In 1953 Stirling Moss befriended a little boy of 7 who idolised him. We exchanged many letters and met regularly at race meetings. He was so kind to anonymous little me. And he was also one of the greatest drivers of all time. My appreciation of the great man.

This is the transcript of a talk Martin Jacques gave at a Forum organised by China Daily at the G20 in Osaka on 25 June 2019.

There is no point in building castles in the air. We must live in the here and now. I am sure the great majority of us wish we were not where we are. We would prefer that the era, beginning in the late 1970s, of globalisation and multilateralism, and that was characterised by relative stability and cooperation in the relationship between the US and China, was still in place. It is not. And it will not return for a very long time. The reason for the breakdown in that old order is profound, as is invariably the case with great historical shifts. We need to understand the causes. Read more >

This article was published in JPI Peace Net and presented to the Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity in May 2019, South Korea, in the opening plenary session “Destined for War?: The Future of US-China Relations and its Implications for the Korean Peninsula”. Speakers included Martin Jacques, Prof. Graham Allison and Mr. Li Zhaoxing. The panel was moderated by Prof. Chung-in Moon. Read more >

This talk was delivered by Martin Jacques at the Third Symposium on International Ccpology at Fudan University on November 24 2018.

There is a profound ignorance in the West about Chinese governance. The dominant attitude is still essentially dismissive. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that Chinese governance is based on entirely different values and principles to those that inform Western governance. The idea of Western democracy has been the main calling card of the West since 1945 and, for countries like the US and the UK, much longer. In Western eyes, the legitimacy of any political system is measured by the extent to which it approximates to universal suffrage, a multi-party system, the separation of powers and the rule of law. Such is the commitment to these notions that it is not an exaggeration to suggest that Western democracy is viewed in terms that are akin to the ‘end of history’. They are regarded as indispensable for good governance and cannot be improved upon in their essentials. The second reason is the legacy of the cold war, which continues to exercise a profound influence on Western thinking – and elsewhere too, though usually to a rather lesser extent. Communism and Communist Parties are still deeply associated in the western mind with the history, experience and fate of the CPSU.

The rise of China has served to shift Western views about China in some degree, most obviously a respect for the country’s economic progress and the huge reduction in poverty; in terms of attitudes towards Chinese governance, though, there has been little or no change. This is evident in a numbers of ways: the priority given in the West to the Chinese record on human rights, the speed with which China is condemned and demonised for its present policy in Xinjiang, and the gathering hostility towards China in the United States, with its political system occupying a crucial place in the increasing antagonism. The conclusion I would draw from this is that any fundamental shift in Western attitudes towards Chinese governance in a more sympathetic or benign direction is very unlikely over the next decade and probably much longer.

And yet there are much deeper forces at work that will require – and will eventually serve to compel – precisely such a shift in Western attitudes. These can be summarised as follow.

First, the extraordinary economic rise of China cannot be separated from China’s governance. On the contrary, China’s governance has been absolutely fundamental to this achievement. It could not have been attained without it. This irresistible fact will continue to gnaw away at perceptions of China: in the long term facts speak far louder than ideological prejudices and assumptions.

Second, the West is in deep relative decline which has been greatly accelerated by the Western financial crisis from which it has barely emerged. The Chinese economic crisis that was widely forecast in the West never happened – instead it happened in the West. And, as we have seen, this then predictably led to a profound political crisis in Europe and the United States. The people have lost faith in the governing elites and their institutions, and the consequences of this still remain deeply unclear. The political systems in the West now face by far their greatest challenge since 1945.

Third, we should look at these two developments in a broader context. The rise of the West to a position of global hegemony lent Western political leaders and institutions great status and prestige amongst their peoples. The authority, power and influence they enjoyed on the global stage served to greatly enhance their position at home. The precipitous decline of the West, in contrast, is having – and will have – exactly the opposite effect, serving to undermine, weaken and diminish the status of their leaders at home. My own country, the UK, is a classic example of this phenomenon. British political leaders enjoy hugely diminished status, power and influence both internationally and nationally. This can only serve to weaken the respect, trust and faith that people have in their political systems and institutions. Exactly the opposite is the case in China. The rise of China has greatly enhanced the respect the Chinese people have for their leaders and institutions. The fact that China now has the second largest economy in the world, that it enjoys a quite new kind of global influence, that the country feels increasingly aligned with the great achievements of earlier periods of Chinese history, lends its leaders and institutions, above all the Chinese Communist Party, with a new kind of authority, charisma and respect which is only likely to strengthen further as China’s rise continues in the future.

These three factors together are bound to progressively weaken the standing of Western governance and enhance that of Chinese governance, both at home and abroad. In other words, we must see attitudes towards Western and Chinese governance in the context of a much longer timescale and in an essentially dynamic way. Western attitudes may seem to be relatively static, even frozen, but from the vantage point of, say, 2040, it will surely look very different.

Which brings me to the Chinese Communist Party. Comparisons with the Soviet Communist Party serve to obfuscate rather than enlighten. They are profoundly different just as, if you like, Russia and China are profoundly different. One of the most important differences, probably the most important, is that the CPSU never enjoyed widespread popular support – it was concentrated in the very small industrial proletariat and extremely limited amongst the peasantry who constituted the great majority. The CPC was exactly the opposite: its support was overwhelmingly amongst the peasantry and very limited in the very small proletariat. The CPC, as a result, had very broad support and very deep roots, which gave it great confidence. In contrast, the CPSU from the outset depended on coercion and authoritarian rule to get its way.

A classic illustration of the CPC’s strength was Deng’s reforms in 1978. China, at that point, was not in a good place and yet Deng felt able, willing and had the courage to introduce what represented a fundamental shift in CPC philosophy. Such profound shifts can only be undertaken by parties that are deeply rooted and enjoy great historical self-confidence. This, of course, brings us directly to what might be described as the birth of the modern era of the Chinese Communist Party.

The significance of Deng’s reforms has, in historical terms, been greatly underestimated. They involved two major changes in communist thinking. Hitherto, socialism had been seen as synonymous with the state and planning. Deng now redefined socialism to include the market. His second innovation was to abandon the idea of socialism in one country, or socialist autarchy, and embrace the concept of a single world with China seeking to integrate itself, and become interdependent with, the rest of the world. The novelty and courage enshrined in this shift was to have huge consequences, economic, political and intellectual. It required so much to be rethought, not just economically but also politically, a different kind of state had to be constructed, with a different role based on a different mindset and skills. Deng’s radical thinking unleashed a quite new intellectual energy which over time was to utterly transform the thinking and energy of the people. It was to create a new mentality, in effect a new people. It is impossible to explain China’s rise without understanding the intellectual dynamism and innovation that lay at the heart of the reforms.

One of the great problems of the communist tradition had been the tendency for it to ossify, to become backward-looking, to become akin to a tablet of stone, the belief that victory was inevitable, that success was historically guaranteed. This was the very antithesis of Deng’s thinking: nothing was guaranteed, China had to make and invent its own future. The result was not only the transformation of China but increasingly the transformation of the world as well. While the West betrays growing signs of a hardening of the arteries, a retreat into the past, a failure to embrace the future other than as a retread of the past and present, China is exactly the opposite. This is the huge achievement of the Chinese Communist Party.

It is inconceivable that Western countries could adopt a Chinese-style political system – it runs counter to their history, traditions and beliefs – just as, for the same reasons, China cannot and should not be expected to move towards a Western-style political system. Western countries can and should learn from the Chinese way of doing things, as China has over time learnt much from the West. Over the last two centuries the major direction of travel has been from the West to China. Increasingly that will be reversed, as China rises and becomes the home of modernity, and the West declines. And the Chinese political system, including the pivotal importance of the Chinese Communist Party, will be no exception to this.

What are the key attributes of the Chinese Communist Party in this respect?

First, the most challenging single aspect of Chinese governance is the demographic size and geographical spread of the country. Finding ways to bind such a huge country together and ensure inclusivity, an area where the US and the UK, far smaller though they may be, have been found deeply wanting, is one of the great strengths of Chinese governance, in which it enjoys a unique understanding. The fact that China, moreover, is, in effect, a sub-global system in its own right, accounting for one-fifth of the world’s population, means that the CCP has a special insight into the demands of governance in the era of globalisation, as the Belt and Road project illustrates.

Second, the Chinese Communist Party’s ability and capacity to transform a developing country is second to none: it is the exemplar for all others. In an era in which the imperative of transforming the developing countries, home to 85% of the world’s population, is arguably the greatest task of our era lends a unique significance and special responsibility to the role of the CPC.

Third, it is clear that the Westphalian system faces a growing and multifarious crisis. The nation-state form was a Western invention, specifically a European invention, which spread as a result of Western influence to assume an almost global universality, though in many respects it was, and has proved to be, a poor fit for many countries outside the West. The fact that China is primarily a civilization-state and only secondarily a nation-state gives it a special insight into and sensitivity about this question. As China’s global influence grows apace, these attributes will become increasingly important in seeking to find ways of resolving a myriad of problems around the world. Again, this lends the CPC a special role and capacity. 

Four, it is becoming increasingly clear that China is to the fore in the practice and the concept of modernity: its bold and ambitious attitude towards and relationship with technological innovation and the industries of the future, its recognition of the pivotal importance of climate change to the future of humanity, and its embrace of globalisation, multilateralism and the developmental challenge are three examples. This stands in stark contrast to the trend in the United States epitomised by Trump which rejects globalisation, climate change and even reason, and sees America’s future in terms of a return to some golden age in the past.

Five, the CCP has pioneered a new kind of competence in statecraft which has raised the global bar in terms of governance. All countries will need to learn from China in this respect. A combination of accountability, experience, competence, education and meritocracy have underpinned the remarkable achievements of the Chinese government with, of course, the CCP being the key to this.

Finally, a word of caution. The rapid deterioration in relations between the US and China is very unlikely to be a temporary phenomenon. We have almost certainly entered a new era characterised by growing enmity between the two countries, thereby bringing an end to the long period of relative cooperation which dates back to 1972. We can already feel the draughty winds of a new cold war-like assault on China emanating from Washington. An integral part of this will be an attempt to demonise and smear the Chinese Communist Party. So far, the rise of China has taken place in relatively benign conditions; for the foreseeable future, something more like the opposite is likely to be the case. This will present the CCP with a great challenge, one very different from both the Deng era and the more recent Xi era. China will be faced with the imperative of seeking friends and building bridges with as many countries as possible as the US seeks to isolate it. 

In an inspired election campaign, he confounded his detractors and showed that he was – more than any other leader – in tune with the times.

There have been two great political turning points in postwar Britain. The first was in 1945 with the election of the Attlee government. Driven by a popular wave of determination that peacetime Britain would look very different from the mass unemployment of the 1930s, and built on the foundations of the solidaristic spirit of the war, the Labour government ushered in full employment, the welfare state (including the NHS) and nationalisation of the basic industries, notably coal and the railways. It was a reforming government the like of which Britain had not previously experienced in the first half of the 20th century. The popular support enjoyed by the reforms was such that the ensuing social-democratic consensus was to last until the end of the 1970s, with Tory as well as Labour governments broadly operating within its framework.

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People's Daily, 12/05/17

The following piece featured in People’s Daily, 12th May 2017. Click to expand.




People's Daily, 12/05/17

The following is an English translation of a People’s Daily article written by Martin Jacques. 

The trend towards globalisation that dominated the world from around 1980 – driven by the neo-liberalism of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms – began to lose momentum with the Western financial crisis in 2007-8 and came to something of a shuddering halt in the West with Brexit in the UK and the election of Donald Trump as US President in 2016.

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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?

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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The rise of China continues unabated. In a Western world that is constantly seduced by bearish sentiment about China’s economic and political prospects — and ultimately by the idea that its rise is unsustainable — this deserves to be constantly repeated. Otherwise we find ourselves diverted from the most fundamental geopolitical trend of our time, that China is in the process of changing the world as we know it.

This is not to ignore, or brush away, the many problems that China faces. The most important of these during the course of the last year has been the government’s twin struggle to reform the economy while maintaining its target growth rate of 7.5 percent. It is possible that the latter will prove unachievable and that the growth rate might settle down more in the region of 5 to 6 percent, but, especially in the context of what is clearly a major structural shift in the nature of the economy — which may already be rather more advanced than previously thought — this should be regarded as perfectly acceptable. What we should not expect is a hard landing, entailing a much lower growth rate, or some kind of implosion. This remains an extremely unlikely scenario.

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The term Chinese Dream has been used several times by President Xi Jinping since the Chinese Communist Party’s 18th Congress in November 2012. The term has become a major focus of discussion in China. The paper below was given as a keynote speech at a major conference held in Shanghai last December.

The Chinese Dream is a new departure – both as a political idea and slogan. It is, for one thing, immediately accessible and, as a result, populist. Everyone knows about dreams, we all have them, whether in our sub-conscious or conscious state. Dreams belong to everyone. There is also a sense of freedom about dreams. When we dream we are not constrained by material circumstance or the real world, on the contrary we are allowed to escape from those kind of restraints. Dreams empower: they are highly personal, each and every one of us their author. The evocation of the word dream summons us all to be bold, to imagine the world not as it is but as it might be, how we would like it to be.

The term Chinese Dream is of the present: its moment has arrived. It would not have been appropriate in 1978. That was not the nature of the time. The term Chinese Dream urges the Chinese to move on, to think anew and afresh, to turn over a new page, to begin a new chapter. The Chinese Dream announces the beginning of something new but also the end of something: the end of the era of Deng Xiaoping.

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