On June 22, 1897, Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee was celebrated in London, the longest-lived sovereign that the United Kingdom had ever had until then.
Ceremonies in different squares of the city, fanfares and bands from all over the country animated the four corners of the city, together with the parade of departments from the most remote parts of the Empire and from friendly and allied countries, such as one of the royal carabinieri from Naples .
The celebrations took place wherever the Union Jack flew, from cold Canada to exotic Indies, to the distant possessions of Asia and those of Africa.
London ruled over a quarter of the land and 20% of the world's population, and held undisputed dominion of the oceans with the most powerful fleet ever in the world.
For the duration of the festivities, the 400 million subjects were certain that Britain would continue to lead the planet for a long time to come. But the future, which the "Roman moment" of those days seemed to suggest, would have been completely different ...
Two years later, the British went to war against the Boers1, starting a conflict which, despite being won at the cost of 450 thousand soldiers lined up to fight against 40 thousand Dutch farmers, marked the beginning of the British decline, whose fall, however, in spite of what transpired from the luxuries of the court and in imperial policies , had long been inevitable.
London, in fact, while maintaining its political and military leadership, had been going through a profound economic crisis for years, and had already been overtaken by the USA and Germany in steel production: the most significant economic indicator of the time.
The decline was inevitable, and was celebrated definitively at the end of the Second World War, so much so that the Yalta conference itself (photo) translated for Churchill into a mere operation of image alongside the two real protagonists of the meeting.
That was the moment of the passing of the torch to the former colony, with which London will start a lasting "special relationship".
This memory exercise is useful in trying to understand what future awaits the only superpower in office today.
If it is true, in fact, that the United States still represent, in terms of economic and military capacity, the only heavyweight capable of influencing the dynamics of the planet, it is also true that other actors are appearing on the stage, claiming their own slice of power.
Among these, China is the reality that most undermines the United States of America, also for its imperial conception, by virtue of which it claims a role and a mission in history.
Il "Military and Security Developments involving the Republic on China"2, published by the US Department of Defense for Congressmen, then provides us with the opportunity to see how the US today evaluates the dangerous Asian contender.
Certainly there is no shortage of reasons for concern in the 200 pages of the 2020 edition, from which China confirms itself as a fearful and determined threat, strengthened by a long-range strategic vision, which from the (now achieved) "Moderately prosperous nation" by 2021, aims to have a military instrument available by 2049 - a century after the proclamation of the people's republic (PRC) - "World class".
The military, in the analysis made by the Americans, is confirmed as the pivot of the Chinese rise, essentially for the ability offered to conduct a credible and assertive foreign policy, capable of protecting the interests of Beijing and shaping a new world order.
Some examples? Shipbuilding is the most impressive in the world. The People's Republic of China, with 350 ships and submarines, 130 of which are large combat fighters, has the largest fleet on the planet (the US follows with 293 ships).
It is true that at the moment, with only one aircraft carrier operational and two others under construction, China is still lacking in power projection, but Beijing's plans foresee, in the short term, an additional 10 aircraft carriers.
Conventional ballistics (GLBM) and cruise (GLCM) capabilities also give China an unsuspected advantage.
Beijing - not signatory, unlike the US and Russia, of any non-proliferation treaty (regarding conventional newspapers) - It has 1250 missiles with a range of 500 to 5500km, while the US deploys a single conventional type from 70 to 300km (GLBM), and none for cruising.
With the adoption of the S-300 and S-400 systems, the PRC finally has one of the most advanced AA defense capabilities of the moment.
To this must be added the recent transformation of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), the armed forces of Beijing, into an inter-force instrument capable of operating "Overseas", along the lines of communication that lead from China to the Strait of Hormuz, Africa and the Pacific islands. This is thanks to the creation of permanent bases and docking rights around the world.
After that of Djibouti (photo), inaugurated in 2017, Beijing has negotiations underway for "logistic" bases in Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Seychelles, Tanzania, Angola, Tajikistan, Namibia , in the Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.
These are just some of the indicators of the current Chinese power, to which must obviously be added those of an economic matrix, which make it the second economy in the world, which have pushed the USA to adopt, up to now, the policy of contrast regardless. Conducted with the aim of preventing, or at least slowing down, the acquisition of technology and the possibility of becoming, by 2030, the world leader in the field of Artificial Intelligence, the "general purpose technology" of the new era.
But it is above all the daughter of fear, and risks facilitating - rather than preventing - the risks that the so-called "Thucydides trap3”- the possibility of a war between the emerging power and the“ in charge ”- threatens on the horizon.
Especially considering that China, as we have seen, is already working on a military instrument consistent with the rank it intends to acquire by 2049, and is already oriented to occupy the geopolitical spaces of others.
From the Chinese Sea to the Indian Ocean, up to Suez and the Mediterranean Sea, the Chinese presence is now a constant at the service of a dominant plan, which for now has only a commercial value.
On the American side, however, a policy of diplomatic containment would be something else, of the type implemented by Obama with Iran and by Trump himself with North Korea. Such a policy could be combined with progressive concessions to the counterpart, recognizing it, in certain situations and situations, the status of supporting actor or, at least, of legitimate contender.
But the latter, at the moment, appears unlikely, especially because America has not yet tasted that bitter feeling that pervaded British politicians after the Second World War, when they were forced to take note of the now unattainable American power, and decided , through the aforementioned special report, to "ride" it to perpetuate what remained of their old imperial policy.
The US is convinced that it still has a role and a mission to fulfill in history.
The rise of China therefore looms as a threat, the most fearful after that of the Soviet Union: a clash between empires, thirty years after having won the one with Moscow.
The fact then - as Angelo Panebianco suggests4 - that "The hierarchical order is, for the Chinese, the natural condition of relations between states", leads us to think that the next battle, we do not yet know which weapons played, will be devastating.
And we will have to choose in time which side to be on.
3 The "Thucydides trap" is an image used to describe the tendency of a dominant power to use force to contain an emerging power. The trap, therefore, consists in yielding to the fear of losing the lead and considering the confrontation inevitable. The term was coined in 2017 by Harvard political scientist Graham Tillett Allison Jr. in his book Destined for war. - Wikipedia.
Photo: Ministry of National Defense of the People's Republic of China / US Signal Corps - Library of Congress