The reforms that count tend to conform to the western model, writes Martin Jacques
In the west there is an underlying assumption that the Achilles heel of China is its political system. Since the country lacks western-style democracy, its system of governance is unsustainable. Ultimately, China will be obliged to adopt our kind of political system.
Yet China’s governance system has been remarkably successful for more than three decades. It has presided over the greatest economic transformation in modern history.
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Hong Kong’s chief executive says he is willing to hold talks with the demonstrators who have camped out for days now in the city’s financial center. This came as a response to a request from the protesters.
Students are demanding more freedom on choosing the candidates for Hong Kong’s next leadership election in 2017. They also want the Chief Executive, CY Leung, to resign. Leung has said he will not resign. Beijing has called the protests illegal and has supported the Hong Kong leadership. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the protest was illegitimate when he met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Yi also urged protesters to withdraw.
Martin Jacques, a senior fellow at Cambridge University and author of “When China Rules the World: the End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order”, joins CCTV America to discuss the latest developments in the demonstrations.
“For 155 years, the British ruled Hong Kong but they never gave universal suffrage. So, Hong Kong under the British was never a democracy. It became an issue only during the handover of Hong Kong from the British to China. For the British it was not important to give universal suffrage when they ruled it,” Jacques said.
Gaiko is the leading publication in Japan on foreign policy issues
In April this year the World Bank’s International Comparison Program projected that during the course of 2014 China’s GDP (measured by ppp) would exceed that of the United States. Although widely anticipated to happen in the next several years, hardly anyone expected it to be this year. But, it should be noted, the West has consistently underestimated the speed of China’s rise. As a result, it has been, and remains, consistently behind the curve of China’s rise, with the consequence that it constantly underestimates the extent to which the world has changed because of China’s transformation.
Of course, economic power does not translate immediately and directly into political power. On the contrary, if we look at the rise of previous hegemons, notably the UK in the nineteenth century and the US in the twentieth century, there has always been a significant time lag between their emergence as great economic powers and their subsequent arrival as major hegemonic powers enjoying broader political, cultural and military as well as economic influence. That said, however, economic power was the fundamental pre-condition for, and prelude to, their emergence as global hegemons. The same will be true of China.
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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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