The rapidity of the Asian giant’s rise is overturning western received wisdom about politics and the shape of the global future

The past two or three years have marked a new moment in the global perception of China. There is suddenly a new awareness that encompasses both a recognition of China’s economic transformation and an understanding that, because of its huge size and cohesive character, it will have a profound impact on the rest of the world, albeit in ways still only dimly understood. Until recently, China’s economic rise always seemed to be qualified by the rider that something was likely to go amiss – a rider that is now rarely heard. China has arrived and will increasingly shape our future, not just its own.

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Japan is stuck in its past, and its refusal to come to terms with it threatens to define its future and that of the whole of east Asia

The past year might be described as the moment time of China’s rise. Of course its rise long predates these years, but this fact has suddenly been recognised worldwide, well beyond the global elite. It is now part of the popular common sense, not simply in Europe but everywhere; indeed, Europe has been relatively tardy in this process. The buzz surrounding Hu Jintao’s visit is part of this picture. The phenomenon is even evident in China itself, where the past two years have seen a much wider awareness of both the fact and implications of the country’s rise. In the face of this changed consciousness, it is inevitable that new stances will be adopted and new policy positions struck around the world. This is already happening in Japan, notwithstanding its typically understated tone. Developments there can only be described as ominous. While Europe still thinks of itself as somehow central to the future, east Asia is where the future will be played out. It is in that context that we should see the import of current trends in Japan.

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Now that Mammon has replaced Mao, corruption is fuelling the rural inequality opened up by migration to the cities

The case of Lu Banglie, who was beaten up by a mob near Taishi in southern China – as reported in yesterday’s Guardian – is not unusual. There has been a rapidly growing number of conflicts between villagers and the authorities, often over the sale of agricultural land on the edge of a town or village to a developer. These conflicts are a graphic illustration of the tensions involved in China’s transformation. The essence of industrialisation is the shift from the countryside to the towns involving, in China’s case in particular, a huge migration to the urban centres. The cities and towns are growing apace and gobbling up the adjoining land in a ceaseless process of expansion.

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The defeat of colonial rule will come to be seen as the defining event of the 20th century

What was the most important event of the 20th century? The answer might once have been 1917. More recently, the favourite has been its historical nemesis, 1989. The different vantage points offered by history provide different perspectives and, as a consequence, different judgments. What might seem incontrovertible to one generation appears less obvious to the next, and perhaps not at all obvious, even perverse, to the one that follows.

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US v China will soon be the dominant fault line of global politics

Ever since 9/11, the US and China have been rubbing along nicely. The US needed China’s support in the war against terror and China is anxious to create the best conditions for its economic growth. But how long will this latest honeymoon last? A string of recent announcements coming out of Washington suggest that the Bush administration may be adopting a rather more abrasive position.

First, China was attacked for the huge wave of textile imports that followed the lifting of the global quota agreement at the beginning of the year, a decision the US had 10 years to prepare for. The US has now imposed quotas on Chinese textiles, as has the EU. Meanwhile the US treasury has demanded that China revalue the yuan within the next six months, describing its currency policies as “highly distortionary”. In fact, even if China does revalue the yuan, it will make precious little difference to America’s huge current account deficit; moreover China’s own current account is broadly in balance, suggesting that the case for revaluation is hardly overwhelming.

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As Japan has shown, and China will too, the west’s values are not necessarily universal

Not so long ago, Japan was the height of fashion. Then came the post-bubble recession and it rapidly faded into the background, condemned as yesterday’s story. The same happened to the Asian tigers: until 1997 they were the flavour of the month, but with the Asian financial crisis they sank into relative obscurity. No doubt the same fate will befall China in due course, though perhaps a little less dramatically because of its sheer size and import.

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At last China’s culture of racism is being contested by Chinese

Condoleezza Rice’s recent visit to east Asia concluded in Beijing, where she made clear her opposition to the new anti-secession law and her view that Japan should be a permanent member of the UN security council. With Sino-Japanese relations deteriorating and unification of Taiwan with China regarded as non-negotiable by the Chinese, it is hardly surprising that these remarks did not go down well. But what has not been reported in the western media is the reception Rice was given.

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American dominance is bound to wither as Asia’s confidence grows

In President Bush’s inauguration speech, he pledged to support “the expansion of freedom in all the world”, deploying the words free or freedom no less than 25 times in 20 short minutes. The neoconservative strategy is quite explicit: to bend the world to America’s will; to reshape it according to the interests of a born-again superpower. There is something more than a little chilling about this. Even though the Iraqi occupation has gone seriously awry, the United States still does not recognise the constraints on its own power and ambition.

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Five years ago Martin Jacques and his family moved to Hong Kong to start a new life which all too soon ended in tragedy. Finally, an anti-racist law that might have saved his wife’s life is to be introduced

Hong Kong has been shaken over the past few months by a series of crises: the Sars epidemic, continuing economic difficulties and huge opposition to new security legislation. No doubt Tony Blair, during his brief visit last week, will have discussed each of these, together with another, less-publicised affair: the long-running debate about the need for anti-racist legislation.

When my wife Hari and I arrived in Hong Kong on November 2, 1998, accompanied by our little boy Ravi, just nine weeks old, we were borne on a wave of optimism and expectation. We planned to spend three years in Hong Kong: Hari working for her international law firm, me to write a book and make a television series. It was familiar territory to us: our relationship had started there during a whirlwind week back in 1993.

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Once people risked all to get in – now they are queueing up to escape. Hard times in Hong Kong have made China the new Mecca

For days and days it had rained, but nothing could dampen the spirits of the millions of Hong Kongers, and hundreds of thousands of tourists, who came to witness the handover of Hong Kong to China. It was June 30, 1997, and the British laid on a firework display to remember as Chris Patten, the last governor, boarded the royal yacht Britannia and made his exit. The next night the Chinese staged an even more stunning display across the water that divides Hong Kong island from the Kowloon side. Hong Kong was engulfed in optimism – on June 30 about the past, and on July 1 about its future. The only doubt that lingered, along with the whiff of gunpowder, was what the Chinese might do with their new possession.
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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