Geopolitics, globalisation

Alas, we remain far too ignorant about the country, too often resorting to cliché

The visit of the Chinese prime minister, Li Keqiang, to London last week is the latest illustration of a huge shift that is taking place in Sino-British relations. On taking office, the Coalition government talked about the importance of emerging markets such as China but did little. Then David Cameron met the Dalai Lama in 2012 and the Chinese put us in the deep freeze for 18 months. But, to its great credit, once normal relations were resumed, the Government lost no time in seeking to place the relationship on a different footing. In Beijing last December, Cameron spoke of Britain and China becoming “great partners”.

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中国是很多发展中国家最大的贸易伙伴,也是发展中国家的转型推动器。很多发展中国家都将中国视为学习的榜样和未来的目标

中国梦概念面世时,中国的发展正处于一个新的历史时刻。这是两个时期的分水岭,从这一刻开始,中国的经历将与过去大不相同。

改革开放的发展战略,使中国以新的姿态站在国际舞台上。中国贫困人口大幅减少,人民生活水平不断提高,经济总量占美国经济总量的比例大幅跃升至50%以上。此时的中国相对于许多发达国家来说仍然不够富裕,但是绝对不能用“弱小”来形容了。中国现在有能力憧憬并实现新的梦想,国际社会也对中国抱有同样的期待。

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Stuart Hall

Stuart Hall was an utterly unique figure. Although he arrived at the age of 19 from Jamaica and spent the rest of his life here, he never felt at home in Britain. This juxtaposition was a crucial source of his strength and originality. Because of his colour and origin, he saw the country differently, not as a native but as an outsider. He observed this island through a different viewfinder and it enabled him to see things that those shaped and formatted by the culture could not. It took an outsider, a black person from a former colony, to understand what was happening to a post-imperial country seemingly locked in endless decline.

His impact was to be felt across many different fields. Perhaps best known is his pioneering work in cultural studies, but his influence was to be felt in many diverse fields. By the end of the 1970s, it was the connections that he started to make between culture and politics that was to redefine how we thought about politics.

This was how my own relationship with Stuart began in 1978. Soon after I became editor of Marxism Today, I commissioned an article from him on Thatcher. The result was one of the most important pieces of political writing of the past 40 years. Stuart, drawing on his cultural insights and the work of Antonio Gramsci, proceeded to rewrite the way in which we make sense of politics; and in the process, incidentally, he invented the term Thatcherism. For the next decade, it felt as if we lived in each other’s pockets. The way in which Stuart wrote was fascinating. Some, like Eric Hobsbawm, the other Marxism Today great, produced a perfect text first time out. Stuart’s first draft, in contrast, would arrive in an extremely incoherent and rambling form, as if trying to clear his throat. Over the next 10 days, one draft would follow another, in quick succession, like a game of ping-pong. His was a restless, inventive intellect, always pushing the envelope, at his best when working in some form of collaboration with others. His end result was always worth savouring, his articles hugely influential.

Tragically, Stuart’s ill health slowly but remorselessly curtailed and undermined his ferocious energy. But his mind remained as alert and involved as ever. The response to his death has served to demonstrate how much his work has influenced so many people in so many different ways: cultural studies, race and ethnicity, politics, the arts, the media, academe. Little has been left untouched by his intellectual power and insight.

Stuart’s extraordinary impact was not because he happened to be black and from Jamaica. It was because he was black and from Jamaica. It took an outsider, a black Jamaican, to help us understand and make sense of Britain’s continuing decline. He was in so many ways well ahead of his time. It is difficult to think of anyone else that has offered such a powerful insight into what has been happening to us over the past 70 years.

There is understandable concern that the recent food contamination scandals in China, starting with the Fonterra melamine dairy product crisis in 2008 and book-ended by the fresh concerns over botulism this August, could have a corrosive effect on the trading relationship between China and New Zealand.

The relationship matters a great deal to New Zealand. China is now by some margin the country’s second largest trading partner, having rapidly overtaken the United States and long outdistanced Europe. And we are only at the beginning of what will in time become New Zealand’s most important economic relationship.

New Zealand is right to be concerned. China has for long taken a tough line with countries deemed to have offended it.

A classic example is Norway. Norway and China were on the verge of signing a bilateral trade agreement in 2010 when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the imprisoned dissident writer Liu Xiabo. In response, China broke off trade negotiations and they have been in cold storage ever since, with signs of a thaw becoming evident only this year.

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Some Western observers have speculated that with the economic rise of China, the rest of the world might consider Chinese governance as an alternative system to Western democracy. But, says author Martin Jacques, you won’t hear China offering itself as a model anytime soon. It’s a policy choice not to be seen as one.

In the West, the Chinese model of governance is not seen as an alternative to the Western liberal political order.

But as China overtakes the United States to become the largest economy and pulls well ahead over the next two decades, some forecasts predict that it will be twice the size of the U.S. economy by 2030.

Then growing attention will be paid to the Chinese system of governance.

The strengths of Chinese governance are threefold — its ability to think strategically, its infrastructural prowess and the impressive competence of its government.

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In his first meeting with the new president, Xi Jinping, it is vital that the two powers rebuild their relationship

On Friday the new Chinese president, Xi Jinping, and the United States president, Barack Obama, will meet for two days of talks at Sunnylands, a private estate near Los Angeles. It will be their first meeting since Xi assumed the presidency. The future fortunes of the world are bound up with the two countries finding a new kind of modus vivendi. It will not be easy.

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The following essay appeared in an edited, cut-down form on the China Daily website.

The challenges that China faces over the next decade are a product of changes in the country’s external environment together with the consequences of China’s home-grown transformation.

The external context has shifted in two profound respects. A decade ago, the Western economies still seemed in relatively robust health and were growing at a reasonable rate. Since 2008, that picture has changed dramatically. The Western economies are mired in a deep structural crisis which shows no sign of being resolved. This is the worst crisis of Western capitalism since the 1930s and it seems likely that the crisis has not yet even reached its halfway point. In other words, the Great Recession will last at least until the 19th Communist Party Congress, and perhaps even, in the case of Europe in particular, the 20th Congress in 2022.

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19/10/12 - BBC News Magazine and Radio 4

This is the script of the Point of View talk first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on October 26th, 2012, also available on the BBC News MagazineMissed the programme? Download it as a podcast or listen again on BBC iPlayer.

China and the United States are about to choose new leaders via very different methods. But is a candidate voted for by millions a more legitimate choice than one annointed by a select few, asks Martin Jacques.

This week will witness an extraordinary juxtaposition of events. On Tuesday the next American president will be elected. Two days later, the 18th congress of the Chinese Communist Party will select the new Chinese president and prime minister.

The contrast could hardly be greater.

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26/10/12 - BBC News Magazine and Radio 4

This is the script of the Point of View talk first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on October 26th, 2012, also available on the BBC News MagazineMissed the programme? Download it as a podcast or listen again on BBC iPlayer.

I was on a taxi journey in Shanghai with a very intelligent young Chinese student, who was helping me with interviews and interpreting. She was shortly to study for her doctorate at a top American university. She casually mentioned that some Chinese students who went to the US ended up marrying Americans.

I told her that I had recently seen such a mixed couple in Hong Kong, a Chinese woman with a black American. This was clearly not what she had in mind. Her reaction was a look of revulsion. I was shocked. Why did she react that way to someone black, but not someone white? This was over a decade ago, but I doubt much has changed. What does her response tell us – if anything – about Chinese attitudes towards ethnicity?

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The historic enmity between the two countries – now resurfacing in a dispute over sovereignty – threatens stability in East Asia

The large-scale demonstrations that erupted across China on Sunday, in response to activists from Japan landing on disputed islands in the East China Sea, were a fierce reminder that it takes little for the deeply rooted animosity between the two countries to rise to the surface. The islands lie near to Taiwan and not far from the Chinese coastline; they are a long way from the main Japanese islands, but not so far from Okinawa, one of Japan’s southernmost islands. How can such small, uninhabited islands – known by the Japanese as the Senkaku and by the Chinese as the Diaoyu – arouse such anger and passion?

The reason lies deep in history. The islands were for a long time regarded as Chinese, but they were taken by the Japanese – along with Taiwan and much else – following China’s humiliating defeat in the Sino-Japanese war of 1894-5. It marked the beginning of Japanese expansionism in East Asia, with the subsequent colonisation of Korea as well as Taiwan. This reached its zenith after 1931 with the Japanese occupation of north-east China, and from 1937 with the Japanese conquest of further swathes of the country. This expansion was carried out with particular brutality – the Japanese looked down upon other East Asians as their inferior – the most famous example being the barbarity that was displayed in the taking of Nanking. There the Chinese claim more than 300,000 were killed.

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