President B. S. Aquino III apparently thought he and US President Barack Obama would be playing China together.  Obama said however that they’re not playing China right now, but that the US would defend the Philippines if attacked. This had some political pundits confused.  What exactly did Obama mean?

“The US has no plan to contain China.”  China is now the world’s largest trading nation, according to the latest statistics, and is outspending almost every other country on defense outside of the US. Many China-watchers  seem to believe China will soon rule the world—one global bestseller by Martin Jacques is entitled, “When China Rules the World. ” But  Obama did not come to Asia to embrace that position.

He obviously has a soft spot for B. S. III.  But he has seen how unmusical the guy is on any serious question.  Even when the guy appears headed in the right direction, he self-destructs as soon as he “vocalizes” his position.  Obama could not afford to let this loose cannon, this Philippine version of Kim Jong-un,  mess up things for Washington. He had to restrain his poodle.  It is within this context that one must read Obama’s statement.

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For some time now, it has been fashionable to say that we have begun what will be a “Pacific Century.” We have seen a flood of books of late, variations on the theme of When China Rules the Worldas one put it. Certainly, in the aftermath of the 2008-09 financial crisis and Great Recession, this has been the conventional wisdom, a view shaped to a large extent by linear thinking. One of the most celebrated proponents of such views is the prolific former Singapore diplomat Kishore Mahbubani, who has written a series of well received books on Asia’s rise such as The New Asian Hemisphere.

In a recent article, Mahbubani has taken this linear logic to new heights (or depths, depending on your perspective) with the premise that America’s slide to number two economic status is “inevitable by 2019.” His premise appears to be that the prospect of yielding the top spot to China appears horrible and unnatural in the collective U.S. psyche:

In 2019, barely five years away, the world will pass one of its most significant historical milestones. For the first time in 200 years, a non-western power, China, will become the number-one economy in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms… it will take longer for China’s economy to overtake America’s in nominal terms but the trend line is irresistible.

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There are only two real adversaries in the conflict in the South China Sea — the US and China. All the rest are supporting cast (including the Philippines) with subplots of their own. At the center of the conflict is the superpower race that even the protagonists themselves hesitate to admit. All manner of prevarications are used to obscure that single issue.

Martin Jacques, the author of When China Rules the World, who was here in Manila, summed it up thus. “There has been an extraordinary and irreversible shift of power from the West in general and the United States, in particular, to China.

But neither the American nor the Chinese government has admitted to this shift of power. On the surface at least it has been business as usual.

This is an illusion but a forgivable one nonetheless. There is a strong imperative for the two countries to continue with their preset modus vivendi; a shift in the tectonic plates is bound to complicate this. Signs of growing difficulty were already evident from around autumn 2009.”

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A panel of international experts applauded in Milan at a gathering Thursday China’s reform blueprint unveiled after the just ended 3rd Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

“China is moving ahead to make the country more efficient,” a concept that is “rooted in China’s civilization,” Alberto Bradanini, Italian ambassador to Beijing, said at the meeting.

“China moves very gradually, which is justified by the complexity of the country and the problems it has to deal with,” he said.

“The government will withdraw from its intervention in the market,” explained Ding Yifan, deputy director of the Institute of World Development under the State Council’s Development Research Center and vice chairman of the China Society of World Economics.

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Air-Sea Battle and the pivot seem an overreaction to China’s rise, given the number of challenges Beijing already faces.

Westerners are nothing if not breathless about China. Books describing its rise often have titles like When China Rules the WorldContest for SupremacyEclipse(of the U.S. by China), and so on. China is such a preoccupation that the U.S. has now “pivoted” to Asia. And the U.S. Department of Defense, eager to cash-in on the China hype in an era of sequestration and domestic exhaustion with the “Global War on Terror,” tells us now that the U.S. must shift to anAir-Sea Battle concept (ASB).

In a not-so-amazing coincidence, ASB is chock of full of the sorts of costly, high-profile, air and maritime mega-platforms the military-industrial complex adores. China’s single, barely functional aircraft carrier—the second one is not due for awhile—is a god-send to hawks and neo-cons everywhere. Even as the U.S. scales back in the Middle East, defense can seemingly never be cut. Indeed, the terrible irony of the pivot to Asia from the Middle East is that ASB platforms like satellites, drones, up-armored aircraft carriers, stealth jets and littoral ships will cost so much that staying focused on the Middle East may well be less expensive. (For a running debate on ASB, start here.)

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In his well-known book, When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order, Martin Jacques claims China’s impact on the world will be profound and, in the long term, China will seek “to transform that system while at the same time, in effect, sponsoring a new China-centric international system which will exist alongside the present system and probably slowly begin to usurp it”.

Jacques’ bullish statement raises the expectation that China may come to dominate the world in the not-too-distant future. However, David Shambaugh, a leading expert in the field of contemporary China studies in the United States, pours cold water on such an upbeat sentiment.

In his newly released book, China Goes Global: the Partial Power, Shambaugh systematically examines China’s global impact in economic, political, military and cultural fields.

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Sinologist’s views unleash debate about the country’s place in the world and how far it will finally advance

Is China emerging as a potential global superpower or just a partial one? The leading American Sinologist David Shambaugh makes the case in his new book, China Goes Global: The Partial Power, that despite being the world’s second-largest economy, the country has along way to go before it begins to shape the world in its own image.

Even in the economic sphere, where China arguably had its most significant influence —accounting for 40 percent of global growth over the past two decades as well as being the largest exporter and holder of foreign exchange reserves — its global reach is overstated, according to Shambaugh.

The American academic argues that while the image is of Chinese companies taking over businesses throughout Europe and the United States, China has only the fifth largest overseas direct investment in the world, behind even the Netherlands and a fifth of the size of that of the United States.

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Leading Sinologist argues that China is only a partial superpower but many acknowledge that it has had the greatest impact on the continent

China has perhaps had more impact on Africa in the past decade than any other region in the world.

Trade alone has risen from $18.54 billion in 2003 to more than $200 billion today alongside the stock of overseas direct investment increasing eightfold from just $1.6 billion in 2005 to $13.04 billion at the end of 2010, according to the China’s National Bureau of Statistics.

But does this major economic interaction in Africa or elsewhere give China real influence and also make it a global role model?

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LONDON —  I like being in this city because I am able to read articles with different points of view on an issue that matters: China as a rising power in Asia.

China experts who have written books recently are David Shambaugh, “China Goes Global: the Partial Power,” Edward N. Luttwak, The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy, and Timothy Beardson’sStumbling Giant: the Threats to China’s Future.

These books can be said to be a reaction to Martin Jacques, the author of the international bestseller, “When China Rules the World.” Since I am in London, I asked Martin Jacques what he thought of the article that reviewed the three books in Prospect Magazine. I ask him to comment specifically on a question posed by the author, Jonathan Mirsky.

“What should we do about a regime that prides itself on a mythical past on the continuing assumption that all other countries are its cultural inferiors?”

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THE landmark summit between US President Barack Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping may well be described as “a qualified success” because it went smoothly on friendly terms, not an insignificant feat considering the number of simmering issues that divided their two countries.

This was the collective view of most China watchers and analysts who discussed the results of the first face-to-face meeting of the two leaders in California last June 7 to 8. They noted that Obama and Xi spoke at length about those issues, such as cyber security, North Korea and the rising friction between China and US ally Japan in the East China Sea, but they didn’t discuss China’s territorial disputes with its Southeast Asian neighbors over some islands, islets, shoals in the South China Sea.

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Updated and expanded new Chinese edition just released.


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