Two major new developments between China and Canada/North America took on new meanings for me after a recent trip to China to introduce my new Chinese-Canadian grandson to his Chinese relatives.

My trip was much enriched by a simultaneous reading of Martin Jacques’ political page-turner: When China Rules the World. As The Economist reviewer commented on Jacques’ insights, “The West hopes that wealth, globalization and political integration will turn China into a gentle giant … Time will not make China more Western; it will make the West, and the world, more Chinese.”

That was illustrated to me by the recent signing of the U.S.-China climate change agreement and by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s signing a deal to set up a Chinese currency-trading hub in Toronto. Harper’s approach to China itself is indicative of the West becoming more Chinese. Gone are his earlier principled objections to human rights violations, a reflection of western Christian democracies’ legal rights and constitution-based approach to politics.

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Il y a une dizaine d’années, Martin Jacques traversait Shanghai en taxi avec Gao, une brillante étudiante en sociologie qui devait lui servir d’interprète pour sa rencontre avec le directeur du musée de la ville.

Le taxi peinait à se frayer un chemin dans le trafic et la conversation a fini par digresser sur des sujets moins professionnels, comme l’existence de couples mixtes américano-chinois. L’économiste et historien britannique a cité en exemple un de ces couples avant d’indiquer, en passant, que l’Américain en question avait la peau noire.

La jeune femme a réagi brutalement à la simple évocation de cette mixité raciale. «Elle a exprimé une répulsion physique comme je n’en avais jamais vu auparavant», raconte l’auteur de When China Rules the World – un best-seller mondial prédisant que la croissance effrénée de la Chine nous réserve beaucoup de surprises, pas nécessairement des bonnes. Et que nous avons intérêt à nous y préparer.

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More than a decade after China’s explosive growth began to trigger news headlines in the West, there remain two distinct schools of thought.

In one camp are those who say China’s continued ascent — and its eventual crowning as the world’s largest economy — is inevitable.

In the other are those who see the recent decline of the U.S. economy, and Uncle Sam’s reduced stature globally, as a mere historical blip, and that the idea of “American exceptionalism” (i.e., the spread of U.S. democratic ideals and free market principles) will soon reassert itself.

China believers say its huge population, superior growth rates, massive foreign currency reserves, pro-growth policies and cultural cohesion all but ensure that it will one day sit atop the global economy.

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Martin Jacques says the global power shift from west to east is inevitable, but it need not be a threat if westerners can learn to understand and appreciate the culture that is driving it.

Jacques, a senior visiting fellow at the London School of Economics and a visiting professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, spoke about the rapid rise of China during his keynote address Jan. 28 to formally kick off the events of the University of Alberta’s International Week 2013.

Gordon Houlden, director of the U of A’s China Institute, introduced the British author and public speaker to the audience in the Myer Horowitz Theatre and telecast viewers in Calgary and Trinidad. He called Jacques bold and ambitious for his approach to tackling some of the toughest questions concerning China in recent years, such as how modern China achieved its remarkable pattern of growth and modernization, and noted that Jacques “is not afraid to challenge us to think hard about how far China’s momentum will carry the nation, and what will be the implications for the rest of this planet.”

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What Canada can learn from Australia

Canadians are missing the point in their debate over increased trade with China, according to one Canadian foreign policy expert.

“The debate that Canadians need to have, and the debate we’re really not having,” according to Kim Nossal, director of Queen’s University’s Centre for International and Defence Policy, is on where we will fit as relations between the U.S. and China change.

The proposed $15.1 billion US bid by state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC) for Calgary-based Nexen and Enbridge’sbid to build a pipeline to carry Alberta oilsands crude to the west coasthas led to much discussion about the bilateral relationship.

But what we should be talking about, Nossal says, are “the implications for us, as a small country that has relations with both the United States and with the People’s Republic of China, as the relations between those two great powers begin to shift and change in the next decade or so.”

Nossal has a unique perspective, having being born in Australia and spent time in Beijing and Hong Kong beginning in the 1960s.

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It was significant but not astonishing news last week that China has eclipsed Japan as the world’s second-largest economy

More surprising is that the great economic strides have given rise to uncertainty about China’s prospects.

Can China hope to maintain its torrid growth, avoiding more of the social upheaval hinted at when sporadic riots broke out among furloughed factory workers during the Great Recession? Can a traditionally frugal 5,000-year-old society transform itself into a consumer economy like the U.S.? Or will continued reliance on exports culminate in the economic stagnation endured by Japan these past two decades?

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The Middle Kingdom’s prosperity is an illusion. And when China finally falls, we’ll all feel the pain

As fearmongering election campaign ads go, it’s hard to top the “Chinese Professor,” which flickered across the Internet just before Americans went to the polls last fall. In the spot, set in a sleek Beijing lecture hall 20 years in the future, a sharply dressed Chinese instructor explains to his Asian students why previous empires, from Ancient Greece to the U.S.A., turned to dust. The Americans failed because they lost sight of their principles, he says in Mandarin, with subtitles. They overspent, overtaxed and over–borrowed. “Of course, we owned most of their debt,” he cackles, as the class joins in. “So now they work for us.”

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China is flexing its trade and military muscles. What does it mean for the West?

In the world of prized metals, dysprosium lacked a certain star power. It lies deep in the so-called f-block of the periodic table—that free-floating part near the bottom you never used in high school chemistry—along with the other so-called rare-earth elements with tongue-twisting names like neodymium and lutetium. No one ever set out with mule and pick-axe to find dysprosium. It occurs only as a constituent part of other mineral compounds, which explains why its name derives from the Greek for “hard to get at.”

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On Thursday, July 1, China announced the launch of CNC World, a new global English-language TV network, to be available through satellite and on the Internet. Part of China’s official news agency, it is intended to project a China-friendly perspective on issues to the world – ostensibly to help outsiders understand China better.

To most analysts in the West, however, the launch of this network represents another sign of China’s growing prominence and confidence on the world stage – further evidence of its emerging status as the world’s next “superpower.” But is it really? A superpower is generally understood to be a nation, empire, or civilization that can project power globally; that is, a nation that possesses economic, political and cultural or “soft” power along with overwhelming military or “hard” power.

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