Before political science existed as a discipline it was assumed all countries wanted the same thing; land and security. The Industrial Revolution brought a new focus on strategic resources.

In the late 1800s America was already producing more strategic resources than anyone and in World War 2 the USA asserted its industrial might geopolitically. In the post-World War Two era the American focus as a superpower was on ideology and trade.

Since that time, the recurring question has been 'who's next?' Rome fell from power, as did Mongolia and Great Britain. America would fall too, it was said. Some country would replace it.

In the 1980s the speculation was Brazil. In the 1990s, India. Pervasive wisdom now says it will be China. In all cases because of manpower. But if it is to be China as the next superpower, what will their focus be?

Political scientist Jeffrey W. Legro of the University of Virginia writes in Perspectives on Politics that it's a difficult question to answer through the prism of Western thinking.

“The ‘rising China’ problem is not just about power, but purpose,” observes Legro, and rarely does a “pressing policy issue connect so directly to a critical gap in the scholarly literature.”

In other words, we don't know what their purpose will be and even the two schools of thought on the issue are western in their approach.

The first school believes that as Chinese power grows it will take its place in the existing global order - that means that current norms of security and land for its increasing population will likely mean wars. Strategists note their military build-up and state that defies peaceful intent, though America has had consistent military advancements and the only reason Europe does not is because of an American nuclear shield. I don't buy a car without wanting to drive it and aggressive military expansion is usually not defensive.

The second school believes that conflicts of the past can be avoided by encouraging Chinese interdependence and political and economic liberalization. They don't seem to be driven by Communist ideology, like the USSR, and have welcomed the existence of a comfortable middle class.

Legro agrees that China’s outlook has tended to favor integration but notes that China’s leadership rationalizes its integrationist posture as the best method for national economic development and the protection of Chinese independence. If that continued economic expansion does not happen, the stance may change toward more traditional Communism or totalitarianism.

As people of western European descent we tend to filter our thinking through western European ideas; Kant's enlightenment concept of 'peace', for example. We need to keep in mind that the Asians had a definition of enlightenment long before the west and it had nothing at all to do with being well liked to outsiders.