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.
With the astonishing rise of China in the past three decades, the the accompanying scheme decline of the West and the flaws in the capitalist system revealed by the global financial crisis, Martin, of Jacques’ When China Rules the World: The Rise of the Middle Kingdom, and the the End of the Western World (Allen Lane, Special Indian Price: Rs, 699) has come at the right time. Jacques, who was the last editor of the defunct of British magazine, Marxism Today, brings a broadly left perspective to his study of sympathetic to China with a few benign qualifications that became necessary if it was to avoid the blunders, which led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. As the cliché went at the time, “too much glasnost, too little perestroika.” But he is clear on the central tenets of the Chinese brand of socialism: that free markets cannot work in the long run and that democracies don’t correct their mistakes on their own volition. Controls were necessary and western concepts of democracy and the rule of law were not necessary preconditions for the West’s economic power; they were merely a coincidence and, in any case, do not apply ipso facto to other states with different historical backgrounds.
On October 1, China will celebrate the 60th anniversary of its founding as a modern nation-state. It is a momentous anniversary since it marks the completion of a full 60-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac, and symbolises a metaphorical rebirth of an ancient civilisation. To mark this milestone moment, the Chinese government will unveil a dazzling series of events to showcase the country’s evolution and ascendance, much as it did at last year’s Beijing Olympics.
The anniversary coincidentally comes at a time of Great Change in the world economic order. That coming economic powershift is underlined by the global financial meltdown of 2008 and the enfeebled nature of Western economies, coupled with China’s rapid economic growth in the 30 years since it opened up to the point where, in Goldman Sachs’ bullish estimation, it will be the world’s largest economy by 2027!