East Asia

John Keane’s book contains a wealth of interesting information on the past, writes Robert Rowthorne but it is of scant use to those seeking enlightenment about the future

The subject matter of this long book is the history and future of democracy. Despite the word “death” in its title, the author is an optimist. Democracy may be changing but it is not in its death throes.

This is a timely book. Democracy in Europe may be flagging, but on a global scale it is on the march. The recent election in the United States has revitalised American politics and the new president is seeking to unify a divided nation. In India, over 400 million people recently voted in an election which returned the reformist Manmohan Singh as prime minister for a second term. In the Middle East, there have been peaceful elections in Iraq, Kuwait and the Lebanon. In a good omen for future stability of Iraq, the party of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki performed well in the provincial elections, suggesting that he may win a second term in next year’s national elections. In Iran, the huge turn-out in the recent election indicated the degree of popular enthusiasm for democracy, but the outcome has been marred by fraud and violent repression on the streets. Despite this and other setbacks, 2009 has in general been a good year for democracy.

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Nearly 40% think China will become the world’s dominant power in the next 20 years, as indicated by a recent survey

If the U.S. were a stock, it would be trading at historic lows. The budget deficit is out of control, the economy is anemic and the political system is controlled by academic ideologues and Chicago hacks. Opposing them is a force largely comprised of know-nothings–to call them Neanderthals would be too complimentary.

Not surprisingly, many Americans have become pessimistic. Two in three adults now fear their children will be worse off than they are. Nearly 40% think China will become the world’s dominant power in the next 20 years, as indicated by a recent survey.

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Part I: “People’s Power” Usurped By Elites; Part II: Democracy and Theocracy — From Communalism to Occupation Subjugation

One of the many words in the mantra of the imperial apologists is that of democracy. From its Greek roots meaning “people” and “power” the word has travelled a long and convoluted journey but needs to be questioned as to whether it has achieved the real ideal. For the people, the “demos” to truly have power requires a system that acts considerably differently from actions by the global elites currently in power.

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The rise of China is the most-read news story of the last decade, according to new research published by Texas-based Global Language Monitor

You won’t be surprised to hear that for someone who earns his crust writing about China’s rise, this is gratifying news.

It’s also mildly surprising. In the news trade China is essentially a ‘glacier’ story – huge, unstoppable but moving in increments that only become discernible over time. Everyone registers China’s growing importance, but too often the drip-drip nature of the story keeps off the top of the news agenda.

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Washington Post critics pick their favorite novels, biographies, mysteries, memoirs and more.

WHEN CHINA RULES THE WORLD, by Martin Jacques (Penguin, $29.95). A compelling and thought-provoking analysis of global trends that defies common Western assumptions.

– Seth Faison

Since 1945 the United States has been the world’s dominant power. Even during the Cold War its economy was far more advanced than, and more than twice as large as, that of the Soviet Union, while its military capability and technological sophistication were much superior. Following the Second World War, the US was the prime mover in the creation of a range of multinational and global institutions, such as the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and NATO, which were testament to its new-found global power and authority. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 greatly enhanced America’s pre-eminent position, eliminating its main adversary and resulting in the territories and countries of the former Soviet bloc opening their markets and turning in many cases to the US for aid and support.

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Conventional wisdom can be devilishly hard to dispute. For example, most pundits agree that the Great Recession helped China more than any other state. At first glance, this claim seems obviously true. Unlike the United States and the other major Western powers, which saw their economies plummet and their financial institutions come close to ruin, the Chinese economy has kept on growing. Chinese financial institutions, considered technically insolvent only a few years ago, now boast balance sheets and market capitalizations that Western banks can only dream of. With its economy expected to grow at 9 percent in 2010, China will soon surpass Japan as the world’s second-largest economy (measured in U.S. dollars). Pundits like Martin Jacques, a veteran British journalist, are predicting that China will soon rule the world — figuratively, if not literally.

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Since 1945 the United States has been the world’s dominant power. Even during the Cold War its economy was far more advanced than, and more than twice as large as, that of the Soviet Union, while its military capability and technological sophistication were much superior. Following the Second World War, the US was the prime mover in the creation of a range of multinational and global institutions, such as the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and NATO, which were testament to its new-found global power and authority. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 greatly enhanced America’s pre-eminent position, eliminating its main adversary and resulting in the territories and countries of the former Soviet bloc opening their markets and turning in many cases to the US for aid and support.

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The 21st century probably belongs to China, not America, a senior visiting fellow at the London School of Economics recently told an audience at UCLA. So the United States should try to better understand China and its culture in order to react responsibly to this changing world order.

Martin Jacques laid out the reasons for this at a well-attended talk Nov. 20 at Bunche Hall that also served as an introduction to the field of Chinese studies. He is a member of the School of Economics’ IDEAS center and author of a new book, “When China Rules the World: the End of the Western World and the Birth of a New World Order.”

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Here’s a reading list for Cathy Ashton, as she swots up for her first outing as EU High Representative next week

Poor Cathy Ashton has been given only seven days to master the key history books that explain modern Europe, before being flung into the maelstrom that will be the brand new job of High Representative of the European Union, it has been reported. It’s the ultimate “essay crisis”.

Last-minute panic revision still induces nightmares in graduates for several years after their finals — I still get them now, a quarter of a century later — so here’s a reading list for Baroness Ashton of Upholland on the basis that she can spend the whole week reading books at the rate of one a day. All were published in 2009 and each is written with scholarship, erudition and wit.

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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