Jan 10, 2019 in Analysis

Chinese Empire Essay

Chinese Empire: Reason for Declined Composed to Western


In the Asian continent, the Chinese nation has recorded a faster growing economy. The government has recorded rapid growth in the past decade. This has led the country to emerging as among the strongest and most dependent if not growing economies on the globe after the United States of America. The current economic indicators indicate that the country has grown its gross domestic product as well as the overall of exports in the world. In terms of military operation or strength, China is from time to time announcing significant advancements, including development of submarines and fighter jets with stealth matching those of the United States of America. In spite of this, drawing from Paul Kennedy’s theory, it is evident that this success may end up being reversed in the future if nothing is going to change. This is based on the understanding that the past empires which were so great such as the soviets declined. Even United States, which has for decades been the unchallenged global police, declined at some point of the rise to the current state and is bound to fall any time in the future. Borrowing from Paul Kennedy’s book on the fall of great empires, it is also evident that there are some key decisions and moves that China could take that would result to its collapse. This study explores the factors that could lead to the decline of the entire Chinese empire or superiority in the future.


Study objectives

•    To have in-depth reading and understanding of the content and views of Paul Kennedy on the fall of great empires.

•    To identify past great empires that have already declined and determine the reasons as to why such empires failed

•    To connect this with the Chinese empire and identify similar moves that the country may take that would push it to collapse in the future.

•    Provide a clear summary of reasons as to why the Chinese empire may collapse in the future.


Kennedy was right when he forecasted that China was eventually going to rise as a big economic power. With its 1.3 billion people in its population, the country has emerged as an economic giant of modern times. The country has recorded impressive improvements in its economic growth and development as well as in its military prowess. The ability of the country to reject the demands of superpowers has fast increased. China has a great power mentality based on its economic performance as well as its efforts in boosting its dominance in Asia as well as around the world. The country’s sheer size, as well as political will, has gained recognition as well as suspicion around the world. Many scholars projected in the past that China would encounter major problems in its efforts to transform to a world market economy. Kennedy’s conviction that the Chinese economy would record fast growth in the coming years was based on the fact that China had the right priorities in place in its operations to gaining world attention in terms of trade. Today, China has infarct surpassed the assertions of Kennedy emerging as the second biggest economy around the world and the highest exporter of merchandise globally. 

The country’s insatiable demand for raw materials in its production processes has resulted to its expansion of influence in other countries such as Asia and African countries. It has equally extended its efforts to the Middle East. It has also amassed vast reserves of the United States’ dollars. The country needs to use or lose these dollars should the US dollar start increasing its value. At the same time, the vast landmass, economy and military mighty of the United States of America led to Kennedy’s concluding that in the future, chances are high that US would equally emerge as an equal match in superiority. 

Nevertheless, Kennedy was weary of the increasing de-industrialization of the United States of American and the potential effects that this would have on the economic and political sustainability of US as the strongest empire around the world. This was on the basis of the understanding which states the nation was using much of its resources in consumption rather than in investment. As a result of these expenditures, U.S was slowly turning itself into the largest debtor around the world. Accumulation of debt meant that the country would be directing much of its resources into the repayment of debt as the rest is directed towards consumption. This implied that very little would be invested in the economy, and this was expected to hinder economic growth and development in the country. 

Kennedy observed that the United States of America could hardly detoxify itself from this culture of consumption and debt. However, this was an underestimation. In 1990s and 2000s, U.S engaged in to wanton spending. This further deprived the economy off its sufficient resources for investing.  Kennedy based his assertions on realist theories. These theories recognize the fact that wrong decisions would result to adverse outcomes while right decisions would result to the right results. Leadership influences the decisions made by an organization or country. If a country selects the right choice of leaders, right decisions are likely to be made which would steer the economic power and the sustainability of the empire forward. 

The weak leadership in the United States of America experienced between 2000 and 2012 is associated with the nation’s economic growth and development. This conclusion, while still an assertion in this study may end up being confirmed by Historians as the beginning or the major reasons for the decline of the United States since the year 2000.  What does this imply on Chinese empire? It has many implications. It implies that if the people in China make the wrong choice of president, then the empire is at risk of decline like the US. Wrong decisions in the nation would result to economic decline and reduction of global influence as can be witnessed in the case of America’s decline in perking orders and economic influence. If this persists for long, it might result to failure of such an empire. This indicates that poor leadership is one of the main reasons that would result to the decline of the Chinese empire in the future.

The above picture of the past may seem as bleak ones. However, several questions has been asked as to whether this is the manner in which we ought to be viewing the future. Kennedy borrows a leaf from Charles Darwin where the survival in this world is for the fittest. He notes the struggles between states where only the strongest states will survive. Nevertheless, this notion cannot be downplayed. It is evident that that the past is likely to be just as the future. History repeats itself. Today, China is rising and threatening the United States. Beijing is installing its leaders in resource-rich countries in Africa and keeping the decision whether to freely float its Yuan or not close to the organization’s chest. China equally has the potential of engaging the EU and US in trade wars. The potential for tension between the United States and the EU exists. Despite this, it should be noted that China is among the many countries on the globe with the equivalent capability to assert itself in the global field. There are many other countries including EU, Russia, and Brazil, which are fast increasing their global influence through economic powers. These countries have invested wisely both in local markets as well as in foreign lands. They have too acquired massive resources especially raw materials in foreign lands especially in Africa but not equivalent to Chinese and American capability. This implies that the dominance of China does not equally go unchallenged. If the country fails to keep in pace with the fast economic growth and military prowess, its empire will collapse in line with Kennedy’s assertion that also borrows from Darwin’s survival for the fittest theory.

In his book, Paul Kennedy notes that empires rise as well fall as a result of their ability or inability to keep abreast with the technological and economic advances of other competing empires. Great empires remain great if they are in a position to out produce their rivals to realize prosperity as well as dynamism. They are required to produce more, organize their affairs in a better manner, and balance their overall level of consumption with investment. If such empires fail to do this, they always prone to terrible decline in terms of economic, political and security wise matters. Unlike in the past when many wars were won by empires as a result of waging war on large-scale, in the modern wars, the key sources of such success is the economic capability of countries waging such wars. 

Historically, when countries compete in terms of their global greatness on the basis of their ability to wage stronger war on opponents, the side that wins is the one with strong economic might, thus increasing its access to raw materials. This implies that one of the reasons that could result to the decline of Chinese empire is if it falls economically and focuses more on consuming resources rather than investing such resources. For instance, during the past world wars, the Nazi Germany lost to countries such as Britain and the United States of America not because Germany had weak soldiers, but because Britain alone matched Germanys’ economic power. Hence, the other countries involved in the war acted as economic surplus. When these massive resources were turned against Germany, the inevitable occurred. It resulted to the collapse of the Nazi Germany. The cold war case that limited the associated of the soviet command in terms of economies created weaker economic growth driving force compared to what happened in the west. This led to the defeat as witnessed in the soviet state. 

Sustainability of the Chinese economy is thus critical if the country will sustain its economic and political powers in the world. On the contrary, if the country fails to accomplish this mission, it will result to the league of failed states hence a failed Chinese empire. States enhance their economic growth and development in various ways. They achieve it by directing funds in the investment, technology development, and infrastructure and to critical sectors of the economy that are the key drivers of such economies. They also engage in foreign direct investment in terms of resources like raw materials.

Nowadays, the Chinese economy is in the league of leading economies across the globe. Economists have projected a pumper growth of the Chinese economy that will surpass the United States ‘very soon. At the same time, China has increased its efforts in extending its maritime borders as well as exploitation of resources in Africa. Paul Kennedy indicates there are salient reasons that drive the rise and fall of countries such as China borrowing from Paul Kennedy’s view on fall and rise of powers. In a way, Kennedy has predicted something that is always witnessed in history. Strong empires such as the Roman Empire did collapse. This occurred in spite of the vast influence that the empire had in various parts of the world. At the same time, other empires have collapsed thereafter. Unlike the period of Roman Empire, modern empires are facing significantly different challenges as compared to the challenges faced by organizations of the olden days. There are increasing political and economic factors that are influencing the occurrence of such collapse of empires in spite of them having initially recorded high level of success. Despite this, there is yet to be a consensus as to what is contributing to such empires’ collapse. 

Various theorists have in the past brought forward their views on the issue. However, Paul Kennedy has emerged as one of such theorists whose assertions have been confirmed in the past decades. Paul indicates increasing wealth of China is not the only thing that will ensure sustainability of its empire, but its wealth and increasing power relative to that of its competing nations. This implies that if the west recover from the global decline and strengthen their territories and global security over China, the Chinese empire will decline. On the same vein, it implies that the west may fall should China exceed its influence in terms of economic and global security. This displays the high level of competition that these two different empires are undergoing in the effort to boost their influence in the global scene. If the Chinese economy assumes a downward trend in terms of growth as other competing powers record rise in their economic growth and development, eventually they will have an influence over China. 

Other theorists have noted that the Bush administration and subsequent administrations have invested heavily in their effort to contain China. These efforts are likely to yield fruits if the west is to boost its economic power over and above that of China. Equally, if China is to maximize its economic growth and development over these competing nations, it will wipe out these empires over time. With the first growth in China’s economic mighty, many people see a conflict with the west in the future as being inevitable. The rate of growth of economies gross domestic product is the key determinant of the survival of such empires in the future and not the size of the economy. This implies that although China may have one of the fast growing and largest economies on the globe, if its growth in gross domestic product continues declining as the GDP growth of the economies in the west improves at a faster rate, the Chinese empire will eventually decline.

Paul Kennedy notes that another key determinant of the survival of empires is their investment in military spending (Smith, 2013). Those spending on military and security at a slower pace are weakening relative to the countries that it is competing with. High level of security, a lot of funds that could have been directed towards investment is diverted to such spending, with the economy directing little in investments. 

The decline in investment in the economy results in the reduction of such economies’ economic growth. During such period, countries allocating much of their wealth on military spending rather than in investments have the potential of recording weakened economies in the long run. These weaken the economy relative to the economy of the competing countries. If China focuses on this route, something that has already been witnessed in extension of its military mind in the South China Sea as well growth in its military budget. It is evident that must the country to strike a balance between its operations and that of competing countries. If it spends too much on military as opposed to investments, while  the west strike a reasonable balance between military spending and investments, the Chinese empire would eventually fail. Such an expenditure approach has the potential of experiencing a lag, where it increases its military power until the point where its overtaxed economy implodes because of such military spending. This theory by Paul Kennedy is informed by the occurrences of the past. For instance, during the soviet era when Russia perceived itself as having high level of military power and equally directing much of its resources in enhancing its military spending. As the country is overtaxed economy could no longer sustain such spending, it resulted in the collapse of USSR. If china happens to take this route as the west focuses on moderate spending in military and high level of expenditure on investments, China will weaken resulting in the collapse of the Chinese empire. In 1980’s it was thought that Russia would eventually have the capabilities to attack US. These changed as Russia focused on the sclerotic approach to Russia economic policy as the United States of America focused on economic growth and targeted on advancement in technology. These lead to the birth of the more active U.S than its main rival Russia which failed to challenge it. This is of no different to Chinese pursuit for global powers leads to over-expenditure on military operations. All these will disregard for the need for the economy equally to allocate a reasonable amount of funds for investment and technology. The plan is to be supportive of the county’s economic growth and development (The New York Times, 2014).

Economically the rate of growth of the economy influences its ability to wipe out other empires. Take an example whereby one economy grows by 1% per annum while another economy grows by 5%. In one decade, the faster growing economy will have grown by 62% while the slow-growing economy will have grown by 10.5% (Smith, 2013). These indicate that the faster growing economy would have recorded very high growth during such period yet the poorly performing economy would have recorded low level of economic performance over this period. The claim on fall of Chinese empire is supported by the current decline in global strength of the United States of America. Since the September 11 terrorism in the United States by terrorists on the twin towers, military spending in the country has skyrocketed. During the same time, economic growth has stagnated. These confirm the negative correlation between overspending on military and economic growth and development in the country. This has led to US being challenged economically by China and military wise by its historic foe, Russia. These occurred amidst the increasing overlapping US intelligence agencies as well as massive spending on projects such as F-35 fighter planes. In the US, the military spends a total of $ 690 billion in its $ 15 trillion budget.  These confirm that as theorized by Paul Kennedy if china takes this route in showing its security might, its empire will eventually fall. A similar case occurred in Russia where during the soviet era, 40% of the soviet budget was allocated to military as well as military industrial complex. 

In his book, Kennedy closes the discourse looking ahead of the year of publication. In the past, it was evident that countries such as the US had spent almost a century in pursuit of industrialization. These period that significantly increased its global might just to stagnate in the past decade as a result of misinformed priorities. This is expected of China if the country is to pursue a similar trend, something that it has already started engaging in. China has taken 30 years of rapid economic development and growth only to start stagnating in this decade. The government in China full understands that must reforms in the country. In spite of this, the necessary initiatives to pursue these changes in the country are small. This explains why the rapid growth is followed by stagnation in the country. 

There is an enormous need for the state to engage in the reform process. It is evident that the model that the organization has of adopted no longer work yet the top leadership in China are not taking the necessary steps in spite of this clear indication that the system is not working. Nevertheless, this is a challenging thing. An attempt to reform an unstable, as well as diminishing system has the potential of resulting in disruption of the entire system. This has the potential of leading to the failure of the whole system in China. Kennedy notes the failure of systems by such steps. In Russia, an effort by Gorbachev to reform the system led to the collapse of the system. There is thus a need for China to take a systematic and well-orchestrated approach the impending issue. These would prevent the progression of the process of decline. Nevertheless, because of the complexities of the current leadership in China there is no guarantee that these vices that result to collapse of empires will lead to a sustainable China. The big questions are whether the Chinese economies will be in a position to withstand these forces.

Unlike in the past decades, the past thirty years has been presented in one of the countries in the world with fastest growing economic and political power. As a result of this, the essence of China in the contemporary world has increased significantly across the world. in has occurred in spite of the occurrence of minimal political changes within the country. European ideas have failed to generate an objective explanation as to the economic rise of china as an economic giant that is fast improving its influence across the world. In spite of this, Kennedy addresses these occurrences based on the dynamics of the past centuries as well as decades. It is worth noting that the 1980’s and 1990’s development of China was not dependent on the formal approach to development. This is where nations enhance their property rights, contracts and development institutions that facilitate the enforcement of such contracts. 

The nation’s economic progress has been largely driven by the informal institutions, institutions that equally contribute to economic growth and development. Such organizations have played a similar in economic growth and development as the formal institutions plays. Neither China nor the west is homogeneous about their economic foundations. There is the high level of differences in relation to the way contracts are made and enforced in China. This implies that as the country’s leadership tries to shift this informal sector to the formal sector, it is not clear what the outcome of this move will be. Failure to take the right moves, the country may end up going to decline resulting in the collapse of the Chinese empire in spite of its current fast growth. This is among the primary reasons that could lead to the fall of Chinese empire (Bologna Center, 2014).

Summary of findings

One of the identified reasons that may push China into collapsing is a focus on consumption with minimal finances being directed to investments. It is those economies that fail to invest that are surpassed by their competing nations. Kennedy emphasizes the notion of survival for the fittest where only the strongest will survive. Such overconsumption without focusing on investments will decline the Chinese empire. 

The other potential source non-collapsed of China Empire would be the creation of a false notion that over-investing in military instead of economic growth and development will make the country dominant in the world. Hence, increase its chances of sustaining its empire. Kennedy notes that the economic might is the overriding source of empire power as it increases the ability of a country to access resources and raw materials necessary in case of the war. The Nazi Germany did not fail because of lack of military prowess, but because it was competing with its leaders, but because of little economic capability

Chinese empire may fail in the future if the country elects leaders with wrong economic choices. This is the cause of the decline of countries such as the soviets where leaders focused on spending huge level of resources in military alone. The government was spending more than 50% of its income in financing the military. These shrunk the economy, and the overtaxed economy could no longer support the income necessary for financing the military operations. 

The rate of economic expansion and development is a crucial determinant of whether Chinese empire will remain or will collapse. As indicated above when one country’s GDP grows by 1% per annum while the other country’s economy grows by 5%, the economy growing at 5% will have recorded over 60% in expansion of its economy. The one growing at 1% per annum will have increased by around 10% within the same period. These imply that the country with slow growth would be significantly outmatched by the one recording fast growth. Its ability to influence other nations in the world would have reduced resulting in the decline of its empire. In the past decades, China has recorded robust growth. In spite of this, this growth has stagnated. Continued stagnation and decline of economic growth in China would result to collapse of the Chinese empire.

The increasing might of economic performance of competing countries to China puts China at the risk of failure. The United States as well as the European Union, India and Brazil are some of the countries that have significantly recovered from the effects of 2008 financial crises. Their growth rate is taking momentum. Once their economic might increase significantly relative to that of China, they will have higher economic and political influence in the world. These would minimize influence and control of China in the world resulting in its fall.  


From this presentation, it is clear that the vast empire eventually collapse in the long run after years of dominance the world of politics and economics. They end up being trapped in a scenario where they seek military superiority over other countries where they exert influence on. Because of this, they lose a focus on the need to grow the economy in what may be referred to as arms race. As a result, their economies decline, and their influence in the global stage diminish when compare to other countries sharing almost the similar status on the globe. Kennedy presents the factor of the countries’ economic strengths as the principal determinants of sustainability of empires in the long run and management of this will determine how the economy can go with eventual fall out. China has already started indicating significant signs of taking this route that results to the collapse of the empire. Economic growth has stagnated while China is allocating more and more resources to military enhancement. These may therefore result in the declining economy as the competition for resources intensifies.


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