Australia

ROSS Terrill, one of Australia’s best known experts on China, who has been based at Harvard University in the US for most of the past 50 years, warns that for Canberra to align on security issues with Beijing “bristles with difficulties”.

He does not believe Australia is faced with a frightening choice between our great ally and our main trading partner. While commending Hugh White for instigating a lively debate with his book The China Choice, he says this thesis “underestimates Australia’s power to say yes or no in concrete diplomatic situations”.

Terrill, a visiting senior fellow at the Australia Strategic Policy Institute, says: “We can be economically open to China and still speak up for Australian values. I know some people think there is a contradiction there, but I think we have to do both. We should welcome the trade and investment with China but should never give the impression we are packing our values away in a trunk – China wouldn’t respect us for that.”

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ONE of the great evangelical hymns starts stirringly: “Blessed assurance”

Too often, that’s what businesspeople have been fed by presenters at conferences: simple answers to complex questions.

China is no exception. In the fairly recent past, business audiences in Australia have evinced remarkable ignorance about China, passively taking  in whatever the visiting expert has proclaimed.

But there has been a welcome turning of the tide. It’s no longer enough to say that China satisfies 99 per cent of global concrete gnome demand, or whatever. Every galah in every corner pet shop here knows how important China has become to our economy. Sadly, some conference organisers still churn out speakers who click on one PowerPoint slide after another that makes that point, over and over: bigger, better.

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Martin Jacques, a leading British academic who wrote a best-selling book called When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order believes, as you can probably tell from the title, that China will be the dominant power of this century. Predictions about when China becomes the largest economy in the world range from 2030 onwards to as early as 2018.

Those in the West, he says, have no idea what that will entail for we arrogantly presume that as China gets richer its citizens will become more like us. Jacques says that won’t happen. China has 1000 years of civilisation to draw upon where the state is the paramount force and is seen by the population as an extension of the family – the ultimate patriarch. He says that Chinese citizens won’t become like westerners, with our demands for individual rights and freedoms and our reliance on rules over relationships. Instead China will maintain its uniqueness.

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The scope and scale of the Chinese march is enormous. As the ever cerebral David Aaronovitch pointed out in The Australian recently, China is even making sure the march continues by buying up the world’s oil and gas reserves, spending almost $40 billion on energy assets last year.

In fact, in terms of both population and economic growth, what is happening in China is like trying to count the stars in the night sky. Seeking to understand what it all means has led to some fascinating theories.

A few years ago, Martin Jacques left his readers in no doubt: the title of his absorbing and provocative book was simply When China Rules The World. The West, he argued, is about to be challenged – economically and also morally, politically and ethically – by a non-Western superpower for the very first time. China has long regarded itself as being at the centre of the world and the West should be prepared as the Chinese seek tribute from others as acknowledgement of their inherent superiority.

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When the economist Jane Golley joined the federal Treasury in 1994, she was assigned to a single-person desk overseeing China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea.

It was only a few years after the collapse of the Soviet empire. The US was at the apex of its power and influence. Francis Fukuyama, a noted American scholar, confidently predicted the ”end of history” – a scenario where the entire world would embrace America’s brand of liberal democracy and capitalism.

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WHEN economist Jane Golley joined the federal Treasury in 1994, she was assigned to a single-person desk overseeing China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea.

It was only a few years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the United States was at the apex of its power and influence. Francis Fukuyama, a noted American scholar, confidently predicted the ”end of history” – a scenario where the entire world would embrace America’s brand of liberal democracy and capitalism.

Fast-forward 18 years and the global financial crisis has humbled the once-mighty US. China is within striking distance of overtaking the US as the largest economy in the world and Americans are awake to the reality that China – as Hillary Clinton famously put to Kevin Rudd – is their largest banker, by virtue of the central government’s multi-trillion dollar holdings in US treasuries.

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The rise of China is reshaping the world in profound ways that are bringing about new political, cultural, intellectual, moral and military consequences, and yet we mistakenly continue to view China from a Western perspective, according to author and China academic Martin Jacques. He recently gave a lecture on the topic for Sydney University’s China Studies Centre and Sydney Ideas.

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Australia is leading the West into a new era of Chinese ascendancy, according to author and China-expert Martin Jacques.‬

‪‘You are incredibly privileged because you are the pioneer Western country as we move into a completely new historical era in which China is dominant,’ he said.‬
‪ ‪As part of his only public appearance in Melbourne, Jacques introduced an audience of over 300 to the updated version of his best-selling book ‘When China Rules the World’ and acknowledged Australia’s place on the ‘cutting edge’ of relations with China.‬

‪He also warned that it is ‘no longer a Western economy’.‬

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The aftermath of China’s fatal high-speed rail crash in July was a reminder that the foundations of the country’s remarkable economic growth are perhaps not as solid as some may suggest.

With the outpouring of anger and grief came a series of accusations over what was to blame for the crash, corruption, cheap equipment and botched reverse-engineering among them. It was barely the best advert for a new rail network that was supposed to be yet another signal of China’s arrival as a modern global superpower.

Of course the West still looks on at China with envy; its growth rate remains at a level most can only dream of. China has revelled in the role of the white knight riding to the rescue of the global economy, buying up US and European debt and even lecturing the US on fiscal responsibility.

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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