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In absolute numbers, China probably has more beautiful women than any other country in the world. But one could never tell that by looking at the squeaky-clean glass display windows in upscale stores in this capital city or in Shanghai, whose architecture has been often compared to London, Paris and Rio.

The classic image of beauty in those stores and elsewhere across China are modeled after the American and European standard of beauty—White, blue-eyed and blond.

That’s remarkable in a country that has long considered itself the center of the universe.

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In less than 15 years, according to projections by investment banking firm Goldman Sachs and the United States National Intelligence Council, China will overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy. And that dramatic shift has touched off a guessing game about what the dramatic shift will mean for the U.S. and the rest of the world.

“The US most likely will remain ‘first among equals’ among the other great powers in 2030 because of its preeminence across a range of power dimensions and legacies of its leadership role,” the National Intelligence Council report, titled, “Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds,” stated. “More important than just economic weight, the United States’ dominant role in international politics has derived from its preponderance across the board in both hard and soft power.

“Nevertheless, with the rapid rise of other countries, the ‘unipolar moment’ is over and Pax Americana – the era of American ascendance in international politics that began in 1945 – is fast winding down.”

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In absolute numbers, China probably has more beautiful women than any other country in the world. But one could never tell that by looking at the squeaky-clean glass display windows in upscale stores in this capital city or in Shanghai, whose architecture has been often compared to London, Paris and Rio.

The classic image of beauty in those stores and elsewhere across China are modeled after the American and European standard of beauty – White, blue-eyed and blond.

That’s remarkable in a country that has long considered itself the center of the universe.

“From the most ancient times, the Chinese chose to call themselves white, with a light complexion highly valued and likened to white jade,” Martin Jacques wrote in When China Rules the World. “By the beginning of the twelfth century, the elite attached a heightened meaning to being white, with colour consciousness amongst the elite sensitized by the maritime contacts established during the Southern Song dynasty (AD 1127-1279).

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When Americans think of China, it is usually a faded image frozen in time. It is an old film, shot in what could pass as the beginning of time, of cold, dour, high-stepping soldiers bouncing past a review stand in unison with a rifle resting on one shoulder and both eyes fixed on the box of dignitaries sitting to the side.

But China is more than outdated military footage. The People’s Republic of China, as it is formally known, sits on an area of land slightly smaller than the United States.

But its population of 1.3 billion people is four times larger than the U.S. population of 315 million.

Students in China, like those in other counties, tend to know American history better than most Americans. Whether it is arrogance, ignorance or a combination of both, Americans, in general, know little about their past and even less about China, an ancient civilization that dates back more than 5,000 years.

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China is unique among the world’s most populous nations in that it considers itself ethnically near-homogenous, Martin Jacques writes in an essay at the BBC News Magazine. “[M]ore than nine out of 10 Chinese people think of themselves as belonging to just one race, the Han,” he says. But it wasn’t always so. As Jacques explains, the history of ethnicity in China is far more complicated than this suggests, with lessons for both how that makes China unique and what it means for the country today.

The history of China, he suggests, is in some ways a story about ethnicity.

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A warning’s being issued by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence today. It says there’s a danger of economic espionage and cyber-sabotage from two top Chinese telecommunications companies that are trying to move into the U.S. market.

The bi-partisan report — some of which is classified — says Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corporation are too close to the Chinese government and could be used to spy on U.S. citizens, businesses and government.

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Thirty-six years after “Great Helmsman” Mao Zedong died of a heart attack, leaving his country briefly rudderless during a time of crisis and uncertainty, the Chinese ship of state is still sailing. But is it still seaworthy? Observers are energetically debating whether the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party, which has endured so much, can endure. After all, the government today bases its legitimacy on economic growth, which may well be slowing. We can’t predict the future, but we can examine the past, and Chinese history suggests that, even if the Communist Party does face a legitimacy crisis, it would not be out of character for it to survive this particular storm.

The China-watchers who insist the country faces a crippling legitimacy crisis include, perhaps most famously, Gordon G. Chang, author of The Coming Collapse of China, as well as political scientist Minxin Pei. As they see it, there are simply too many contradictions inherent in the Chinese model for it to survive.

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As Britain basks in the glow of its successful Olympics, the thought that comes to this China specialist’s mind is, what a difference four years makes. There is a striking contrast indeed, where China is concerned, between the largely positive international chatter about that country in mid-2008, as the Beijing Games concluded, and the largely negative buzz about it now.

The change in China’s fortunes has little to do with medal counts or world records. Still, a look back to the Beijing Games helps place then-and-now contrasts into sharp relief.

Plenty of criticisms were leveled at China’s leaders just before the 2008 Olympics over issues such as repression in Tibet, and the Games were hardly free of controversy either, thanks to complaints about everything from parts of the opening ceremonies being faked (for example, the fireworks that looked like footprints in the sky being doctored digital effects) to underage gymnasts competing on the Chinese team. And yet, overall, a lot of things went right for the Party four years ago. As a result, a good number of international observers came away from China’s first Olympics seeing the country much as its leaders desperately want it to be seen: as a country that is respectful of its past yet surging toward a prosperous future; that is no longer poor, chaotic, isolated, with leaders prone to ideological extremism, personality cult rule, and factional infighting.

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At the beginning of this year, Chinese premier Hu Jintao wrote an essay in which he pronounced: “The international culture of the West is strong while we are weak.”

Hu was referring to ‘soft power,’ a term coined by Harvard professor Joseph Nye to describe the value of attractiveness. US soft power sees the world gobble up Hollywood films and pop culture, generating a positive view of the country. Now China is engaged in a multi-billion dollar push to increase its own soft power.

Global events such as the Beijing Olympics and the Shanghai Expo have provided an opportunity for China to show to the world a new face, and big investments in the developing world have seen China’s image improve among the Africans and South Americans.

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The way of the West is going south, according to author Martin Jacques.

Author of When China Rules the World, Jacques predicts China will usurp the United States as the dominant world power in a matter of years.

Jacques shared his findings this past week at LSU as part of the E.J. Ourso College of Business Dean’s Seminar on Global Research, Education, and Practice.

“The impact of China on the world, the global footprint, is accelerating all the time,” Jacques said.

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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