Tian Ming — heavenly destiny — is better known as the Mandate of Heaven: a traditional Chinese idea that identifies legitimate and virtuous government. Absence of the mandate stipulates rebellion as a moral imperative.

Basically, Tian Ming is the moral order of the universe aligned with the physical order of the universe. Heaven controls the physical world in ways that are out of human control, such as natural disasters like floods, earthquakes, drought, famine, wildfires, tsunamis, tropical storms and hurricanes. (Chinese invented the seismometer in 132 CE as an early-warning device for big earthquakes, because they indicate Heaven has lifted the mandate.)

Heaven rewards the virtuous ruler by limiting disasters and allowing people to live prosperously and peaceably.

The mandate of heaven is uncertain, so it is better to remain virtuous if you want to hold onto power. Heaven will find a way to remove bad government — whether by inflicting natural disasters, or influencing people to create their own disasters.

Officials who are corrupt or insensitive to the needs of the people are removed from office after a series of catastrophes (natural and otherwise).

Internal decay precedes external disaster.

Good management retains the mandate. Government positions must be filled by people of the best capabilities, what Thomas Jefferson called a “natural aristocracy of talent and virtue.”

When government positions are filled by crooks, cronies and sycophants — some prefer the term “political appointees” — wreckage and ruin (along with regime change) are sure to follow. Order returns when the mandate is bestowed on leaders with virtue and good management who attract popular support.