At 95 percent confidence, what is the worst case scenario for China in the next 10 years? (i.e., what is the worst case scenario that has at least 5 percent probability?)
To ask the question precisely I have to use English, in which case the people I'm talking to are scientists, engineers, professors, business people or students; now that I think about it, I even put the question to some government officials at the ministry of commerce over lunch. I have also asked a less precise version of the question in Mandarin to ordinary people like drivers or hotel staff.
I usually specifically prompt the person I'm asking whether social unrest or environmental catastrophe are possible, but almost no one thinks so. Some sophisticated academic types might acknowledge them as possible outcomes, but all considered them unlikely. The typical worst case scenario involves economic problems, perhaps an rmb-dollar crisis. No one mentioned the possibility of military conflict with the US, or the Taiwan problem.
My priors allowed for the "fragile China" scenario: a giant Potemkin bubble with massive mis-allocation of capital, inhuman working conditions and income inequality leading to social unrest, low-cost labor with little innovation, etc. But from what I've seen and heard that scenario is increasingly implausible.