Geopolitics, globalisation

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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There has been virtually no discussion or coverage of China’s intellectual debates in this country. Perhaps the assumption is that there isn’t one; or if there is, then it is of little consequence. This is wrong on both counts. There is an extremely vibrant intellectual debate in China on many questions. This belies the widely-held view in the west that because China is not a western-style democracy, serious argument and debate must be largely absent. In fact, the contrary is true. The arguments among Chinese intellectuals are, I would suggest, more interesting and more novel than is the case in Britain, or even the United States.

The reason for this is twofold. First, China is changing so quickly that it constantly throws up new challenges and problems that require response and solution. In contrast, an economy growing at 2 percent – or these days, of course, barely at all – poses new kinds of problems only occasionally. Second, not only is China changing with extraordinary rapidity, but since the turn of the century it has also been transforming the world with great speed (even if this remains barely recognised in Britain’s insular and blinkered public discourse). Chinese intellectuals are no longer confronted simply with how to handle the country’s domestic development but also with what kind of global power China should become. Far from China’s foreign policy debate being of interest only or mainly to the Chinese, it has enormous import for the rest of the world. If we want to understand what the world will be like as China steadily usurps the US as the dominant global power, then the starting place must be the debate within China about the country’s future foreign policy.

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The spats between the United States and China appear to be getting more numerous and more serious.

The Chinese strongly objected to Washington’s latest arms deal with Taiwan. President Obama accused the Chinese of currency manipulation, while at Davos, Larry Summers, the director of the White House’s National Economic Council, made an oblique attack on China by referring to mercantilist policies. The disagreement between China and the United States at the Copenhagen climate summit in December has continued to reverberate.

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The world has never witnessed anything like China’s rise before. The nearest parallel was that of the United States between 1870 and 1914. But America’s growth rate during this period was much lower and its population was much smaller. With a double digit growth rate and a population of 1.3 billion, China is in a different league. From 1978 until around 2000, the impact of China’s rise was largely a domestic phenomenon, though by the 1990s it increasingly began to be felt in East Asia. With China’s economy still only one-20th the size of America’s in 1980, this is hardly surprising.

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11/05/10 - The News Tribune

Until the global financial crisis, few in the United States believed the country was in decline. A minority now recognize this might be the case. The challenge to America’s position as premier global power comes from China. The fact it is only a developing country, with an economy much smaller than America’s and far less advanced, persuades many than this is a distant prospect.

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Updated and expanded new Chinese edition just released.

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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