A global prophesy upon which a growing consensus across the political, social and economic spectrum agree is that an emergent, dynamic China will vie for super-power status in the not-too-distant future. Roger Cohen finds his "mind wandering, fast-forwarding to 2040," and contemplating China's potential usurpation of America as the world's dominant nation. The contention is neither radical nor dependant upon radicalism - all things being equal, it is a potential (some argue, probable) consequence of present events. The physics of history dictate that forces in motion continue upon their trajectory absent a counter-force. As China is unlikely to encounter external opposition, the only question regards its risk of implosion.
In an attempt to analyze the nature of democracy in China, the American Enterprise Institute has used China as a test-case for the application of Tocqueville's political science in the modern world. The folks at AEI regard China as having entered a democratic social state governed through authoritarianism (as opposed to its opposite, liberal democracy). Tocqueville foresaw the advent of absolutism as the consequence of preferring equality above freedom. Liberal democracy requires a particular set of laws and mores (which Tocqueville recognized in America and found lacking in the French Revolution). I believe it would require a very discerning eye to detect them in China today.