Etisalat C-Suite Conference

Speaker: China and its technological transformation, plus Q&A.

April 22 2019

Atlantis Hotel, Dubai

Talk on China to CGTN Staff.

March 8 2019: 9:30AM-11:30AM

Chiswick, London

Private event.

“Is This China’s Century? conference on China: Camden Conference 2019

Keynote Speaker: “What China Will Be Like As A Great Power”

February 22 2019: 7:30PM

Camden Opera House: Camden, Maine

This review of Martin Jacques’ book ‘When China Rules the World’ was written by Iftikhar Ahmed and published in the Daily Times on 31 March 2019.

In his researched and far-reaching book when China rules the world published in the United States of America in 2009, Martin Jacques argues that we have only barely begun to understand what life will be like when China rules the world. Being modern is not necessarily being Western. Based on his extensive research work focused on Chinese history and comparative studies in Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and some Asian study centres and his experience of writing columns for The Guardian and The Times of London, etc, Martin Jacques developed an insight into a frame of reference and a vision of the end of the western world and the birth of a new Global Order. He has been visiting senior fellow at the London School of Economics (LSE ideas) a centre for the study of international affairs, diplomacy and grand strategy. Martin Jacques has been a visiting professor at the Renmim University, Beijing, the International Centre for Chinese studies, Aichi university and Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, and the senior visiting research fellow at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. “When China rules the world” is the first book to explain how China’s meteoric rise will extend far beyond the economic realm, unseating the west and creating an entirely new global order. The role of economic and cultural relevance will, in our lifetimes, begin to pass from New York and London to cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. The West is deeply mistaken in believing that China is becoming more like the west. And increasingly powerful China will seek to shape the world in its own image, believes the author of this book. In a way Martin Jacques book is a groundbreaking investigation of how China’s rise as an economic superpower will alter the cultural, political and ethnic balance of global power in the 21st-century.

“When China rules the world”, an important book, full of historical understanding and realism, is about more than China. As suggested by the author, the ideas and assumption will be different, unlike that of the north Atlantic power. And that difference will define the influence of the expected new world order. The book is a look beyond China: full of bold but credible predictions. Only time will tell how prophecies pan out. Food for thought is plenty and hence the credit goes to the author for the foresight and insight. There is, however, need to follow the lines and accept the challenge to go in for serious research-based studies to formulate propositions and hypotheses that follow objectivity, data and assumptions that could be scientifically tested for unbiased and realistic workable conclusions. If assumptions are wrong, we can not arrive at objective, workable and realistic conclusions. The taste of pudding is in the eating. The end of the western world and the birth of the new global order depends on the quality of the world leadership and their concern for the people and the need for security, peace and justice, over and above basic human needs.

It is important to seriously attend to the content of the book to get a real feel of what the writer intends to communicate to the reader. One must get knowledge of major periods in Imperial China. One must understand the meaning of China’s Ignominy. One must grasp the concept of “contested modernity”. That mostly covers what the author has to communicate on the changing of the guard. Theme then takes the reader to the age of China :i.e, China as an economic superpower; the civilization-state; the middle kingdom mentality; China’s own backyard; and China as a rising global power. Systematically proceeding the next theme is the main idea- when China moves the world. Questions like “how sustainable is China’s economic growth?” and “what is the environmental dilemma?” have been discussed in the book.

The reason for China’s transformation has been the way it has succeeded in combining what it has learnt from the West, and also it’s Asian neighbours, with its own history and culture, thereby tapping and releasing its native sources of dynamism

There are many differences that define China. Economic change, fundamental as it may be, can only be part of the picture. This view, blind as it is, to the importance of politics and culture, rests on an underlying assumption the China, by virtue of its economic transformation will, in effect, become Western. Consciously or unconsciously, it sounds like Fukuyama’s ‘end of history’ view: that since 1989 the world has been converging on western liberal democracy. The other response, in contrast, is persistently sceptical about the rise of China, always half expecting it to end in failure. In the light of Maoism, the collapse of the Soviet union and the suppression of the students in the Tiananmen square, the argument runs, it is impossible for China to sustain its transformation without fundamental political change: unless it adopts the western model, it will fail. This book is predicated on a very different approach. It does not accept that the “western way” is the only viable model. It should be borne in mind that the West has seen off every major challenge it has faced, culminating in the defeat after 1989 of it’s greatest adversary, Soviet communism. It has formidable track record of growth and innovation, which is why it has proved such a dynamic force over such a long period of time.

The reason for China’s transformation has been the way it has succeeded in combining what it has learnt from the West, and also it’s Asian neighbours, with its own history and culture, thereby tapping and releasing its native sources of dynamism. We have moved from the era of either/or to one characterized by hybridity. Central to the book is the contention that far from there being a single modernity, they will in fact be many. Over the last half century we have witnessed emergence of quite new modernities, drawing on those of the West but ultimately dependent for their success on their ability to mobilize, build upon and transform the indigenous. These new modernities are no less original for their hybridity; indeed, their originality lies partly in that phenomenon.

The problem, as Paul A Cohen has pointed out, is that the Western mentality- nurtured and shaped by its long-term ascendancy- far from being imbued with cosmopolitan outlook as one might expect, is in fact highly parochial, believing in it’s own universalism: or in other words, it’s own rectitude and eternal relevance. If we already have the answers, and these are universally applicable, then there is little or nothing to learn from anyone else. While the west remained relatively unchallenged, as it has been for the best part of two centuries, the price of such arrogance has overwhelmingly been paid by others, as they were obliged to take heed of Western demands. But when the west comes under serious challenge, as it increasingly will from China and others, then such a parochial mentality will only serve to increase its vulnerability, weakening its ability to learn from others and to change accordingly.

Most of what is China today –it’s social relations and customs, it’s ways of being, its sense of superiority, it’s belief in the state, its commitment to unity– are all products of Chinese civilization rather than its recent incarnation as a nation-state. On the surface it seems like a nation state, but it’s geological formation is that of a civilization state. As China once again becomes the centre of the world, it will luxuriate in its history and feel that justice has finally been done, that it is restoring it’s the rightful position and status in the world. China is increasingly likely to conceive of its relationship with East Asia in terms of Tributary state, rather than nation state, system. The Tributary state system had lasted for thousands of years and finally came to an end at the conclusion of the 19th century. The rise of the developing world was only made possible by the end of colonialism. For the non-industrial world the colonial era overwhelmingly served to block the possibility of their industrialization. The land of colonialism was a precondition for what we are witnessing, the growth of multiple modernities and the world in which they are likely to prove at some point decisive. Chinese modernity will be very different from western modernity, and that China will transform the world far more fundamentally than any other new global power in the last two centuries. The West End powers cannot, however, comprehend that the change is on its way. On the other hand, what looks obvious also needs to be researched and subjected to scientific investigation. Facts must be identified and verified, and sociology of science must be understood.


The writer is a former director, National Institute of Public Administration (NIPA) Government of Pakistan, a political analyst, a public policy expert and a published author. His book “Post 9/11 Pakistan” was published in the United States. His latest book “Existential Question for Pakistan” discusses a large range of important issues related to governance and policy, having importance and implications for a variety of professionals, policymakers, academics, politicians and administrators.

The writer is a Formerly Director NIPA, Govt of Pakistan

Talk to Chinese students: Chinese Young Leaders’ Programme
February 18 2019: 11AM

Chinese Embassy, London
Private event.


The following article was written by Martin Jacques for People’s Daily on the subject of the 40th Anniversary of Reform and Opening Up.

A Chinese translation of the article was published in People’s Daily on 15th January 2019. Read the Chinese version of the article here.

When Deng Xiaoping launched the special economic zones in Guangdong and Fujian provinces in 1978, encouraging farmers to sell some of their produce in the newly created markets, and then seeking foreign investment in the new zones, nobody in the world, not even Deng himself, could have imagined that China would, in a handful of decades, experience the most remarkable economictransformation in human history. It is a wonderful story; and from such humble origins. China, of course, is intimately familiar with this story, but the western world still remains largely ignorant of it.

Yet the western world was, in a sense, where, at least in part, it began. Deng, looking beyond China, could see that, while the latter had made considerable progress since the Revolution, it still had much to learn from both the West and the Asian tigers like Japan and South Korea. Deng was a communist but also a pragmatist. He could see the failings of the old centralised and autarchic system and searched for ways in which it might be made more dynamic. In so doing, Deng made two great changes to communist orthodoxy: the market was to be seen as an integral part of socialism along with the state and central planning; and the capitalist and socialist worlds, far from being estranged from each other,were to be regarded as part of the same international system, an integrated whole rather than separate and isolated from each other. And as a natural corollary of this,China should learn from, compete with, and measure itself against the capitalist world.

Deng’s reforms marked a profound intellectual revolution. One of the communist world’s greatest problems had been a tendency to stagnate, to retreat into orthodoxy, to adopt an almost biblical way of thinking, wheretablets of stone replaced creative thinking, with the latter too often dismissed as heresy. This helps us to understand why the Soviet Union failed: it ossified to the point of extinction. Deng’s ideas, in contrast, were hugely creative. They did not represent, as many in the West liked to think, the beginnings of a western-style capitalist system in China. On the contrary, they marked a step into the unknown, something entirely new. The Chinese did, indeed, borrow, most notably the idea of the market from the West, but in combining it with the state and planning, they created something new. And the desire to join the world and engage in long-term competition and cooperation with the West was a mark of confidence; expansiveness replaced a defensive, bunker mentality.

The consequence was a huge release of energy. Everything needed to be rethought – from the top down and the bottom up. China became the site of a massive experiment. The old certainties and guarantees were abandoned in favour of a restless search for new solutions, ambitions and targets.The West thought that Deng’s reforms were simply and only economic. This is nonsense. Actually, what the West meant was that they only recognised political reforms if they involved moving in a western direction. There were, indeed, major political reforms, the old-style state was not fit for purpose, a new one had to be created, and those who worked for it had to acquire a new kind of mentality and new skills.

There was no end point. Reform and opening up was the beginning of a restless, ever-changing, always dynamic, highly creative process, at all levels of Chinese society. The only constant was change. China had to be recreated. And the process was so successful that China, as it doubled in size every seven years, and even now every decade, had to be continually recreated. It involved the entire society, no part was left untouched, from the Communist Party, the system of government, and foreign policy to the nature of cities and the systems of transportation. Most important of all, though,has been the transformation of the Chinese people, who have been the makers and bearers of the change. Reform and opening up has imbued them with an extraordinary energy, a huge desire for change, growing curiosity, ambition, openness and a great appetite for learning. They are epitomised by Chinese students abroad: extremely hard-working, conscientious, open-minded, curious about the world, and hugely committed to learning.That is why, by global standards, Chinese students are such good students, often the best.

China’s transformation did not stop at its borders, on the contrary it flowed over its borders to impact seemingly every nook and cranny of the world. It has transformed China, butit is alsoin the process of transforming the world. The meaning of reform and opening up, therefore, is not confined to China; it is worldwide. We are very familiar with many aspects of this: China as a huge trading nation, its foreign investments, its tourists and, of course, Belt and Road. But there is another and rather different dimension. Reform and opening up represented a new way of thinking. It marked a break with the highly centralised and universalistic model of the state, together with the idea of socialism in one country (or bloc), as typified by the Soviet Union. But also, and far more importantly, it offeredan alternative to the Western neo-liberal model and its developmental adjunct, the Washington Consensus. The growing appeal of China’s approach is manifest in much of the developing world, as illustrated by the widespread and enthusiastic support for the Belt and Road Initiative.

After forty extraordinarily successful years, what is the future for reform and opening up? As I have emphasised, it is not a set of shibboleths, a tablet of stone of eternal verities, a rigid plan. On the contrary, it is a way of thinking, a process, a vision of transformation that combines pragmatism with a strategic perspective. Belt and Road, it should be noted, belongs to the same school of thinking: no plan, no blueprint, no timescale, experimental, constantly evolving, finding out what works, pragmatic, but based on a clear vision of the objective, the transformation of a continent. Or, to put it another way, it is very Chinese, drawing from the country’s long history and culture, the traditions of the CPC, and the needs, interests and views of the participating countries.

We have now arrived at a new juncture. Reform and opening up more or less coincided with a relatively benign and cooperative phase in US-China relations. Deng Xiaoping was always deeply aware of the importance to China of a friendly relationship with the US. That, of course, was when the relationship between the two countries was extremely unequal. Now the relationship is much more equal, though by no means equal. And the very fact of this shift in power is a fundamental reason why President Trump has adopted a much more hostile attitude towards China. There is no question that this will make things more challenging for China – and, indeed, the wider world – in a variety of ways. At root, Trump wants to make the rise of China more difficult – or, if he could, prevent or reverse it, but that is dreamland – and thereby reset the relationship between the two countries in a way that is more favourable for the United States.

China would not be inimical to some of the US proposals; for example, expanding the possibilities for foreign investment in its financial sector, which presently is very restricted, boosting imports, and strengthening intellectual property rights. These are items on China’s agenda for reform and opening up which, in part, areintended to enhance relations between China and the developed countries. But demands that China cease subsidising its new tech industries and those detailed in Made in China 2025, and that it roll back the state-owned enterprises, represent a flagrant violation of China’s rights and choices as a sovereign country. They are entirely unacceptable.

The era of reform and opening up has always been a very difficult balancing act, on the one hand that China should becomean integral part of the global economy, while, on the other hand, preserving what is different about it, based on its highly distinctive history and culture, and its own political choices. China’s path has never been either or but a combination of the two. Contrary to the West’sagenda, China is not western and never will be western, though it has learnt much from the West, just as the West will increasingly have to learn from China. And these, we should remember, are not only choices that confront China: in some degree or another, every developing country, in its own way, faces the same kind of choices, which is why China has such a growing appeal for so many of them. It does not require them to subordinate themselves to western values and norms, nor, for that matter, its own. Reform and opening up rejects the idea of a homogenous western-style world and embraces a world that respects difference and the integrity of different civilizations.

The following is an English translation of an article by Martin Jacques that appeared in the People’s Daily, 24th December 2018. Read the Chinese version published in a shortened form here.

In 2016 populism, as it became known, burst onto the Western political stage in two dramatic events: Britain’s decision in a referendum to leave the European Union, followed by the election of Trump as US president. There was much debate as to what they meant, in particular to what extent they marked a deeper and longer-term shift in Western politics. Both events took most Western commentators – and, indeed, others elsewhere including China – by surprise. Initially the predominant view was that Trump’s election would not mark such a sharp break in policy as his rhetoric suggested. For most, continuity was still the prevalent expectation. But this argument became increasingly difficult to sustain and now, as we look back on 2018, it is clear that rupture rather than continuity has been the overriding characteristic of US politics, and Western politics more generally, since 2016. We are in very new times.

The reasons are profound. The trigger for the shift was undoubtedly the Western financial crisis in 2007-8, though the political repercussions of this took the best part of a decade to become apparent. The crisis served to undermine the previously dominant ideology, neo-liberalism, and, even more pertinently, respect for and a belief in the governing elites and their institutions. This is clearly the case in the United States but is no less true of most European societies: indeed, the UK and Italy, and to a lesser extent France, are facing a huge crisis of governance. The previous overarching commitment to globalisation, which for most had become an article of faith, was undermined, most obviously in the United States, but in varying degrees in every Western country. This process has been driven by a growing realisation that a large number of people, previously ignored but now increasingly vocal, had been negatively affected by globalisation. In its place has come a resurgence of nationalism and a revival of the nation-state. During the heyday of globalisation between 1980 and 2006, there was an overwhelming view in the US that globalisation was in the country’s interests, that the process of globalisation was synonymous with westernisation: that attitude has now been reversed and globalisation has been increasingly painted as in the interests of other countries, notably China, and against that of the US.

A central feature of Trump’s presidential election in 2016 was his argument that China was responsible for many of America’s economic problems, that it had cheated its way to economic growth and prosperity at America’s expense. It was not until 2018, however, that this argument began to be implemented in practice with the introduction of 10% tariffs on a range of Chinese imports and the threat of extending this to all Chinese imports and raising the level of tariffs to 25%. This was combined with a demand that China should cease insisting that US firms engage in technology transfer and that China should stop giving state subsidies to the key growth industries of the future. As a result, relations between China and the US have seriously deteriorated and become increasingly tense. Exactly how far this will go is not clear, but the move against Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou and Vice-President Mike Pence’s no-holes barred demonization of China in his speech at the Hudson Institute in October, which would not have out of place in the worst days of the Cold War, are hardly encouraging. The direction of travel of US policy is all too clear.

The relationship between the US and China is very different to that between the US and the USSR. The latter was a completely bifurcated system, the two existing in virtual economic and political isolation from each other. In contrast, China is deeply integrated with the rest of the world, such that the growth and prosperity of many countries – and indeed many US corporations – is intimately bound up with that of China. That is one of the great achievements of Deng Xiaoping’s reform and opening up. Many parts of the world – most notably East Asia and Africa – enjoy a much closer economic relationship with China than they do with the US. It is impossible for the US to excise China from the global economic system in order to create a bifurcated system in the manner of the Cold War. We are witnessing something different: an attempt to denigrate China and thereby turn other countries against it, to create more disadvantageous circumstances for China’s development, especially in the crucial technology industries of the future, and to weaken multilateral institutions in order to strengthen the position of the US and weaken that of others, be it the European Union or, above all, that of China. This helps to explain the present American attempt to undermine the WTO and to render it increasingly impotent; likewise, its refusal to allow an increase in the IMF’s resources, which in part is driven by a concern about China’s increasing influence within it and in part because the US objects to the IMF giving financial assistance to countries like Pakistan which are heavily involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.

Whatever some in the Trump administration might like, it is impossible to unwind history and recreate a world in which the United States enjoys the kind of overwhelming power that enabled it to dominate its relations with all others in the postwar period: the growth of globalisation and interdependence, the transformation of the developing countries and the dramatic rise of China means that such a scenario is now inconceivable. But try they will – and fail they will – but it remains to be seen in the meantime how much progress the Trump administration can make in this direction. For the time being at least, ever since he took office in January 2018, Trump has succeeded in changing the prevailing mood music and contributed to a certain global momentum in this direction. The obstacles that face him, however, are formidable and will ultimately prove insurmountable; but it would be a mistake to count on any such reversal being imminent. On the contrary, we should think of this as the new long game not a relatively transient moment.

Certainly it would be a mistake to think of the shift in US strategy as a temporary phenomenon. It is a belated response to the progressive decline in relative US economic strength and influence, well-captured in the slogan ‘Make America Great Again’. It has deep roots in those sections of American society, most importantly the white male working class in the mid-West, that have suffered from globalisation. And it is also a response to the failure of the consensual belief amongst America’s governing elite that China would never pose a threat to the hegemonic position of the United States, which underpinned the relatively benign American attitude towards China from 1972 to 2016. The latter was based on two closely related assumptions: first, that China would never rival the US economically; and second that, as China modernised, it would inevitably become a western-style democracy, failing which its economic transformation would prove unsustainable. On both counts, this shibboleth of American thinking was profoundly mistaken: China’s economic transformation continued unabated to the point where its economy is now second in size only to that of the United States and closing rapidly; and its political system, far from disintegrating, is proving to be both robust and highly effective. This is the great achievement of reform and opening up in 1978, one of, if not the, most significant event of the twentieth century.

The causes of the shift in US strategy, in other words, are profound and, certainly in the case of China, essentially bipartisan. We should not expect a return to the status quo ante either in regard to the new contours of US foreign policy or concerning the US attitude towards China. We are witnessing a major historical shift. The last great shift in US international strategy was in the early 1980s when it embraced globalisation and neo-liberalism. It is now clear that the US-China relationship between 1972 and 2016 depended in very large measure on the fundamental inequity in the relationship between the two; as that gap closed, so the relationship became increasingly tense and difficult. The US could not – and cannot, at least for the foreseeable future – bring itself to countenance the idea that the rise of China might threaten its global primacy.

We have entered a new era in the China-US relationship. There will be no return to the previous era. The new one, which should be seen as more or less indefinite, certainly lasting for a minimum of a decade, probably much longer, will be characterised by conflict, tension and rivalry.  It will be a major challenge for the Chinese leadership, requiring a new mindset and strategic approach. On the one hand, China must stand firm on those things that it regards as fundamental to the Chinese interest, for example the essential principles of reform and opening-up, crucially the role of the state sector, including its support for China’s burgeoning technology sector. On the other hand, it needs to find a way of working with the US and constraining its most aggressive instincts. This will be very important for the health of the global economy and global peace. But in the new and very different global context, the United States is not the only audience or party that matters. As the United States seeks to decouple from China, or at least to reduce its dependence on China, it is also trying to persuade others to do likewise. China must resist this. This will demand that China finds new ways of collaborating with other countries, seeks new areas of common ground, most importantly, in this context, with the European Union and Japan. The danger is that, under intensified US pressure, they will move away from China and play in some degree the American game. The recent improvement in Sino-Japanese relations is a step in the right direction.

It is already clear that the US is seeking to weaken China’s influence in the developing world. Where previously the former largely ignored the Belt and Road Initiative, during 2018 the US has become increasingly vocal in its opposition to it. Likewise the US is now seeking to make up for lost ground in Africa. It is highly unlikely that the US will make much progress in these areas given how little it has to offer in comparison with China: nonetheless, we should expect the developing world to become an area of growing competition between the two countries.

The importance of how China handles its relations with other countries has been magnified by its growing strength. When it was weak, China was largely ignored, invisible to most. But now China is in the process of becoming a great power, and in some respects has already achieved that status, it is far more visible and is seen as far more accountable for its actions than was previously the case. What China does, its views and its achievements, are now the subject of global debate. There is a negative aspect to this. China’s sheer demographic size, huge compared with every other country in the world apart from India, is a cause of anxiety and sometimes fear. China cannot do anything about its size, it is a fact of its existence, but by the same token the nervousness that it kindles will also not go away. And as China grows ever stronger, this anxiety is likely to grow. The era of being good at maintaining a low profile and never claiming leadership may be over but it remains a valuable lodestar even when China is strong, in some ways even more so. As China becomes ever more powerful, it should not lose the caution and humility that has accompanied its rise. In the increasingly conflictual world that is unfolding, hubris would be China’s worst enemy. It must redouble its efforts, as it is seeking to do, to build friendly relationships with as many countries in the world as possible.

This talk was delivered by Martin Jacques at the Third Symposium on International Ccpology at Fudan University on November 24 2018.

There is a profound ignorance in the West about Chinese governance. The dominant attitude is still essentially dismissive. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that Chinese governance is based on entirely different values and principles to those that inform Western governance. The idea of Western democracy has been the main calling card of the West since 1945 and, for countries like the US and the UK, much longer. In Western eyes, the legitimacy of any political system is measured by the extent to which it approximates to universal suffrage, a multi-party system, the separation of powers and the rule of law. Such is the commitment to these notions that it is not an exaggeration to suggest that Western democracy is viewed in terms that are akin to the ‘end of history’. They are regarded as indispensable for good governance and cannot be improved upon in their essentials. The second reason is the legacy of the cold war, which continues to exercise a profound influence on Western thinking – and elsewhere too, though usually to a rather lesser extent. Communism and Communist Parties are still deeply associated in the western mind with the history, experience and fate of the CPSU.

The rise of China has served to shift Western views about China in some degree, most obviously a respect for the country’s economic progress and the huge reduction in poverty; in terms of attitudes towards Chinese governance, though, there has been little or no change. This is evident in a numbers of ways: the priority given in the West to the Chinese record on human rights, the speed with which China is condemned and demonised for its present policy in Xinjiang, and the gathering hostility towards China in the United States, with its political system occupying a crucial place in the increasing antagonism. The conclusion I would draw from this is that any fundamental shift in Western attitudes towards Chinese governance in a more sympathetic or benign direction is very unlikely over the next decade and probably much longer.

And yet there are much deeper forces at work that will require – and will eventually serve to compel – precisely such a shift in Western attitudes. These can be summarised as follow.

First, the extraordinary economic rise of China cannot be separated from China’s governance. On the contrary, China’s governance has been absolutely fundamental to this achievement. It could not have been attained without it. This irresistible fact will continue to gnaw away at perceptions of China: in the long term facts speak far louder than ideological prejudices and assumptions.

Second, the West is in deep relative decline which has been greatly accelerated by the Western financial crisis from which it has barely emerged. The Chinese economic crisis that was widely forecast in the West never happened – instead it happened in the West. And, as we have seen, this then predictably led to a profound political crisis in Europe and the United States. The people have lost faith in the governing elites and their institutions, and the consequences of this still remain deeply unclear. The political systems in the West now face by far their greatest challenge since 1945.

Third, we should look at these two developments in a broader context. The rise of the West to a position of global hegemony lent Western political leaders and institutions great status and prestige amongst their peoples. The authority, power and influence they enjoyed on the global stage served to greatly enhance their position at home. The precipitous decline of the West, in contrast, is having – and will have – exactly the opposite effect, serving to undermine, weaken and diminish the status of their leaders at home. My own country, the UK, is a classic example of this phenomenon. British political leaders enjoy hugely diminished status, power and influence both internationally and nationally. This can only serve to weaken the respect, trust and faith that people have in their political systems and institutions. Exactly the opposite is the case in China. The rise of China has greatly enhanced the respect the Chinese people have for their leaders and institutions. The fact that China now has the second largest economy in the world, that it enjoys a quite new kind of global influence, that the country feels increasingly aligned with the great achievements of earlier periods of Chinese history, lends its leaders and institutions, above all the Chinese Communist Party, with a new kind of authority, charisma and respect which is only likely to strengthen further as China’s rise continues in the future.

These three factors together are bound to progressively weaken the standing of Western governance and enhance that of Chinese governance, both at home and abroad. In other words, we must see attitudes towards Western and Chinese governance in the context of a much longer timescale and in an essentially dynamic way. Western attitudes may seem to be relatively static, even frozen, but from the vantage point of, say, 2040, it will surely look very different.

Which brings me to the Chinese Communist Party. Comparisons with the Soviet Communist Party serve to obfuscate rather than enlighten. They are profoundly different just as, if you like, Russia and China are profoundly different. One of the most important differences, probably the most important, is that the CPSU never enjoyed widespread popular support – it was concentrated in the very small industrial proletariat and extremely limited amongst the peasantry who constituted the great majority. The CPC was exactly the opposite: its support was overwhelmingly amongst the peasantry and very limited in the very small proletariat. The CPC, as a result, had very broad support and very deep roots, which gave it great confidence. In contrast, the CPSU from the outset depended on coercion and authoritarian rule to get its way.

A classic illustration of the CPC’s strength was Deng’s reforms in 1978. China, at that point, was not in a good place and yet Deng felt able, willing and had the courage to introduce what represented a fundamental shift in CPC philosophy. Such profound shifts can only be undertaken by parties that are deeply rooted and enjoy great historical self-confidence. This, of course, brings us directly to what might be described as the birth of the modern era of the Chinese Communist Party.

The significance of Deng’s reforms has, in historical terms, been greatly underestimated. They involved two major changes in communist thinking. Hitherto, socialism had been seen as synonymous with the state and planning. Deng now redefined socialism to include the market. His second innovation was to abandon the idea of socialism in one country, or socialist autarchy, and embrace the concept of a single world with China seeking to integrate itself, and become interdependent with, the rest of the world. The novelty and courage enshrined in this shift was to have huge consequences, economic, political and intellectual. It required so much to be rethought, not just economically but also politically, a different kind of state had to be constructed, with a different role based on a different mindset and skills. Deng’s radical thinking unleashed a quite new intellectual energy which over time was to utterly transform the thinking and energy of the people. It was to create a new mentality, in effect a new people. It is impossible to explain China’s rise without understanding the intellectual dynamism and innovation that lay at the heart of the reforms.

One of the great problems of the communist tradition had been the tendency for it to ossify, to become backward-looking, to become akin to a tablet of stone, the belief that victory was inevitable, that success was historically guaranteed. This was the very antithesis of Deng’s thinking: nothing was guaranteed, China had to make and invent its own future. The result was not only the transformation of China but increasingly the transformation of the world as well. While the West betrays growing signs of a hardening of the arteries, a retreat into the past, a failure to embrace the future other than as a retread of the past and present, China is exactly the opposite. This is the huge achievement of the Chinese Communist Party.

It is inconceivable that Western countries could adopt a Chinese-style political system – it runs counter to their history, traditions and beliefs – just as, for the same reasons, China cannot and should not be expected to move towards a Western-style political system. Western countries can and should learn from the Chinese way of doing things, as China has over time learnt much from the West. Over the last two centuries the major direction of travel has been from the West to China. Increasingly that will be reversed, as China rises and becomes the home of modernity, and the West declines. And the Chinese political system, including the pivotal importance of the Chinese Communist Party, will be no exception to this.

What are the key attributes of the Chinese Communist Party in this respect?

First, the most challenging single aspect of Chinese governance is the demographic size and geographical spread of the country. Finding ways to bind such a huge country together and ensure inclusivity, an area where the US and the UK, far smaller though they may be, have been found deeply wanting, is one of the great strengths of Chinese governance, in which it enjoys a unique understanding. The fact that China, moreover, is, in effect, a sub-global system in its own right, accounting for one-fifth of the world’s population, means that the CCP has a special insight into the demands of governance in the era of globalisation, as the Belt and Road project illustrates.

Second, the Chinese Communist Party’s ability and capacity to transform a developing country is second to none: it is the exemplar for all others. In an era in which the imperative of transforming the developing countries, home to 85% of the world’s population, is arguably the greatest task of our era lends a unique significance and special responsibility to the role of the CPC.

Third, it is clear that the Westphalian system faces a growing and multifarious crisis. The nation-state form was a Western invention, specifically a European invention, which spread as a result of Western influence to assume an almost global universality, though in many respects it was, and has proved to be, a poor fit for many countries outside the West. The fact that China is primarily a civilization-state and only secondarily a nation-state gives it a special insight into and sensitivity about this question. As China’s global influence grows apace, these attributes will become increasingly important in seeking to find ways of resolving a myriad of problems around the world. Again, this lends the CPC a special role and capacity. 

Four, it is becoming increasingly clear that China is to the fore in the practice and the concept of modernity: its bold and ambitious attitude towards and relationship with technological innovation and the industries of the future, its recognition of the pivotal importance of climate change to the future of humanity, and its embrace of globalisation, multilateralism and the developmental challenge are three examples. This stands in stark contrast to the trend in the United States epitomised by Trump which rejects globalisation, climate change and even reason, and sees America’s future in terms of a return to some golden age in the past.

Five, the CCP has pioneered a new kind of competence in statecraft which has raised the global bar in terms of governance. All countries will need to learn from China in this respect. A combination of accountability, experience, competence, education and meritocracy have underpinned the remarkable achievements of the Chinese government with, of course, the CCP being the key to this.

Finally, a word of caution. The rapid deterioration in relations between the US and China is very unlikely to be a temporary phenomenon. We have almost certainly entered a new era characterised by growing enmity between the two countries, thereby bringing an end to the long period of relative cooperation which dates back to 1972. We can already feel the draughty winds of a new cold war-like assault on China emanating from Washington. An integral part of this will be an attempt to demonise and smear the Chinese Communist Party. So far, the rise of China has taken place in relatively benign conditions; for the foreseeable future, something more like the opposite is likely to be the case. This will present the CCP with a great challenge, one very different from both the Deng era and the more recent Xi era. China will be faced with the imperative of seeking friends and building bridges with as many countries as possible as the US seeks to isolate it. 

This is a recorded version of a live interview CGTN, to discuss China’s reform and opening-up policies, and the China-US relationship, during a special Town Hall program recorded at the George Washington University on December 11 2018.

CGTN America presented a special town hall filmed at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. on China’s dramatic transformation, and the path forward towards the 21st century.

Speakers on the panel were:

– Zhou Jingxing, minister-counselor and chief of Political Section, Chinese Embassy in U.S.

– Martin Jacques, senior fellow at the Department of Politics and International Studies at Cambridge University. He is also author of “When China Rules the World”.

– Yukon Huang, Senior Fellow with the Asia program at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He is also the author of “The China Conundrum”.

– Robert Hormats, former U.S. Under Secretary of State and Vice-Chairman at the Kissinger Associates.


Part 1:

CGTN town hall explores China’s rise to prominence


Part 2:

CGTN town hall explores China’s rise to prominence