People's Daily

23 March 2020

During January the onslaught in the Western media, notably the US and the UK, against the Chinese government’s handling of the Covid-19 epidemic, was merciless. The Chinese government stood accused of an inhumane attitude towards its people, secrecy, a cover-up, and an overwhelming concern for its own survival above all other considerations. The actual evidence was thin bordering at times on the threadbare but this made little difference to the venom and bile of the assault.

Certainly, it seems clear, there was a deliberate attempt to forestall and hinder the necessary timely action in Wuhan, and more widely in Hubei, but with the benefit of hindsight the time lost as a result proved relatively marginal compared with that lost in the West in their belief that it could not possibly happen to them, that China was to blame, and in their failure to learn from China’s experience.

To have used the tragedy of the coronavirus epidemic, with all the deaths, illness and suffering that ensued, as a stick with which to beat the Chinese government – and the Chinese people – was nothing short of a disgrace. When the Chinese needed compassion, support and solidarity, they received ridicule, calumny and barely-concealed racism.  One might ask why this was. Western prejudice against China is historically deeply-rooted and continues to influence contemporary Western attitudes. Over the last few years, however, especially since around 2016, the incidence of China-bashing has become much more common. There has been a growing sense of resentment towards China’s rise, especially and predictably in the US, but elsewhere too, combined with a desire to reassert and restore the old global pecking order and the established economic, political and ethnic hierarchies.

The main subject of China-bashing has been its governing system. The coronavirus epidemic offered, on the surface at least, ideal ground on which to attack China’s governance: it was covering up, it didn’t care, its own survival came first. How wrong and misconceived these West prejudices proved to be. After initial dithering, hesitation, and wrong-turns, once China grasped the nature and profound dangers that the virus posed for the Chinese people, its approach was nothing short of brilliant, an example and inspiration for all. For China, we must never forget that it was an entirely new and mysterious challenge. All subsequent countries could learn from China’s experience. China did not even know what the virus was. It had to establish that it was entirely new and work out its genome and its characteristics, which it immediately shared with the world. And it grasped with remarkable alacrity that the epidemic required the most dramatic measures, including the lockdown not just of Wuhan but all major cities and most of the country, and quarantining the population. The government understood that life came before the economy. Its extraordinary and decisive leadership met with an equally extraordinary and proactive response from the people: it was a classic case of the government and the people as one.    

The results are there for all to see. New cases have been reduced to a trickle. Slowly, step by step, the economy is being rekindled. Bit by bit China is returning to normal. For those wanting to avoid coronavirus, China is fast becoming the safest place on earth. Indeed, China’s problem is fast becoming visiting foreign tourists suffering from the virus and reintroducing it into their country. Meanwhile Europe and North America are facing a coronavirus tsunami: Italy is the worst case but others such as Spain, France, Germany and the UK are rapidly following in its slipstream. Soon the whole of Europe will be engulfed in the epidemic. And America, far from being immune, as President Trump believed, has itself declared a state of emergency to deal with a virus which it dismissed and ignored as a ‘foreign virus’. The West – and, above all, its people – are destined to pay a huge price for its hubris, its belief that coronavirus was a Chinese problem that could never become a Western problem. Too late, alas, having wasted all the time that China gave them, all the knowledge that China had acquired on how to tackle the virus, Western governments are now faced with a fearful challenge. Back in January they accused the Chinese government of wasting a fortnight; now it is revealed to the world that Western governments wasted a minimum of two and a half months.

The tide has turned. In the greatest health crisis for one hundred years, China’s governance has risen to the challenge and delivered a mortal blow to coronavirus. In contrast, Western governance has proven to be blinded by its own hubris, unable to learn from China until far too late, ill-equipped to grasp the kind of radical action that is required of it. Trump is still largely in denial, while the UK government is acting far too late. I cannot think of any other example which so patently reveals the sheer competence and capacity of Chinese governance and the inferiority and infirmity of Western governance. In their hour of need, the latter has let their peoples down. Meanwhile the Western criticism of China has fallen almost, but not quite entirely, silent. They have no alternative, as Italy shows, but to learn from China’s draconian measures. What else can they do? China has succeeded. They have, in truth, nowhere else to turn. Learn from China they must. But for many it is a bitter pill to swallow. The wheels of history are turning, irresistibly, towards China. And China must respond in humility by offering all the assistance and experience it can offer the West.

Martin Jacques

The Chinese version of the article can be read in the document below.



由于新冠肺炎疫情在中国之外迅速蔓延,世界卫生组织11日宣布疫情在全球构成“大流行”。为应对新冠病毒这个全人类共同的敌人,越来越多的声音在呼吁抛弃偏见,团结合作。须知,在过去这段中国是“主战场”的时期,从病毒名称到抗疫举措及社会制度,中国均遭遇西方一些媒体及政客的持续攻击,甚至眼下欧美疫情急转直下,他们也要“甩锅”中国。《环球时报》记者近日专访英国剑桥大学政治学与国际关系系高级研究员 、“ 中国通 ”马丁 · 雅克,听他从一个西方人的视角解读这一现象。

























【环球时报驻英国特约记者 孙微】

Interview with Global Times

2 March 2020

Martin Jacques Photo: Sun Wei in London/GT

1. After more than a month since the outbreak of the coronavirus in China, the epidemic has been coming under control inside the country. How do you evaluate China’s efforts in the fight against the epidemic?

Judging by the situation now, China seems to have got on top of it, with the number of new cases declining. By and large, it looks as if China has managed to restrict the worst of it to Wuhan in Hubei Province. I think that the situation is looking encouraging.

2. Some people view the epidemic as an assessment of different political systems. How do you evaluate the measures taken by different countries such as China, Japan and South Korea?

Read more >

Martin Jacques assesses the role and continuing rise of China in the decade 2010 to 2019 in an article published in the Guardian on 31st December 2019.

By 2010, China was beginning to have an impact on the global consciousness in a new way. Prior to the western financial crisis, it had been seen as the new but very junior kid on the block. The financial crash changed all that. Before 2008 the conventional western wisdom had been that sooner or later China would suffer a big economic meltdown. It never did. Instead, the crisis happened in the west, with huge consequences for the latter’s stability and self-confidence.

Read the full article here.

This is the transcript of a talk Martin Jacques gave at a Forum organised by China Daily at the G20 in Osaka on 25 June 2019.

There is no point in building castles in the air. We must live in the here and now. I am sure the great majority of us wish we were not where we are. We would prefer that the era, beginning in the late 1970s, of globalisation and multilateralism, and that was characterised by relative stability and cooperation in the relationship between the US and China, was still in place. It is not. And it will not return for a very long time. The reason for the breakdown in that old order is profound, as is invariably the case with great historical shifts. We need to understand the causes.

The period between the late 1970s and 2016 was marked by three underlying features: a new phase of globalisation, the hegemony of neo-liberalism in the West, and a stable modus vivendi between China and the United States. Two things served to undermine this era, one was an event, the other a much longer-term process. The event was the Western financial crisis in 2007-8, the worst since the 1930s. It fatally wounded neo-liberalism in the West, led to many years of supine economic growth, a stagnation in living standards in most Western countries and a backlash against globalisation. The result was the undermining of the authority and credibility of Western governing elites and the governing institutions, together with the rise of anti-establishment populism. In the United States it created the conditions for the rise of Trump and a profound shift in US policy both domestically and internationally.

The longer-term process I referred to concerned the changing balance of power between China and the United States. In the late 1970s the Chinese economy was tiny compared with the US. Furthermore, the US believed that unless China became a western-style country, with a western-style political system, its modernisation would prove unsustainable. And likewise it never imagined that the Chinese economy would ever come to rival the size of the US economy. After the financial crisis the US slowly began to realise that on both counts it was profoundly mistaken: China was no longer a relatively insignificant junior partner, but now a peer competitor, and China’s political system was far more robust than it had assumed. This dawning realisation persuaded the US establishment that China’s rise had to be resisted, at a minimum slowed. While Trump was the initiator of this turn against China, it is important to recognise that it has widespread bipartisan support.

The Trump administration is seeking to reverse the norms of the previous era from the late 1970s until 2016: to weaken globalisation, undermine global trade by embracing protectionism, displace multilateralism in favour of US power, sideline the WTO, and wound China through the imposition of tariffs and the introduction of sanctions against its tech industries, most notably Huawei. It is a sobering reminder that history never travels indefinitely in one direction. In 1914 it was generally believed that the trend towards globalisation that had dominated the period after 1870 was irreversible: they were wrong. The world was soon to be ravaged by two world wars, protectionism, the division of the world into autarchic economic blocs, and the worst-ever economic crisis. The world can go backwards as well as forwards. Trump’s economic policy is a reversion to the nationalistic and isolationist thinking that informed US policy in the nineteenth century and in the twentieth century prior to the Second World War. It is now America’s response to its declining position in the world and the fear that its dominant position would be usurped by China.

How does the rest of the world respond? In the longer run the trend towards globalisation will be resumed. An increasingly globalised world means the growing interdependence of nations in a multitude of ways, from economic and cultural to environmental and the overarching challenge of climate change. These arguments and imperatives have not gone away even if they have now been displaced in some degree by the tide of nationalistic populism. At the heart of America’s shift is the question of China. How does China respond?

The shift in America’s position is not for the short-term. It is the beginning of a new era which seems likely to last for twenty years or more; bear in mind, in this context, that the previous era of globalisation lasted for rather more than three decades. China will have to learn to live in a world that is increasingly divided and in which the US seeks to isolate it. We will all be casualties of this new regime, including, of course, China and the US. In my view, though, the US will be a much bigger loser than China. The US will cut itself off from China, the world’s biggest, most dynamic and competitive market, and its competitiveness will suffer greatly as a consequence. China is the rising power, the US the declining power. The US’s retreat into autarchy and isolationalism will only serve to hasten its decline. At some point, still a long way in the future, it will come to recognise this fact, that it needs China, and a new kind of relationship with China based on equality.

China is patient. It is one of its great strengths. In contradistinction to the US, it thinks long-term. It understands now is not forever. China will be a very different and new kind of great power. Its rise has been remarkably peaceful in a way that the equivalent rise of the US, or indeed the UK, France, Germany and Japan, was not. They all fought many wars of expansion: China has not. It has a different way of thinking born of a very different history. China will find the way to resist America’s attempts to weaken and isolate it: we can be sure of that. China’s rise will continue. But at the same time it will, and should, keep its lines of communication with the US open, avoiding giving the US any reason or excuse to further poison their relationship. China’s caution is already manifest. It has responded to America’s protectionist moves against it, and its attempts to hobble Huawei, but very cautiously, seeking not to exacerbate the relationship and give the US cause to further up the ante. This is most important. Always avoid sacrificing the long-term for short-term gain. China, meanwhile, must intensify its efforts to build bridges and strengthen its relations with as many countries as possible. In this way it will seek to resist the US’s attempts to isolate it while at the same time demonstrating to the world its multilateral objectives and values.

A version of this talk also appeared in an article on the China Daily Global website.

This article was published in JPI Peace Net and presented to the Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity in May 2019, South Korea, in the opening plenary session “Destined for War?: The Future of US-China Relations and its Implications for the Korean Peninsula”. Speakers included Martin Jacques, Prof. Graham Allison and Mr. Li Zhaoxing. The panel was moderated by Prof. Chung-in Moon.

Martin Jacques with Prof. Chung-in Moon, Prof. Graham Allison and Mr. Li Zhaoxing

Forty years of relative stability in the US-China relationship are at an end. That stability had depended on two things. First, a huge inequality in the relationship, with the US by far the dominant partner. Second, the long enduring American illusion that the only future for China, if it was to be successful, was to become like America. History has undermined both propositions. Over a period of 40 years, the most remarkable in global economic history, China overtook the US economy and is now 20% larger in terms of GDP purchasing power parity. Furthermore, it is patently clear to everyone that China is never going to be like the US. The US hugely miscalculated, a victim of its own hubris. Its response is a volte face: a desperate search to find ways of reversing China’s rise or at least slowing it down. The US is right that the underlying reason for China’s rise is economic. So it is logical to start with a trade war. But it will not stop at that. It will encompass all aspects of their relationship. We are watching the birth of a new cold war. And the most likely scenario is that it will last a long time, my guess is at least twenty years.

But this will not be a rerun of the last cold war. There are only two similarities: the US is one of the adversaries; and a Communist Party is the governing party in the other. (In truth, though, the Chinese and Soviet Communist Parties have barely anything in common.) Otherwise the circumstances are now entirely different. During the cold war, the US was still a rising power. Now it is a declining power. The Soviet Union failed: China is the antithesis of failure. It has achieved the most remarkable economic rise in human history. China is in the ascendant; the US is an angry and divided country desperately trying to hold on to what it had and the world which it created.

So what is likely to happen in this new cold war? So far it is being fought overwhelmingly on economic terms. This is China’s ground. Apart from its far superior growth rate, which is still three times that of the US, its standout economic achievement over the last decade has been its sharply rising capacity for innovation. The speed with which Alibaba and Tencent have joined the Silicon Valley tech giants in the premier league of technology has been quite remarkable. Huawei is the global leader in telecommunications, most notably 5G: the US doesn’t even have a player in the field. Of course, most Chinese companies lag well behind their American equivalents in terms of productivity, but the direction – and speed – of travel is irresistible. You may remember that even five years ago, the West was still questioning whether China could ever be innovative rather than imitative. No one asks that question anymore. China is a technology superpower in the making. It is this, above all, that has stunned the US. The underlying motive for the attack on Huawei has little to do with security; above all, it is about a fear of China’s competitive challenge. The argument about security is a typical cold war-style diversion.

The US faces a great danger with the trade war. Tariffs, and a growing willingness to cut itself off from the dynamism of the Chinese economy (now the most dynamic in the world), will make the US economy increasingly less competitive: as a result, it will emerge from the trade war and protectionism, whenever that might be, seriously weakened. Both economies, of course, will suffer, but in the long term the US economy will be much the bigger loser.

One of the central characteristics of the last cold war – in which overt economic conflict was very much a secondary factor, with the two economies largely insulated from each other – was military competition between the US and the USSR. This time it will be very different. While military strength remains America’s most coveted form of power, this is not the case for China. The two most important modes of Chinese power, both historically and in the contemporary context, are economic and cultural. For the West, in contrast, they have most typically been military and political. In Chinese thinking, one recalls Sun Tzu, war is something to be avoided rather than embraced. This does not mean that China will not develop a formidable military capacity, but it will not behave in anything like the same fashion as the US (or indeed the Soviet Union). Nor does it mean there will not be war between the US and China, but it makes it rather less likely. The Chinese believe in the very long run; and in the long run they are confident that their economic and cultural power will be decisive. Such thinking engenders patience. All of this tells us that China will be a very different kind of great power to the US.

People have found it very difficult to understand China, a problem that has been compounded by the speed of its rise. We have become habituated to Western ways of thinking and behaving, the legacy of more than two centuries of Western hegemony. China is profoundly different, the product of a very different history and culture. Rather than seeking to understand the difference that is China, we see China through a western prism and expect and require the Chinese to behave accordingly. Entirely unsurprisingly, they don’t. We condemn their lack of western-style democracy. But trends and events increasingly require us to pause for thought. We might not like it, or choose it for ourselves, but Chinese governance has been extraordinarily successful over the last few decades; a global force for good, taking 800 million Chinese out of poverty and saving the world from a cataclysmic depression after the Western financial crisis.

As the world once more enters dangerous waters, in my view our concern should not so much be China but the United States. One of the remarkable things about China is how relatively peaceful it has been during its rise: contrast that with the US in its equivalent period, notably between 1860 and 1914, with the wars of westward expansion against Spain, Mexico, the annexation of Hawaii and the conquest of the Philippines. The same can be said, by the way, of the UK, France and also Japan, all of which fought many wars of expansion during their rise. In contrast, China’s rise has been characterised by an extraordinary restraint, a fact that is largely, if not overwhelmingly, ignored. What concerns me most of all is how America will respond to and deal with its decline. Trump is the first clear expression of and response to this process and it is not encouraging: the authoritarian turn, the erosion of democracy and the separation of powers, the drawing on some of the most regressive aspects of American history, the rejection of diversity at home and plurality in the world. The fact is that imperial countries find decline extremely difficult and painful; my own country, the UK, is a classic illustration. America is almost totally unprepared for its own decline. One must hope that it is not too a harrowing experience either for the US or for the rest of the world.

Which brings me finally to Korea. This has so far shown us, in chronological order, the worst of Trump (‘we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea’) and the best (‘the US must pursue a chance to avert nuclear war at all costs’). In a way, Korea is a test case: the longest lasting legacy of the cold war which has so far been impervious to all attempted solutions. After the Singapore summit, which was seemingly beyond almost everyone’s expectations, the Hanoi summit was a great disappointment. Where from now? It is difficult to see progress in the context of a rapidly deteriorating relationship between China and the United States and Trump’s turn towards a cold war. Can the Korean peninsula provide a shaft of light? It seems unlikely; but the Singapore summit, and Trump’s embrace of Kim Jong-un and warm words about North Korea’s economic future, cannot be erased. But the rational part of my brain tells me that pessimism is in order.

Edited by Intaek HAN (Research Fellow, Jeju Peace Institute)

Distributed by Hyeun Jung CHOI (Research Coordinator, Jeju Peace Institute)

Dr Yu Jie and Martin Jacques discussed the US/China Trade War with Jon Snow on Channel 4 News on 13 May 2019.

Watch the interview below:


Dr Yu Jie researches China’s economic policy at Chatham House. Martin Jacques is a senior fellow at the Department of Politics and International Studies, Cambridge University and a visiting professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing.


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 article was published in China Daily on October 10 2018.

China’s rapid growth since the reform and opening-up process began in 1978 has not only been an economic miracle for the nation, but it has also offered a new development model for other emerging economies, said Martin Jacques, author of the global bestseller When China Rules the World.

In doing so, China has proved the inaccuracy of the previous consensus that the Western model of development was the only path to success.

Effectively, Jacques said, China has inspired other emerging countries to explore development paths that are suitable for their own situations.

“The achievements of China’s reform and opening-up are very simple: one, the transformation of China; two, the transformation of the world,” said the 73-year-old from his apartment in London’s Hampstead, where piles of books and notes on China lay scattered across his desk, bookshelves and the floor.

Jacques is one of Britain’s best-known Sinologists. Born in 1945 in Coventry, he had a decadeslong distinguished career in journalism before becoming an author.

He first rose to prominence as editor of Marxism Today, a position he held for 14 years from the late 1970s. He turned the publication from an obscure left-wing political magazine to one containing views from across the political spectrum.

Jacques then went on to be deputy editor of The Independent in the mid-1990s and now combines being a high-profile columnist with lecturing around the world.

But what really made him world famous was his 2009 book When China Rules the World, which has been translated into 15 languages and has sold 350,000 copies. His 2010 TED Salon speech in London on understanding the rise of China has received more than 2.7 million views on YouTube.

His book correctly predicted China’s ascent to global leadership, at a time when the trend was not so obvious. More precisely, it predicted that by 2027, China’s economy would be bigger than that of the United States. His book also argued that China’s governance system was an effective alternative to Western liberal democracy and represented a new form of modernity.

Jacques argued against the prevailing consensus that China’s development model would become more like that of the West as it grew economically. Time has proved him right – China has cemented its economic strength internationally without becoming a mirror image of the West.

Martin Jacques stays in a hotel located in a siheyuan, or traditional Chinese courtyard residence, while visiting Beijing in the summer of 2010. [Photo provided to China Daily]


In addition, China is now using its international influence to lead on multilateral issues, such as globalization, climate change and global governance, in its own unique way. In order to share its development experiences with other emerging economies and improve global trade links, China has championed the Belt and Road Initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

“China is going to be a very different kind of great power,” he said. “The Belt and Road is a powerful example of China trying to find a new relationship (that can benefit both China and other countries). This notion is very different from Western colonial thinking.”

The AIIB, which focuses on financing infrastructure projects in Asia, represents the interests of more than 80 member countries through a pluralistic approach. The BRI, which aims to improve trade and connectivity between Asia, Africa and Europe through infrastructure investment, has also attracted keen participation from public-and private-sector players globally.

In Jacques’ view, these exciting initiatives, supported by China’s economic strength, challenge the post-Cold War mentality that divided the world into the West and the rest.

For many, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991 proved that socialist countries could not make sufficient economic progress without adopting the development model of the West.

“That was the great and final victory of the West,” Jacques said. “It’s strange now to think that. And if you look back now, it’s obvious, in my view, that 1978 was a far more important year in world history than 1989 or 1991.”

But China’s economic success proved that such progress can be made while the government maintains an important role in guiding the country’s direction.

“We must always remember that only about 15 percent of the world’s population lives in the developed world, which is essentially the West plus Japan,” he said. “Eighty-five percent of the world’s population lives in the developing world. Until quite recently, the world was still a Western world. China’s rise gave the developing world an alternative place to look, for development, for inspiration.”

Jacques and his son Ravi on the Great Wall in Beijing in 2005. [Photo provided to China Daily]


Additionally, the fact China grew from being a poor, developing country to a strong economic power means it has accumulated significant lessons and experiences that could be applicable to other developing countries today.

“China is a developing country and can understand the problems of development in a totally different way,” he said. “The United States cannot relate to (the developing world) in the way that China can.”

Although Jacques is now a firm advocate of China’s incredible potential, he admits to having been somewhat ignorant of the East until 1993, when he visited China, Singapore, and Malaysia for a holiday.

In China, he saw construction cranes working round the clock, roads streaming with trucks and carts, and women balancing goods on the ends of bamboo poles.

“It absolutely seized my mind,” he said. “Guangdong province was a sort of huge building site with land being cleared as far as you could see. So many people were in motion along the road. It was so obvious this was a huge, important historical moment I was watching.”

From there, Jacques has watched China transform on his subsequent trips.

“When you go to any city in China now, you see a modern city,” he said. “Living standards have clearly been transformed.”

While on holiday in 1993, he met his wife, Malaysian-Indian lawyer Harinder Veriah, on the island of Tioman, off the east coast of Malaysia. Veriah, who died in 2000, inspired Jacques to understand more about Asia, and made him more determined to write a book that explained his discoveries to the world.

“She taught me to see the world from a non-Western perspective,” he said. “If you are always with someone of the same culture you are an insider and never looking from the outside. She helped me see my country from an outsider’s perspective.”

In the years that followed, Jacques frequently traveled to China and other East Asian countries to research his book. When he started, the book’s working title was “The End of the Western World”. But gradually, as he worked on it, he realized that the book had to be primarily about China, which led to its new title, When China Rules the World.

Looking back, he stressed the crucial role of China’s reform and opening-up policies in shaping the country’s economic achievements and its global influence. In particular, he marvels at pioneering leader Deng Xiaoping, who is credited with turning China’s planned economy into a market-driven one and for strengthening China’s exchange efforts with the world.

He praised Deng’s courage in the way he “fired the starting gun” for China’s transformation at a moment of significant change in Chinese society.

In particular, Deng transformed the world’s understanding of a socialist country. Instead of following the inward-looking model of the Soviet Union, Deng advocated an unprecedented outward approach.

“Deng Xiaoping said, ‘We want to be a part of the world, we have to learn from the rest of the world, we must be open to the rest of the world,'” Jacques said. “That is fantastic. Now, we can see how important Deng is as a socialist thinker, who is also a global thinker, a leader for everyone.”

For Jacques, Deng’s remarks exhibit tremendous confidence, something that is impressive, considering China was then a poor country.

“The idea that you can measure against the rest of the world, and be willing to learn straight away, it’s a confident attitude,” he said.

Jacques poses with professor Yan Xuetong, dean of the Institute of International Relations, Tsinghua University, in 2011. [Photo provided to China Daily]


China’s recent history details a success story. In 1978, the size of China’s economy was just one-40th of that of the US, but during the past 40 years, China’s GDP has grown by an average of about 9.5 percent a year. By 2017, the size of China’s economy had grown to more than three-fifths that of the US, according to International Monetary Fund estimates.

During the past four decades, China has also succeeded in lifting more than 740 million people out of poverty.

Jacques said he feels confident that China will continue to develop. He said its GDP growth rate may drop to a more sustainable level over the long term, but its development will increasingly focus on innovation and quality growth.

He recalled that when he first published When China Rules the World, one question he was often asked at author talks was how China could break free from the need to imitate advanced economies’ technology, and what would happen if the country reached the point where it was inventing its own technology.

“I never hear that question anymore, because the answer is clear with the transformation of the technology companies in China,” Jacques said.

For instance, in the second quarter of this year, China’s Huawei overtook Apple to become the world’s second-largest smartphone seller.

In the pioneering sector of mobile payments, China has emerged as the biggest market, worth 40.36 trillion yuan ($5.90 trillion) in the first quarter of this year. Its two biggest payment companies, WeChat Pay and Alipay, now have 900 million and 500 million active users respectively. These numbers eclipse Apple Pay’s 127 million active users.

Accompanying these technology innovations is China’s rapidly strengthening intellectual property system and its soaring number of patent registrations. Chinese companies’ filings with the European Patent Office in 2017 were up 16.6 percent year-on-year, compared with the global average of 3.9 percent. This year, for the first time, Huawei topped the EPO’s league table by number of patents filed by a single company, ahead of Siemens and LG.

While China’s development path shows a rosy picture full of excitement, Jacques also warns that one challenge China will encounter in the future is the antagonism it will attract from Western countries fearful of being challenged.

Equally, the novelty of China-proposed initiatives such as the BRI could lead to questions and doubts. US President Donald Trump’s moves to instigate a large-scale trade confrontation with China this year is evidence of the sort of external pressure China must learn to face, he said.

The trade dispute, which started this year, has seen the US slap tariffs on billions of dollars of Chinese imports, and China doing the same in retaliation. Many companies have already been negatively impacted, including US companies that rely on the supply chain in China.

Jacques said he feels that the attitude in the US under Trump is based on a recognition that China has been successful, and that the antagonism US administration has expressed toward China has, in a sense, spoken of the success of China.

“As China has risen, its relationship with the US has become more difficult,” Jacques said. “For the US, it’s one thing to look relatively benignly on China when it’s well behind, but when China is not well behind, but is a competitor who has an alternative view of the world, then that’s a different game.”

He said that as China experiences rapid transformation and gains global influence, it must find its own new position in the world and ensure that other countries are comfortable with it.

“China has got to find a way of dealing with it,” he said. “By and large, I think it’s succeeding in doing it, but it’s not a simple matter.”

In this interview with Global Times, Martin Jacques, on the 40th anniversary of “reform and  opening up”, reviews the significance of Deng Xiaoping’s historic initiative and China’s prospects in the light of the deteriorating relationship with the US in the era of Trump.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening up. what do you think of the role the reform and opening up has played in china’s extraordinary changes?

China’s transformation started in 1949, but only in 1978 did China’s economy start to take off in an extraordinary way. It was only then that the Chinese worked out what the appropriate economy strategy was for the country. This was the stroke of genius of Deng Xiaoping.What he proposed was very radical and represented a major shift in the communist tradition. Basically he said two things: firstly, socialism is not synonymous with the state and state planning,but that socialism had to combine both the state and the market. And secondly, he argued that China needed to see itself as part of the whole world, including the capitalist world. China had to live with and compete with and learn from the capitalist world, and not just the socialist world.

This was an intellectual revolution which required a complete rethink and unleashed enormous intellectual energy. This ignited a long process of transformation in China.1978 is one of the most important dates in the 20th century, it prefigured the 21st century: the transformation of China and later the world.

China vows to continue opening up. Some people see this as an opportunity, but some say it’s a threat. How do you evaluate these contradictory views?

One of the great things since 1978 is that China is always thinking, always experimenting, always learning, always trying to work out what is the best way in the situation, in the circumstances that it faces, which are constantly shifting. There’s a general idea of where to go and how to do it. But there’s not a tablet of stone about how to do it; instead of a tablet of stone, you “cross the river by feeling for the stones.” The Chinese combine a general set of principles with a very strong dose of pragmatism.

Itis obviously a lot more complex because China’s economy is many, many  times larger now than it was, and China’s impact on the world is now also huge: there are so many more factors China has to consider both internally and globally. China is very interestingly different and distinctive from both the old Soviet mentality and also the West. It has learnt from the West, but it is also very distinctive from the West. It is very important to maintain that. I think one of the reasons for the success of China is its capacity to draw different elements together from different places, different experiences, different traditions, and then combine them in a very unique Chinese way.

Of course, some people think China should be more like America. Now? Really?America is in big trouble, it is in serious long-term decline, which is part of the reason why we got Trump. No, China has to be distinctive. It has to combine those elements which it needs to learn from the West with its socialist and Chinese traditions.

Earlier this year, you wrote an article arguing that the fortieth anniversary of the beginning of the reform period is a cause for celebration and reflection not only in China, but around the world. Can you specify what are the issues that the world, including the Western countries, should reflect on most?

1978 led to the the most extraordinary economic transformation in the modern era. This is much more remarkable than America’s transformation between the 1860s and 1914. It’s a very important event to study. But the West doesn’t think in these terms about 1978, because they don’t really understand any of this.The West is very ignorant about China.

But I would say look, reform and opening up has transformed China. Then,during the 1990s, China began to transform the world and, as a result, the world is now very different from what it was before because of China’s impact. Since 1978 China has been the most important engine of global change. So every country should study China and the Chinese experience.That doesn’t mean that China is a model, but it does mean China is an interesting and important example from which to learn. Many developing countries understand this but the West is still in partial, sometimes total, denial.

On  October 4th, the US Vice President Michael Pence made a speech at the Hudson Institute, claiming that US has rebuilt China over the last twenty five years. The US President Trump also mentioned this many times on different occasions. Are you surprised by Pence’s speech?

Not really. You have got to say that the Trump administration,including the Vice President, is many ways remarkably ignorant. Their reaction to American decline is to reassert American nationalism and to try and bully the rest of the world.It’s nonsense to say America is the major reason for China’s transformation over the last 25 years. That tells me that they know nothing about China’s transformation. What planet are they living on to make that kind of remark? It’s obviously just cheap self-serving propaganda. Has America made a contribution to Chinese rise? Yes. It has. As China itself has frequently said, China has been the beneficiary of the era of globalisation which the US played a key role in shaping.

Some American scholars believe that the US has adopted an engagement policy toward China, which has greatly benefited China. But now believe that China has “betrayed” the US and does not intend to follow the US way in terms of its political system. What do you think?

I think a very big political shift has taken place in America. It is not just the Republicans. The Democrats have also shifted to a more anti-Chinese position. Now the question is why, and this is a question that the Chinese themselves need to reflect on.

Until about 2010, America was generally relatively benign towards China.The period after 1972, following the Nixon Mao accord,was characterised by relative stability in the US-China relationship. There were two assumptions that underpinned American attitudes towards China. The first was that China’s economic rise would never challenge America’s economic hegemony. And the second assumption was that China would, in time, become like the West, because they assumed that unless China became like America it could never succeed, its transformation would fail. It would be unsustainable both economically and politically. From 1972 until the Western financial crisis, the relationship remained very unequal, though less so over time.America was the major power. China was the junior partner.

From around 2010, it became increasingly clear that these two positions were wrong. Firstly, because China’s economic transformation continued very successfully and in 2014 overtook the US economy according to GDP measured by ppp. And secondly, it became clear that China was not going to be like America. The political system was not going to become like America’s. Furthermore, China would not accept American global leadership and do whatever America wanted it to do. Two things served to dramatize the situation: one was the Western financial crisis of 2008, the worst in the West since 1931. Suddenly the West was in deep trouble. And, on the other hand, China was not in trouble and China’s rise continued.It shook the confidence of the West. Until this point,America did not believe it was in decline. It had, of course, been in decline for some time, but it was in denial about it. Trump was the product of, and gave expression to, this new uncertainty, angst, disappointment and a growing mood of anger and frustration. This historically explains the shift in the American attitude towards China.

US President Trump frequently summed up his approach to foreign policy with two words: America First. The US has withdrawn from various international mechanisms and is creating barriers for trade, technical exchange, and personal exchanges with a lot of countries. Do you think this will reverse the globalization process and maybe make the world more differentiated or more difficult to access?

I definitely think the era of neo-liberalism has come to an end.There are lots of elements and dimensions to this. Clearly, there’s a reaction to the globalization era in the West. And the ideology of that period in the West, namely neo-liberalism,is in crisis;Trump is a reaction against it. The uber or extreme globalization, which was the western ideology of this period, has hit the wall.

I also think that the whole American view of itself and its role since the end of the second world war has come to an end. I don’t see any simple reversion to the previous era of American multilateralism and leadership. I think that era is over and is unlikely to be revived in its old form. I don’t think we should be so surprised by this because if you look at American history over a much longer period, for example from the War of Independence against Britain until 1939, it was largely dominated by American nationalism and isolationism. The period after 1945 until the election of Trump in 2016, during which America saw itself in terms of multilateral institutions, broad alliances and leadership, was the exception rather than the rule.

Before the second world war, America was always for itself. It was very nationalistic, for long it existed in splendid isolation on its continent. It thought of itself in its own terms. Historically it was very aggressive.It was built on violence, built on slavery, built on wars. Wars against the Amerindians, against Britain, against Spain, against Mexico. That’s how it expanded. So this latest period of American development has been an exceptional period. And Trump lies within the old tradition. He’s reacting against the post-1945 period, he is reverting to the past, by so doing he wants to make America great again, making America as it used to be. Of course, he cannot succeed. Times have changed profoundly.

I don’t think we should expect the Trumpian era to be short lived. There will be no easy or simple return to the status quo ante before Trump.This period could last twenty years, thirty years; a reaction against western-style extreme globalisation. In the long-run, of course, globalization will continue but in the next decade, perhaps much longer, it will suffer setbacks and could even be reversed in certain respects.

Meanwhile, there’s a different globalization taking place, which is what I’ll call Chinese-style globalization with Belt and Road being its most prominent feature. We are moving into a much more complex period, with a much more divided and fragmented world. In this context I think the Pence speech was quite ominous. It was a speech that could have been given in the cold war, it was a very broad attach on China, an attempt to demonize it.It’s not going to be the same as the cold war, but there will be some similarities.

For decades, China has benefited a lot from globalization and the multilateral trading mechanism. What challenges will the current situation bring for China? And what’s your advice on China’s next step on reform and opening up?

I think that what is now deeply preoccupying the Chinese leadership is how to respond to the shift in America, how to understand it and how to deal with it. I think the fortieth anniversary is a reminder of things we should not forget. The wisdom of Deng Xiaoping: keeping your lines of communication open, keeping your curiosity about the world and making as many friends as possible. And I think that those are still good advice.

Read the full article in Chinese here.


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When China Rules the World is the first book to fully conceive of and explain the upheaval that China’s ascendance will cause and the realigned global power structure it will create.

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