Europe

29/09/15 – Guardian

John Harris’ ‘Long Read’ piece for The Guardian (29 September 2015) includes an interview with Martin Jacques and an assessment of his editorship of Marxism Today from 1977 – 1991.  

John Harris 

In May 1988, a group of around 20 writers and academics spent a weekend at Wortley Hall, a country house north of Sheffield, loudly debating British politics and the state of the world. All drawn from the political left, by that point they were long used to defeat, chiefly at the hands of Margaret Thatcher. Now, they were set on figuring out not just how to reverse the political tide, but something much more ambitious: in essence, how to leave the 20th century.

Over the previous decade, some of these people had shone light on why Britain had moved so far to the right, and why the left had become so weak. But as one of them later put it, they now wanted to focus on “how society was changing, what globalisation was about – where things were moving in a much, much deeper sense”. The conversations were not always easy; there were raised voices, and sometimes awkward silences. Everything was taped, and voluminous notes were taken. A couple of months on, one of the organisers wrote that proceedings had been “part coherent, part incoherent, exciting and frustrating in just about equal measure”.

What emerged from the debates and discussions was an array of amazingly prescient insights, published in a visionary magazine called Marxism Today. In the early 21st century, that title might look comically old-fashioned, but the people clustered around the magazine anticipated the future we now inhabit, and diagnosed how the left could steer it in a more progressive direction. Soon enough, in fact, some of Marxism Today’s inner circle would bring their insights to the Labour party led by Tony Blair, as advisers and policy specialists. But most of their ideas were lost, thanks partly to the frantic realities of power, but also because in important respects, Blair and Gordon Brown – both of whom had written for the magazine when they were shadow ministers – were more old-fashioned politicians than they liked to think.

At the core of Marxism Today’s most prophetic ideas was a brilliant conception of modern capitalism. In contrast to an increasingly dated vision of a world of mass production and standardisation, the magazine’s writers described the changes wrought by a new reality of small economic units, franchising, outsourcing, self-employment and part-time work – most of it driven by companies and corporations with a global reach – which they called “Post-Fordism”. Computers, they pointed out, were now being built from components produced in diverse locations all over the world; iconic companies had stripped down their focus to sales, strategy and what we would now call branding, outsourcing production to an ever-changing array of third parties. As a result, economies were becoming more fragmented and unpredictable, as the bureaucratic, top-down structures that had defined the first two-thirds of the 20th century were pushed aside.

Onlangs publiceerden we citaten en een samenvatting van een pessimistisch artikel over China van professor Shambaugh. Indirect in antwoord daarop publiceerde Xinhua al op 13/3 een soort interview met Martin Jacques. We nemen het hier volledig over.

Het Westen heeft de neiging nu eens voor, dan weer tegen te zijn in het beeld dat het schetst van  China’s toekomst, maar de opkomst van China is een blijvend verschijnsel, aldus de Britse academicus Martin Jacques in een interview met Xinhua.

In een commentaar op het opflakkerende debat over “De eeuw van China” noemt Martin de reden hiervoor eenvoudig: het feit dat de ontwikkeling van China blijft doorgaan.

“Westerse commentaren over China zijn grillig en hebben de neiging negatief te zijn. En dan, van tijd tot tijd, lijken ze wakker te worden en zich te realiseren dat de trend zich doorzet” verklaarde de auteur van de internationale bestseller “When China Rules the World”.

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China Premier Rutte brengt volgende week een vierdaags werkbezoek aan China. De Britse Chinakenner Martin Jacques zou in zijn plaats nú aanhaken bij de Chinese concurrent van de Wereldbank.

Martin Jacques verslikt zich in zijn met veel melk aangelengde thee. „Wow, de altijd trouwe Britse poedel loopt opeens weg van zijn Amerikaanse baasje. Dit is zonder overdrijving een historisch moment”, grijnst de Britse auteur van When China rules the world, het meest geciteerde, bediscussieerde en bekritiseerde boek over de onstuitbare opmars van China.

Als eerste westerse natie besloot het Verenigd Koninkrijk de toorn van de Verenigde Staten te trotseren door politiek en financieel kapitaal te investeren in het Chinese initiatief om een concurrent van de Wereldbank op te richten, de zogeheten Aziatische Infrastructurele Investeringsbank. Volgens de historicus Jacques een „zeer opmerkelijk moment in de wording van de nieuwe financiële institutionele wereldorde”. „Ik word er vaak van beticht dat ik de snelheid van de opmars van China als wereldmacht zwaar overdrijf, maar mijn grootste fout is eigenlijk dat ik niet heb voorzien hoe snel de oude pikorde aftakelt. Die orde, opgebouwd door de Amerikanen vanaf 1944, is op veel verschillende manieren aan het afbrokkelen, om niet te zeggen aan het desintegreren. De Wereldbank is aan het afglijden en wie weet nog van het bestaan van de G7 of de G8?” Duitsland, Frankrijk en Italië hebben inmiddels het Britse voorbeeld gevolgd.

Martin Jacques, die gastcolleges geeft aan de Nationale Universiteit van Singapore, wil weten of Nederland ook aandeelhouder en mede-stichter van de Chinese tegenhanger van de Wereldbank wordt. „Nog geen beslissing? Echt niet? Ik kan Nederland alleen maar adviseren de knoop snel door te hakken, dit is een heel belangrijk moment om Chinese bonuspunten te winnen. Het is niet slim om in het slinkende Amerikaanse kamp van refusniks te blijven hangen.” Bovendien, voegt hij er aan toe: „China wil niet langer wachten op hervormingen van de Wereldbank en het IMF die er toch niet komen door de blokkade van het Amerikaanse Congres. China accepteert niet langer dat bijvoorbeeld Nederland en België een zwaardere stem hebben in Washington.”

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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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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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SCOTTISH MORTGAGE MANAGER JAMES ANDERSON TALKS TO HEATHER FARMBROUGH ABOUT HOW RAPID ADVANCES IN TECHNOLOGY ARE HAVING AN IMPACT ON EVERYONE.

I interviewed Martin Jacques, the author of When China Rules the World, for Trust Online. He argues that in the West we are poor at understanding how the Chinese and other societies think and says that until we can, we won’t really understand major changes that are happening.

Yes, we have discussed this in Trust before – how economic growth and innovation are so dependent on education at all levels. I might have also talked to you before about the Swedish doctor, academic and statistician Hans Rosling, whom I admire tremendously. His website [www.gapminder.org] uses and animates data graphically to explore some of the world’s biggest trends. These animations show quite dramatically how countries like China and others can catch up and overtake incumbent powers in so many different ways. He uses education, health and longevity data as well as economic and GDP statistics.
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Retten die Chinesen den Schweizer Tourismus? Ihr wachsender Mittelstand sorgt derzeit für die bei weitem grössten Zuwachsraten aller Herkunftsländer.

Martin Jacques, in China hat in den letzten Jahrzehnten das grösste Wirtschaftswunder in der Geschichte der Menschheit stattgefunden – und wir im Westen nehmen es immer noch kaum zur Kenntnis. Weshalb?
Wir im Westen spüren, dass sich im Osten etwas Gewaltiges verändert. Aber wir haben grosse Mühe, es einzuordnen und zu verstehen. Vorherrschend ist eine zwiespältige Reaktion: Einerseits gibt es die weitverbreitete Überzeugung, dass der Westen am Ende ist. Andererseits gibt es nach wie vor die westliche Arroganz, dass sich alles um uns dreht. Schliesslich haben wir den Rest der Welt herumgeschubst, solange wir uns erinnern können.

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When China Rules the World: Martin Jacques explains to Heather Farmbrough why it is very much a case of when rather than if

As a Fellow at the LSE and visiting Professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing and a former deputy editor of Marxism Today and The Independent, Martin Jacques’ career has hardly been short of achievements. Yet it is hard to read his best-selling bookWhen China Rules the World and escape the feeling that this is the work of a lifetime.

Penguin has just launched a second edition, a monumental work at 636 pages with a new afterword and substantial revisions because so much has changed since the first edition, particularly since the global financial crisis.

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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