The LA Times recently had an article about Understanding China by Martin Jacques. I don't know that much about him, but he wrote "When China Rules the World: the End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order." I'm not sure how much credibility he has.
I like this characterization of the "civilization state," though. It is an idea that is often described and touched on when Chinese nationals try to explain the nature of the Chinese state compared to the Western idea of a state. People try to say that Han is the race, but there are other races, too, since China is a state. At the same time, there is Chinese culture just as there is American culture, although it's more ethnic so there can be ethnic Chinese people that live in other countries. They are probably usually ethnic Han, but people usually say ethnic Chinese. In contrast, American is not thought of as an ethnicity, although Americans who live overseas are still considered American, but then if they are ethnic Irish or something, they would still be considered Irish. It all makes more sense if China is thought of as a civilization state because then you can see how being Chinese is more than being ethnic Han.
It also makes it easier to explain why all the territorial conflicts are so complicated. When China became a modern state, the boundaries were being drawn. However, the civilization state has a collective idea of where the boundaries should be. Since the civilization has been around longer than the current government, the idea of where the boundaries are can extend beyond the jurisdiction of the government.