One of the most important tests of the stability of the new globally connected system is going to be China. The conventional wisdom sees China as a threat due to its rapidly growing economic and military strength. The real threat, as laid out in the "The Dark Side of China's Rise" by Minxin Pei in this month's Foreign Policy magazine, is that China is an dynamically unstable system that is in deep decay. He accurately and with detail describes a China that is rapidly growing but is almost bereft of social, health, environmental, security, and trust systems that dampen the impact of critical shocks.
So, what happens when China's high performance, globally connected capitalist economy which is flying at dangerously high speeds hits the inevitable speed bump? The answer is: it will derail (hollow out and fragment). The chaos it will produce in SE Asia is the real threat we have to deal with. Predicting the black swan that kicks off the death spiral is impossible, but as we have seen in other export-oriented Asian economies the shock will likely be economic. At that point, the dream of upward ascent and rising expectations, reinforced by global media, will be seen as a lie.
In anticipation of this, the Chinese government is following the lead of many other nations by radically improving the capabilities of its paramilitary force for domestic security (to the tune of one million men). However, this many not be enough. Global guerrilla theory indicates that the endemic corruption will combine with the same forces of anti-state guerrilla action we have seen in other places in an attempt to disconnect portions of China from the central government. With nearly half of the population in urban locations, a heavy dependence on centralized infrastructure, and rampant connectivity to the global environment (despite efforts of the government to limit it), China is ripe for this. Faced with non-state foes that feed off of economic distress and can disrupt centralized mechanisms of control at will, China's government will quickly hollow out. With nearly zero trust in the government already, the burden of pushing people to their primary loyalties will be easy to meet. This is going to be interesting to watch.