A two-part interrogation into the changing balance of global power. In Part II, Martin Jacques argues that China’s rise is only a matter of time.

In Part II of our interrogation into the shifting sands of global politics, Martin Jacques warns that we are witnessing the inevitable decline of Europe and the US, with China rising to become the next global economic powerhouse.

In Part I, Rana Mitter argued that this is sill very much a story of US dominance, but here, however, Jacques speaks to the IAI about the future of global politics and why we mustn’t use a Western template to think about what China is going to be like. Jacques is a journalist and academic who founded the influential think-tank Demos. His 2009 book, When China Ruled the World, has helped shape debate on China’s future role on the world stage. 

China has been reluctant to comment on recent events in Russia and the Middle East. It appears to be more concerned with internal affairs than intervening in global ones, so how can it truly be called a superpower? Isn’t it the case that all eyes turn to the US when major events like those in Russia and the Middle East occur? 

I don’t think it is a superpower. I think that China is not really a global power in the way that say, the United States is, because its claim to be a global power is essentially economic. This year China has overtaken the United States as the largest economy in the world, and it’s a huge trader, so it’s becoming a very important exporter of capital. When you go to China, you will never think of the world in the same way again. Every city you go to is looking modern because the economic transformation has been very broadly based. Economically, it is a global power; I don’t think there’s any argument there at all.

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Martin Jacques (Jacques), a British journalist and former editor of Marxism Today, has become a well-known pundit on Chinese issues since the publication of his 2009 book When China rules the world. In his recent article published on the Financial Times, he argued that Western views on China’s system are flawed. What does he think of China’s success today? What problems does the country face? Global Times (GT) London-based correspondent Sun Wei interviewed him over these issues.

GT: You recently said that China’s governance system has been remarkably successful for more than three decades. Is your conclusion mainly based on China’s economic achievements?

Jacques: No. It’s true that China’s economic transformation has been hugely successful with remarkable achievements. But that’s the core of a much wider change in Chinese society. I regard this as being a very successful period for Chinese governance in general.

The economy does not exist in isolation from society. It’s not something you can change on its own and everything else stays the same.

First of all, how do you transform the economy? The state in China has been extremely important in that process. Then, the impact of this huge change in the economy is to transform Chinese society: the shift of around 30 percent of the population from countryside into the city, the pressures of creating more modern education system, and the requirement for a new healthcare service. There are many aspects to it. You cannot have huge economic transformation like that without also having to reform, re-engineer and re-purpose the state.

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China has replaced the US as the largest trading partner and largest market for East Asian countries, while it is also the most important investor in the region, Martin Jacques, Author of When China Rules the World, told RT.

RT: China has been highly active recently – the latest major deals are the one with Moscow and Malaysia. Do you think is Beijing’s ambition region-wise?

Martin Jacques: China regards itself to be the most influential power in the region – depends on how you define the region – but certainly in terms of East Asia which obviously embraces North-East Asia, Japan, Taiwan, Korea and also South-East Asia, the ASEAN countries. In a sense it sees itself as returning in some way to its former role.

RT: Do you think China considers itself to be hegemony? How are Beijing’s ambitions perceived by its neighbors?

MJ: I don’t think that China thinks of itself in those terms. It sees itself essentially as having major economic presence and influence in the region and growing political influence. But China is very aware that it arrived at this point very quickly and it has a long way to go. I do think that it views itself as likely in the future to increasingly replace the US as the dominant power in the region, and I think it will, it is already beginning to do this.

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China has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Its rapid industrial progress, growing military strength, large population and steadily increasing international influence, are all clear signs that China will have a secure place among the super powers in the near future.

The question, raised in a book by journalist Martin Jacques, is not if China will rule the world, but simply when?

In the interview below, Jacques argues that in the twenty-first century, China will challenge our perception of what it is to be modern, and the West will be forced to learn from growing eastern powers.

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Will China Dominate The 21st Century?

by Jonathan Fenby
(Polity Press, £9.99)

BEN CHACKO reviews Jonathan Fenby’s latest analysis of China’s chances

JONATHAN FENBY is one of Britain’s more knowledgeable China-watchers and his latest work on the subject deserves attention.

The book, however, ought really to take the title of its final chapter — Why China Will Not Dominate the 21st Century.

It reads rather like a refutation of Martin Jacques’s When China Rules the World, mirroring the latter even to the extent that both contain a section quoting attitude surveys “proving” that positive or negative views of China are the norm worldwide.

In this it is quite effective. Fenby relentlessly highlights China’s weaknesses, and in many respects he is right — right that China is nowhere near displacing the US as a global superpower, right that there is scant evidence that it wants to, right that it faces serious economic, political and environmental challenges which will keep its politicians’ focus firmly on their own country and not on attempts to become a world leader.

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The more China grows as a world power the more complicated its relations with the US become. But it is unlikely that China would ever resort to a military means to solve its disputes worldwide, China expert Martin Jacques told RT.

RT: It looks like Xi Jinping is going to adopt the foreign policy course of his predecessor, what will that mean for relations between Beijing and Washington?

Martin Jacques: It is no surprise that Xi Jinping is really expressing continuity because that is the whole way now the Chinese leadership is constructed. I mean, if it is going to shift, it is not going to shift now, it will shift several years down the road, I think. What will it mean for the relations with the United States?

The relations with the United States have steadily been getting more complicated, and I think the reason for that is because, before China was very much still a developing country and a much weaker global power than the United States. China, of course, has been growing like crazy and is more and more present around the world, in different continents, in different countries, so their interests are liable to be in more conflict in more areas that in previous decades. And I think is the reason why it’s getting more complicated.

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When I titled my book, When China Rules The World, of course I didn’t literally mean China will rule the world because no country ever has. I referred to a situation where China is the most powerful and influential country in the world. I have no reason to change my view.

I finished writing in 2008, and everything since then has only confirmed my argument and accelerated the process. China is going to become the largest economy in the world.

It will be far from being the most developed economy, and still relatively primitive compared to the US economy, but by 2030, it stands a good chance of being much bigger than the US economy.

However, the present model is still largely based on a very labor-intensive economy which is very dependent on exports. Although China is steadily moving up the value chain and the economy is becoming more research-based, that process needs to be encouraged and accelerated, and that will require some serious economic reforms.

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