The UK’s decision to become a founder member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is a major historical event. Until then no Western country, with the exception of New Zealand, had signed up to join, not least because of intense American pressure. The UK, moreover, cannot be counted as any old Western nation; on the contrary, ever since 1945, it has been the US’s closest ally. For British politicians, Conservative and Labour alike, the ‘special relationship’, as it has been known, was sacrosanct. A decade ago, the UK stood shoulder to shoulder with the US in the disastrous invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
So how do we explain Britain’s about-turn?
The UK is certainly not what it was. Along with the other major European nations, its relative strength in the world has declined precipitously, accelerated in the recent period by the western financial crisis. Today its economy is barely bigger than it was in 2007. Unsurprisingly in such circumstances, economic and commercial considerations have loomed ever larger in the public mind while foreign policy concerns have come to be seen as something of a luxury. This shift in priorities has been accentuated by the dismal failure of the military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention the more recent one in Libya.
27/10/14 — Furama RiverFront Hotel, Singapore
Business China, in conjunction with Singapore Press Holdings, organised a wonderful event on 27th November in Singapore in their Eminent Speakers Series. Over a thousand people packed into the Grand Ballroom of Singapore’s Furama RiverFront Hotel to hear Martin Jacques talk on Why China Will Be a Very Different Kind of Great Power — and now for the first time, a complete video of the event is available to view.
The talk was followed by a question and answer session during which the moderator, Professor Tan Khee Giap, asked the audience whether or not they broadly agreed with Jacques’s argument. Did they vote for or against? See the short video below.
Click here for the extensive media coverage of the event (in Chinese)
The Western portrayal of China’s future tends to “blow hot and cold”, but the heat of China’s rise is here to stay, British scholar Martin Jacques said in a recent interview with Xinhua.
Commenting on a resurfacing “Chinese Century” debate among global media, Martin said that the reason behind this hot discourse is simple: the fact that China’s development continues.
“The Western commentary about China’s rise is erratic, and tends to be a bit negative. And then from time to time, they sort of wake up and realize that the trend continues,” said the author of the international best-seller “When China Rules the World”.
In an article for the Vanity Fair magazine, U.S. economist Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate, foresaw the arrival of a “Chinese Century” in 2015 on the grounds that China has surpassed the United States to become the world’s largest economy in terms of GDP based on purchasing power parity.
This interview was widely covered in Chinese media:
Coverage is also available in English
In the latest episode of the POLIS General Election podcast, Professor David Runciman asks Martin Jacques – journalist, academic and author of the bestseller When China Rules the World – if the May 2015 British Election matters in global terms.
The rise of China continues unabated. In a Western world that is constantly seduced by bearish sentiment about China’s economic and political prospects — and ultimately by the idea that its rise is unsustainable — this deserves to be constantly repeated. Otherwise we find ourselves diverted from the most fundamental geopolitical trend of our time, that China is in the process of changing the world as we know it.
This is not to ignore, or brush away, the many problems that China faces. The most important of these during the course of the last year has been the government’s twin struggle to reform the economy while maintaining its target growth rate of 7.5 percent. It is possible that the latter will prove unachievable and that the growth rate might settle down more in the region of 5 to 6 percent, but, especially in the context of what is clearly a major structural shift in the nature of the economy — which may already be rather more advanced than previously thought — this should be regarded as perfectly acceptable. What we should not expect is a hard landing, entailing a much lower growth rate, or some kind of implosion. This remains an extremely unlikely scenario.
To all intents and purposes, Europe – including the UK – is more or less frozen. It is still living in the dark shadow cast by the financial crisis. This is the era of stagnation, and it may last for another decade or more. So we can expect that not too much will happen in 2015 – except, of course, in terms of the political fallout from such a condition. While the US is clearly more dynamic, this is overshadowed by its tumultuous decline as a global power. Which brings us to China.
The preoccupation of the western media and financial analysts with China’s reduced economic growth rate has served, once more, to divert attention from the continuing enormity of the changes taking place in China: from the anti-corruption drive and judicial reforms, to the Shanghai free-trade zone and the rise of consumption. However, as 2014 drew to a close, what began to capture global attention was China’s growing dominance in east Asia.
There is an overwhelming assumption in the West that China’s Achilles heel is the state: that it lacks legitimacy. This is the underlying reason why Westerners believe that China’s transformation is unsustainable: that the political system cannot survive. It would be wrong to suggest that attitudes have not shifted: the endurance of the reform period, now over 35 years old, and the scale of its achievement have bred a growing if still grudging respect, and a less apocalyptic view of Chinese political change. Few now regard it to be imminent and many have extended their time horizons somewhat into the future.
Nevertheless, most Westerners still regard China’s present political order as lacking legitimacy and as ultimately unsustainable. In the post 1945 period, Westerners have come to believe that Western-style democracy – essentially universal suffrage and a multi-party system – is more or less the sole source of a government’s legitimacy. This is a superficial and ahistorical position. Western-style democracy does not ensure the legitimacy of a regime in the eyes of its people: Italy is perhaps the classic example, with successive governments over a long historical period experiencing a chronic lack of legitimacy. And what of China? Although it does not have Western-style democracy, there is plenty of evidence – for example the Pew Global Attitude surveys and the work of Tony Saich at the Harvard Kennedy School – that the Chinese government enjoys high levels of support and legitimacy, much higher indeed than those of Western governments.
Speaking at a TED Salon in London, Martin Jacques asks: How do we in the West make sense of China and its phenomenal rise? This hugely successful TED talk has over 1.7 million views.
The upheaval sweeping Hong Kong is more complicated than on the surface it might appear. Protests have erupted over direct elections to be held in three years’ time; democracy activists claim that China’s plans will allow it to screen out the candidates it doesn’t want. It should be remembered, however, that for 155 years until its handover to China in 1997, Hong Kong was a British colony, forcibly taken from China at the end of the first opium war. All its 28 subsequent governors were appointed by the British government. Although Hong Kong came, over time, to enjoy the rule of law and the right to protest, under the British it never enjoyed even a semblance of democracy. It was ruled from 6,000 miles away in London. The idea of any kind of democracy was first introduced by the Chinese government. In 1990 the latter adopted the Basic Law, which included the commitment that in 2017 the territory’s chief executive would be elected by universal suffrage; it also spelt out that the nomination of candidates would be a matter for a nominating committee. Read more >
席卷香港的混乱根源比表面上看到的 更复杂。示威由三年后将举行的普选引 发,民主派激进人士宣称,中国的方案让 北京可以把它不想要的候选人排除在外。 不要忘记,香港是在第一次鸦片战争 后,被英国从中国手中强行掠夺。在回 归中国前,作为英国殖民地的155年里, 28名港督都是英国政府任命的。随后,香 港虽然享有法制和示威的权利,在英国统 治期间却连形式上的民主都没有。它被远 在6000英里外的伦敦统治。任何形式的民 主观念首先都是由中国政府引入的。1990 年,香港特别行政区基本法通过,包括承 诺2017年香港特区行政长官的选举将由普 选产生。该法也同时规定,候选人由提名 委员会提名。Read Chinese edition >
In the west there is an underlying assumption that the Achilles heel of China is its political system. Since the country lacks western-style democracy, its system of governance is unsustainable. Ultimately, China will be obliged to adopt our kind of political system. Yet China’s governance system has been remarkably successful for more than three decades. It has presided over the greatest economic transformation in modern history. The state is highly competent, able to think strategically, while at the same time pragmatic and experimental. It has presided over rapidly rising living standards and enjoys a great deal of popular support. The idea that sooner or later – the western assumption has generally been sooner – public support will evaporate is farfetched. On the contrary, with economic growth still rapid and living standards rising similarly, it seems more likely that the regime will enjoy growing rather than declining support. Read more >
16/12/14 – People’s Daily
As China rises, so its relationship with the rest of the world becomes ever-closer. At the same time, it also grows more complex. There are bound to be setbacks as well as advances. Overall, however, one must conclude that 2014 has been a very good year as far as China’s global rise is concerned. More and more countries around the world want to build a closer economic relationship with China, which increasingly they see as crucial to their own future prosperity. China is pioneering a new paradigm in international relations in which military concerns are no longer paramount – as has been the case in the post-1945 American world order – and, in their place, economic relations, based on trade, investment and loans, are assuming primacy.
中国领导人提出中国梦并 赋予其深刻世界意义,指出中国梦是和平、发 展、合作、共赢的梦。中国梦的一个最基本的 出发点就是希望表达与世界各国发展关系所 达到的高度。中国逐渐崛起,但并没有对世界 其他国家抱有敌意,也没有这个打算。中国 应该努力让这种心态持续下去。
As the chair of the Harinder Veriah Trust, Martin Jacques is proud to announce the launch of the new Harinder Veriah Trust website. Established to commemorate Martin Jacques’s wife Harinder Veriah, the Trust helps over 60 school girls each year from Assunta Primary and secondary schools in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, to realise their potential, escape from poverty, and help transform their community. To find out more, or to make a donation, visit the trust at:
On 18th September 2012, Martin Jacques gave a talk at the University of Melbourne as part of a public lecture series organised by Asialink, questioning ‘Australia’s Role in the World’. This highly popular YouTube video of his lecture has over 150,000 views.
Martin Jacques presents a highly successful series of programmes on how best to understand the unique characteristics and apparent mysteries of contemporary China, its development and its possible future. In this new series, he sets out the building blocks for making sense of China today.
Visiting Professor, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore
4.45 – 5.15pm: Panellist in Session on ‘Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the New Development Bank’
9.00am – 12.00pm: Panellist in Session on ‘The Role of Think-Tanks in Policy-Making’
11.00am – 12.30pm: CCTV Debate: ‘Connecting Asia: Dialogue with Thinkers’
Lecture at National Institute for South China Sea Studies
2.00pm: details to follow
Keynote speech to Chinese Economic Association
Tsinghua University, Beijing
Lecture at Beijing University of Technology, Beijing
Details to follow
Event organised by Business China
Details to follow
03/03/15 – People's Daily
16/12/14 – People's Daily
04/10/14 — United Morning Post (Singapore)
30/09/14 — Diplomacy Magazine (Gaiko)