With so many pressing problems right here at home, it was nevertheless a very good decision for the Baton Rouge Area Chamber to bring a leading writer on China to town.

The British journalist Martin Jacques wrote a significant book, “When China Rules the World: The Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the End of the Western World.” Obviously, from his subtitle, he is bullish on the prospects for even greater growth.

In remarks to BRAC’s shareholder meeting and at LSU, Jacques talked about the projections that China’s economic output could exceed America’s as early as 2018. That enormous economic impact also is coupled with a considerable gap between China’s “civilization-state” that conceives sovereignty in a different way than does the West, with its notions of discrete nation-states, Jacques said.

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A revolutionary party learned to survive by wrapping itself in ‘stability’

A word used retrospectively to justify a bloody crackdown has become a commonsense platitude used to explain today’s China, accepted alike by American businessmen and politicians and China’s educated young people. The concept of “maintaining stability” legitimizes and even defines the rule of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), including its vast propaganda machine and the apparatus of physical repression that it has become infamous for.

But the idea is a relatively recent invention. None other than Deng Xiaoping—the Party leader who emerged to lead China out of the chaos of the Cultural Revolution, opened up its economy, then ordered the Tiananmen Square massacre—came up with it.

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Over the last few years, a number of reports and books have appeared making the case that the United States is in decline. All of these studies and books contain elements of truth, although we need to keep in mind the distinction between absolute and relative decline and to remember that relative decline, if it is in fact occurring, may not be such a bad thing.

At first glance, it seems clear that the U.S. economy is declining in relative terms. China has had an annual growth rate averaging 9 percent or 10 percent for more than 30 years and India 6 percent to 7 percent since the early 1990s, while the U.S. has averaged about 2 percent annually over the past decade.

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The spats between the United States and China appear to be getting more numerous and more serious.

The Chinese strongly objected to Washington’s latest arms deal with Taiwan. President Obama accused the Chinese of currency manipulation, while at Davos, Larry Summers, the director of the White House’s National Economic Council, made an oblique attack on China by referring to mercantilist policies. The disagreement between China and the United States at the Copenhagen climate summit in December has continued to reverberate.

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I was unaware when I was planning my trip to China, starting today, that the timing would be quite so good

The past week has provided a decent statistical insight into the health of the world’s second biggest economy and I’m looking forward to seeing how the numbers compare with the reality on the ground. What is happening in China is particularly important right now because an apparent moderation in the US recovery and renewed sovereign debt worries in Europe have put the onus back on China to keep the show on the road. Whether its landing is soft or hard matters more than ever.

In the run-up to last week’s announcements, that debate had been unusually lively, fuelled by two conflicting indicators, one from the Chinese government and one from HSBC. The government’s purchasing managers index surged in March to a level indicating robust growth while the bank’s own measure fell to a level indicating a slowdown. Chinese manufacturing is either growing at its fastest rate in a year or contracting at an increasing rate.

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In A Contest for Supremacy: China, America, and the Struggle for Mastery in Asia (Norton, $27.95), Aaron L. Friedberg ’78, Ph.D. ’86, dissects the present and future of Sino-American relations, stating that “despite several reasons a closer relationship between the two economic powers is possible, two main factors—a growing clash of interests and deep ideological and political differences—will prove more decisive and will make the relationship more tense and competitive,” according to a review by the New York Times Book Review.

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The Western financial crisis heralded a significant shift in the balance of power between the United States and China. Most starkly, it brought forward the date when the Chinese economy will overtake the US economy in size from 2027 (the Goldman Sachs projection in 2005) to 2020. The reason is simple: while the US economy is around the same size as it was in 2008, with the prospect of perhaps a decade of very weak growth ahead, the Chinese economy has continued to grow at around 9 percent and future economic growth is likely to be in the region of 8 percent. While 2027 sounded sufficiently far in the future to sound speculative, 2020, in contrast, is less than a decade away and feels much more like an extension of the present. The rise of China and the decline of the United States is becoming more tangible by the year.

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Begin by remembering who the author of this book is. Henry Kissinger, most familiar to Americans as Richard Nixon’s Secretary of State, is, even if we ignore Christopher Hitchens’ allegation that he is a “war criminal,” nonetheless a profoundly problematic character, especially on the subject of China.

For one thing, he is chairman of Kissinger Associates, an international political consulting firm based in New York City and counting among its clients some of the biggest American companies doing business in China. So the man clearly has a financial incentive to relate a version of Chinese affairs conducive to the interests of these companies — the very ones that have been offshoring American jobs and worsening America’s trade balance through their imports.

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China’s indefatigable rise — especially in stark contrast to sluggish growth in the US, fiscal crisis in Europe and the shrinking of Japan — is helping to spawn an “anti-Fukuyama” school of thought that sees Chinese-style authoritarian capitalism as the next beginning of history.

Stefan Halper has written one of the school’s primers. He borrows a term coined by Joshua Ramos, “Beijing consensus,” to describe the real China threat: a state-led model of developmental capitalism without democracy, and a neo-Westphalian model of international relations where states limit their interactions to pure business. This model, Halper argues, is ascendant across the developing world, displacing the liberal internationalism and economic neo-liberalism of the Washington Consensus.

After finishing Halper, the reader can move on to Martin Jacques’ When China Rules the World and Ian Morris’ Why the West Rules — For Now for deeper exploration of how the China model might transform the international system.


“China is the toughest to beat,” said Saina Nehwal, India’s ace badminton player, just before a match with Lin Wang during the 2009 Badminton World Championship.   

While Nehwal lost the match to the Chinese player, her apprehension foreshadowed what was to be a complete sweep of the championships by China, whose players went on to win all the major titles—the men’s single, the women’s single, and the men’s and women’s doubles. Nehwal was perhaps echoing the sentiment of many Indian sportspersons who have had to pit their skills against China’s formidable strength as a sporting nation.

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