Reviews

When China Rules The World; The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order. Martin Jacques. Penguin Paperback. 2012. $20.

The U.S. public needs frequent reminders other places outside of the Middle East exist. Maybe I should not generalize. Perhaps I should say, “The U.S. media and news outlets need constant reminders places outside of the Middle East exist, AND will impact our lives far more than any terrorist group du jour may affect our lives.”  See, the U.S. government is too easily distracted by people and organizations who state as their goal to bring chaos and disorder to the United States. In making these comments, they actually bring chaos and disorder to the United States without really doing anything other than stringing together words which we interpret as threatening. Our politicians then dance like puppets. Jacques makes this point, sort of, very late into his 600+ page tome. While ISIS or some other organization may threaten the United States, and yes, someone might get hurt or killed, ISIS itself does not represent an “existential” threat to the United States, as Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. might want everyone to believe.

Martin Jacques brings to bear a ponderous amount evidence, insight, and a good amount of speculation to address the most important issue people are not talking about, nor is the U.S. government paying much attention to. China.

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Martin Jacques, who holds academic posts at the London School of Economics and Tsinghua Universtiy in Beijing, as well as being a former journalist and founder of the left leaning Demos think-tank has produced a fascinating book about how the world’s political and economic power has been shifting in the early twenty-first century and what is likely to happen next.

Jacques finishes his book with an unexpected flourish (which I am just about to ruin for you) in which he makes a good case for China’s predicted world dominance to become a reality sooner rather than later.  Through much of the book he refers to a Goldman Sachs prediction that China’s economy will overtake the United States (US) in 2025.  The reader is left to assume that this is the date on which the new world order will be finalised.  However, in this final section he points to the rapid implosion of all things American, suggesting that the impact of the 2007/2008 financial crisis on the US (and the Europe Union), together with US foreign policy which has had a myopic focus on the middle-east for the last decade, has left the field wide open for China.  He names 2008 as the year that marked the end, or at least the beginning of the end, of a period of US world dominance that has lasted since 1945 and has been unchallenged since the collapse of the Soviet Block in 1989-1991.

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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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When China Rules the World, by columnist and international relations expert Martin Jacques, was published in hardback in 2009 and has been selling like hot little pastries ever since. A new and expanded paperback edition, released by Penguin in 2012, is to be found in bookstores across the U.K. Not since Jung Chang and Jon Halliday’s Mao: The Unknown Story has a volume from the East Asian section of the U.K.’s literary emporiums, usually discreetly located near the fire exit or adjacent to the restrooms, generated enough attention to claim a spot on the bestsellers’ table.

In the preface to his second edition, Jacques expresses surprise and bewilderment at the popular reception of a work that was, no doubt, initially targeted at globetrotting academics on the international relations circuit. But clues to its popular appeal can be found even in the title, which boldly tolls the death bell of Western supremacy and signals the beginning of a new age of Chinese global dominance.

The title is not just a sensationalist label added to disguise the contents of yet another monotonous account of China’s economic recovery since the opening up and reforms of 1978. Jacques’s book really does do what it says on the tin, driving home how, in the years to come, China will reign supreme not only in terms of economic influence and military might, but also in the exportation of cultural and moral values. Is your child learning Mandarin? Jacques, needless to say, has already subjected his son to the tyranny of Chinese cramming school. We are advised to do the same.

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Updated for the paperback edition, When China Rules the World by Martin Jacques is beautifully written and incredibly challenging for most readers whose politics remain unaffected by the irresistible rise of China as a global power. If half of what Jacques claims for the significance of China to the 21st Century is proved to be correct then a fundamental rethink will be needed. This book provides the basis for such a process, an absolutely essential read.

- Mark Perryman is the co-founder of the self-styled ‘sporting outfitters of intellectual distinction’, aka Philosophy Football

China is on the rise, or better, China is regaining its true historical position. This is one of the great events of this century; the unstoppable march of history. This being clear, the only questions now to be asked are the following: Will China be the dominant power, one of several powers in multipolar world, or a part of a bipolar power grouping along with the US? What will the political, ideological and economic consequences be of the presence of the strong China in the world? And finally, how should the process be handled? These and similar questions form the main substance of two recent books, Henry Kissinger’s “On China” and Martin Jacques’ “When China Rules the World.” Both authors have much to say on the topic simply by virtue of being who they are. Kissinger needs no introduction, as a diplomatic veteran of Sino-American relations. Meanwhile Jacques is an academic and journalist; a former editor of Marxism Today who for many years lived and worked in Asia.

It is impossible to do justice to and analyze in depth both these lengthy books, each of well over 500 pages, within the limited space provided here. Three main topics common to both books therefore form the focus of this review: differences in strategic thinking between China and the West; cultural differences; and predictions and proposals posed the by authors on the future of China’s position in the world and relations with the West.

Both Jacques’s and Kissinger’s books are excellent in their own way, and even readers without much prior knowledge of China will have no problem following them. Missing points are there, but when dealing with a country of such size and history, obviously many things will have to pass unmentioned. A reader might wonder why, for example, Kissinger says little about Chinese sovereign wealth fund investments in the US or cyber security, and why Jacques seems to be almost inviting and applauding the demise of the West and the rise of multiple modernities. Further, the reader reading both books consecutively will not be able to sideline a not-so-explicit message: At times it seems that neither Jacques nor Kissinger are totally certain, if it is indeed possible to be so, of the internal cohesion and the stability of China. How will, for example, China deal with Muslim-populated Xinjiang province? And what about social cohesion in the event class differences and differences between the urban and rural populations in Chinese society turn out to be too big a problem to deal with? These and other questions will have to answered by other books, but these volumes from Jacques and Kissinger are excellent places to start inquiring about the great country and a society that is China.

When China Rules The World: The End Of The Western World And The Birth Of A New Global Order
Author: Martin Jacques
Publisher: Penguin, 848 pages

SKEWED as they may be, reactionary Orientalist perspectives of East Asian realities remain the norm in Western punditry and news reports. The problem has become prevalent in both conservative and liberal circles.

The problem for the West itself is that such a persistent misperception of modern China may undermine Western interests further. Martin Jacques’ When China Rules The World: The End Of The Western World And The Birth Of A New Global Order is intended largely as a corrective, looking at the historic phenomenon of China’s grand return to the global stage in China’s own terms.

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Henry Kissinger, On China. New York: Penguin Press, 2011, pp. 608, ISBN 978 1 5942 0271 1.

Martin Jacques, When China Rules the World: The Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the End of the Western World. London: Allen Lane, 2009, pp. 576, ISBN 978 0 7139 9254 0.

The two books by Henry Kissinger and Martin Jacques remind me of European writings on China during the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries. Whether reported by commercial or military officials operating off the coasts of China or by Jesuits working in the Qing court, they focused on the wealth and power of that empire. Some outlined ways of managing a relationship that would profit their masters back in Europe; others were impressed by how the Chinese governed their peoples and sought to understand the values which made that state so strong.
For the next 200 years, the story was largely different. From respect and some degree of awe, attitudes shifted to increasing contempt for a system that was decaying. Writings described the people as poor and divided, confused by the empires and ideologies that competed for attention, and chastened by knowing that their civilisation was inferior to one based on science and industrial capitalism. There was also pity for an industrious people who had been let down by incompetent leaders. Even the Chinese themselves began to believe that their civilisation was doomed and only violent revolution could save their country.
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Martin Jacques has only a few doubts that the Middle Kingdom will soon be the centre of the world. The title of his book is provocative. What this British journalist actually predicts is a “new kind of world system in which China is the main player — but not to the exclusion of the rest of the world.” What is more important to him is the need for the world, especially the West, to get a grip of what the return of China to a position of global preeminence will mean. Superpower China will not be a West that happens to speak funny.

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