Last week, Obama hosted the Dalai Llama. Once again, China huffed and puffed, saying it could harm relations between the two countries. They have more and more leverage over time, due to the fact that Obama has to periodically beg them to fund more of our debt. However, our leverage is that they cannot fully break with us without crippling their own economy.
The Dalai Llama's home region of Tibet still desires to exercise autonomy, if not break away entirely, from Chinese control. A few other areas share those goals, thus putting pressure on Beijing.
Pressure will only grow over time. China's system is nowhere near as stable as it appears. Corruption is rampant and the governemnt insists on maintaining its anachronistic dictatorship despite advances in education and individual material wealth. Almost a quarter of a century ago, we saw the yearning of their people for freedom crushed by tanks. It remains within their hearts, growing, not shrinking.
The time is ripe now for China to do as Poland did, simply hold elections and watch their Communist system fade into oblivion. Then they can truly join the free world. If they do not, then the nationalist ambitions of Tibetans and others will merge with the democratic yearnings of the middle class. They will take the freedom that the government refuses to allow.
Let us not forget that an alternative Chinese government on Taiwan exists. It is a democratic republic. The Communists have not forgotten. Its example of freedom and prosperity is yet another pressure point on that morally bankrupt regime.
China will eventually change of its own accord, or see revolution. Once violent revolution starts, it could lead towards a stable and prosperous republic, a violent fascism, or something else. In the worst case scenario, an expansionist and nationalist faction will take over and menace peaceful neighbors such as Vietnam and Japan. This would, of course, start World War III.