Geopolitics, globalisation

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】

The following article by Martin Jacques was a contribution to the debate ‘Should the West worry about the threat to liberal values posed by China’s rise?‘, part of Economist Debates. It was originally published on the Economist website. 

For long the West has thought that history is on its side, that the global future would and should be in its own image. With the end of the cold war and the implosion of the Soviet Union, this conviction became stronger than ever. The future was Western; nothing else was imaginable. Of course, already, well before the end of the cold war, in 1978 to be exact, China had started its epic modernisation such that, in the annals of history, 1978 will surely prove to be a far more significant year than 1989. During China’s rise, hubris continued to shape the West’s perception and understanding of China. As the latter modernised it would become increasingly Western, it was supposed: Deng’s reforms marked the beginning of the privatisation and marketisation of the Chinese economy—its political system would in time become Western, otherwise China would inevitably fail.

Read the full article here.

The following article by Martin Jacques appeared in Gulf News, 27th February 2018. 

The Belt and Road Initiative marks a new stage in China’s rise. Launched in 2013, it built on China’s going out strategy which took shape around the turn of the century. If the lines of continuity are clear, the differences are even starker. The going out strategy saw China developing closer relations with Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America, to name the most prominent. In contrast, the BRI is an overarching project designed to transform the Eurasian land mass, presently home to around two-thirds of the world’s population.

We have never seen the like of it before, a project on the grandest of scales and in that sense consonant with China’s own traditions.

Although Europe is part of the Eurasian land mass, the central aim is the transformation of the developing countries that comprise most of the continent. The developmental logic runs roughly as follows. China transformed itself — the most remarkable transformation in human history, one never likely to be repeated — by massive investment, in which the state was instrumental and which was largely directed towards infrastructure.

The result was spectacular economic growth and a massive reduction in poverty. If it worked for China, then why could it not for other developing countries? China doesn’t see itself as a model, but it does believe that these lessons are of more general application.

Spectacular though Belt and Road maybe, it would be wrong to underestimate or dismiss its chances of success. After almost four decades of continuous growth, China has a formidable record of delivery. Belt and Road should not only be taken seriously, it should be assumed that it in the long run it is likely to be largely successful.

By 2050, Eurasia will surely look very different, growth will have taken root in many countries and Eurasia will have moved to the centre of the global economy and geopolitics. For the more sceptical, it should be born in mind that by 2030 the Chinese economy is projected to be twice the size of America’s.

For various reasons, most importantly the closeness of the US’s relationship with the Middle East, China has moved relatively cautiously in expanding its ties with the Middle East. But the pace has quickened since the Western financial crisis.

The most important single aspect of China’s relationship has been its dependence on the Middle East for half its oil imports. But the Chinese approach has consistently focused on the need to establish a much broader economic relationship. In this context, the Middle East countries have shown great interest in the Belt and Road Initiative.

All the Middle Eastern states, bar five, are members of the Asian Infrastructure Bank, and three of the 12 directors are from the region.

Apart from the obvious economic importance of China to the Middle East, there are two key reasons why the latter is showing such interest in Belt and Road. Firstly, these countries — and perhaps most notably the Gulf states — occupy a key strategic position with regard to both the land and maritime routes.

This lends their ports an obvious significance and enhances the potential of their accompanying economic zones. The second is that with the decline of fossil fuels now firmly on the agenda, they need to diversify their economies with some alacrity, Saudi Arabia being the most compelling example.

The UAE has been well to the fore in broadening its relationship with China. China is the UAE’s second largest trading partner while the UAE is China’s second largest partner in the Gulf region.

The Khalifa port is one of the fastest growing in the world and, with Cosco’s decision to establish its own container terminal, is set to almost double in size. The Kamsil industrial zone is expanding rapidly with major Chinese investments.

A UAE-China investment fund was established in 2015 and the UAE sees itself as becoming a major financial hub. Lying on the key trading routes to Africa, Europe and the Indian subcontinent, the UAE is well-placed to be a major beneficiary of the BRI.

A study of China’s inexorable rise as a world power asks vital questions of America’s response.

The central theme of this excellent book by Gideon Rachman, chief foreign affairs commentator for the Financial Times, is what he terms “easternisation”: the remorseless shift in the global centre of gravity from the west to the east. His theme is not new; indeed, the book is something of a latecomer in this argument. But he pursues this fundamental truth with an impressive single-mindedness and explores its ramifications from south-east Asia and Russia to Europe and the Middle East in an insightful manner, often providing little nuggets of revealing and unexpected information. Since the financial crisis, the west’s decline and China’s rise have accelerated, though many could be forgiven for thinking the opposite was the case given the constant refrains about China’s economic “difficulties”. Rachman, rightly, will have none of it. And he demonstrates how, by the year, the world is being redrawn in the most profound ways by this shift in power.

Read more >

The forthcoming G20 summit comes at an appropriate moment in the evolution of China’s own relationship with the global economy and its governance.

China’s formal entry into the global economy was marked by its admission to the WTO in 2001. For more than a decade after that, with economic growth averaging around 10%, trade expanding to the point where China became the world’s biggest trading nation, and overseas investment growing very rapidly albeit from a very low base, China chose to take a back seat while learning the ropes of its newly acquired status. During this period, China preferred to play a relatively passive role. As a result, it was frequently criticised by the United States for being a free rider: enjoying the benefits of globalisation without contributing to the global public goods that were needed.

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Following its publication in The Observer, this article has stimulated a great deal of interest and debate in the UK and the US. It received almost 500,000 unique visitor views and trended on Twitter. 

In the late 1970s Martin Jacques was one of the first to herald the emerging dominance of neoliberalism in the west. Here he argues that this doctrine is now faltering. But what happens next?


Donald Trump seeks a return to 1950s America, well before the age of neoliberalism. Photograph: H. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile/Getty Images

The western financial crisis of 2007-8 was the worst since 1931, yet its immediate repercussions were surprisingly modest. The crisis challenged the foundation stones of the long-dominant neoliberal ideology but it seemed to emerge largely unscathed. The banks were bailed out; hardly any bankers on either side of the Atlantic were prosecuted for their crimes; and the price of their behaviour was duly paid by the taxpayer. Subsequent economic policy, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world, has relied overwhelmingly on monetary policy, especially quantitative easing. It has failed. The western economy has stagnated and is now approaching its lost decade, with no end in sight.

After almost nine years, we are finally beginning to reap the political whirlwind of the financial crisis. But how did neoliberalism manage to survive virtually unscathed for so long? Although it failed the test of the real world, bequeathing the worst economic disaster for seven decades, politically and intellectually it remained the only show in town. Parties of the right, centre and left had all bought into its philosophy, New Labour a classic in point. They knew no other way of thinking or doing: it had become the common sense. It was, as Antonio Gramsci put it, hegemonic. But that hegemony cannot and will not survive the test of the real world.

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It is difficult to underestimate the significance of the recent transformation in relations between the UK and China. There are many examples in recent years of countries moving towards a closer relationship with China: the distinctiveness – and significance – of the British case lies in the fact that the UK has regarded itself – and been seen as – America’s closest ally ever since the Second World War.

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Updated and expanded new Chinese edition just released.


Turkish edition just published!

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.

New edition available now from:

Amazon UK
and all good booksellers.

US second edition is available now via: 

Amazon US