Mandate of Heaven (天命 Pīnyīn: Tiānmìng) was a traditional Chinese sovereignty concept of legitimacy used to support the rule of the kings of the Zhou Dynasty and later the Emperors of China. Heaven would bless the authority of a just ruler, but Heaven would be displeased with an unwise ruler and give the Mandate to someone else. "Mandate of Heaven" was also the very first era name of the Qin Dynasty.
The Mandate has no time limitations, but instead required just performance from the ruler. The Duke of Zhou explained to the people of Shang, that if their king had not misused his power, his Mandate would not have been taken away. This means that a legitimate emperor need not be of noble birth, and in fact, dynasties as powerful as the Han dynasty and Ming dynasty were founded by people of modest birth.
The concept was first found in written records from the words of the Duke of Zhou, younger brother of King Wu of Zhou and regent for King Wu's infant son King Cheng of Zhou. He is usually considered to be the first supporter of the idea. The notion of the Mandate of Heaven was also invoked by Mencius, a very influential Chinese scholarly Sage, considered as the second greatest Sage next to Confucius.
Eventually, as Chinese political ideas developed further, the Mandate was linked to the notion of the dynastic cycle. Severe floods or famines were considered evidence of a divine repeal of the Mandate.With the Olympics coming up China is facing a series of signs that massive very traditional thinking Chinese can not escape but see as signs off the end of the legitimacy of the Communist Regime. These include:
1. Tibet protests against the flame causing a close of face (face is very important to the Chinese)
2. Burma, a client state of China, facing a massive disaster both natural and political
3. Run away inflation in China especially food prices
4. Now the Earthquake.
I thus predict political unrest in China in 2008-2009. By 2010 a critical decision will be made for the system. 2009 is the 10 year anniversary of the Tienamen Square Massacres and a hearing by certain groups wanting to change power could raise public anger about the cover up. I don't see a fall of Communist State but a change of the groups in power in China with Jibao and the current leaders being forced out over the next few years for younger potential reformers. Or as Jibao said on the way to the earthquake strong leadership may be impossed.