our time, known as the Chinese Communist Party. Xi Jinping, the new general secretary of the party, faces challenges, and has advantages, his imperial predecessors could not have imagined.

Chinese call their land the "middle kingdom", the centre of the world; other peoples have been mere "barbarians". It's a conceit to which China has had more claim than some other empires; Chinese arts, science and bureaucracy have often been exemplary.

For most of its 4,000 years, China has been a centre of global power. Only more recently has it endured war, famine and foreign invasion. Many Chinese see a world intent on preventing China's return to great nation status. It is Xi's job to prove them wrong.