The Western portrayal of China’s future tends to “blow hot and cold”, but the heat of China’s rise is here to stay, British scholar Martin Jacques said in a recent interview with Xinhua.

Commenting on a resurfacing “Chinese Century” debate among global media, Martin said that the reason behind this hot discourse is simple: the fact that China’s development continues.

“The Western commentary about China’s rise is erratic, and tends to be a bit negative. And then from time to time, they sort of wake up and realize that the trend continues,” said the author of the international best-seller “When China Rules the World”.

In an article for the Vanity Fair magazine, U.S. economist Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate, foresaw the arrival of a “Chinese Century” in 2015 on the grounds that China has surpassed the United States to become the world’s largest economy in terms of GDP based on purchasing power parity.

Similar predictions of a “Chinese Century”, often initiated by foreign observers, have occurred on and off since the turn of the century. While most Chinese stay cool-headed, the proclamation has once again aroused heated argumentation among scholars and policy-makers around the world over the potential of China’s future.

“From time to time, the West is reminded that China is growing rapidly and is bigger and bigger, and then you get some discussions about the ‘Chinese century’,” added Jacques, who is also a senior fellow at the department of politics and international studies at Cambridge University.

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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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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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An author shares his views on the growing clout of the world’s second largest economy.

AUTHOR and academic Dr Martin Jacques released an updated and expanded second edition of his widely acclaimed book, When China Rules The World: The End Of The Western World And The Birth Of A New Global Order, earlier this year.

During a recent visit to Kuala Lumpur when he attended an Asian Centre for Media Studies event, Jacques spoke to The Star about his book and its approach to the subject. Some excerpts:

How is the second edition different from the first?

Time. Because China is growing so quickly, China time is fast. There’s been a lot of updating throughout the second edition.

When I wrote the first edition, the 2008 (US-centred) financial crisis had just happened. The last chapter is about the crisis, which was little commented on before.

The second edition looks at the beginnings of a Chinese economic world order.

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Recent tensions between China and its smaller neighbors over territorial disputes in the East and South China Sea is seen by many as a sign of aggression as an emerging power. Will China be another colonialist, imperialist or a benevolent dictator?

Clarence Chua caught up with Dr Martin Jacques, the best-selling author of “When China Rules the World,” in Kuala Lumpur recently to find out more about the Middle Kingdom and its growing ambition.

China is the most populous nation and has overtaken Japan as the second largest economy in the world. But is China a superpower that could rival the United States?

“Definitely not. China is at the beginning of becoming a global power but in that sense it’s still a long way behind the United States. Economically it is still not strong enough. It’s still a developing country. Its foreign policy is not yet reached the point of, sort of comprehensiveness. Of course, in military terms, China is very very pale shadow of the United States.”

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