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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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 considers how China has become a challenge to the West and is reshaping the global economy, but may not replace the US if it cannot make further cultural and institutional breakthrough.Ting Xu recommends this book to anyone interested in not only China and its future, but also the future of the West and the global world.

Martin Jacques is a highly distinguished British scholar, writer and columnist. When China Rules the World, first published in 2009, is among his most important publications. Since then the book has been translated into eleven languages, and sold nearly a quarter of a million copies worldwide. The book’s focus on Asian modernity and the rise of China as a global power is of course highly relevant for contemporary concerns and interests in globalisation, as well as its implications for evaluating an evolution from the economic and geopolitical ‘great divergence’ to the recent rapid ‘convergence’ between China and the West. Jacques argues that the rise of China has not followed the Western model of a transition to modernity and will challenge the global dominance of the Western nation-state. China, as a ‘civilisation-state’, will soon rule the world. Its impact will be not only economic but also cultural, leading to a global future of ‘contested modernity’.

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Martin Jacques’s thesis – that China will become the dominant global power within decades, and it won’t become more westernised but will make the rest of the world more Chinese – is hard to dispute, and if one felt like disputing it one would soon be discouraged by the weight of evidence in the form of statistics, graphs, surveys and analysis Jacques brings to bear.

Reading this made me aware of my ignorance – I didn’t know the Chinese invented steam power before James Watt. At times I could wish the explanations crisper – Jacques repeatedly says that China is a “civilisation-state”, not a nation-state, and I would love to have the difference neatly explicated. But Jacques’s erudition is impressive – and persuasive.

– Brandon Robshaw

The expanded paperback edition of Jacques’ highly sympathetic assessment of China clearly places this “civilization state” (as opposed to nation state) in the context of east Asian economic history.

Jacques’ central thesis is that, although China was late to industrialise and is still developing, its exponential economic growth is supported by two millennia of broad political unity.

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This article examines how recent books by academics and public intellectuals are reshaping the discourse of the rise of China. While earlier trends argued that China was being socialized into the norms of international society, many texts now proclaim that due to its unique civilization, China will follow its own path to modernity. Such books thus look to the pastChinas imperial historyfor clues to not only Chinas future, but also the worlds future. This discourse, which could be called Sino-speak,presents an essentialized Chinese civilization that is culturally determined to rule Asia, if not the world. The article notes that nuanced readings of Chinas historical relations with its East Asian neighbors provide a critical entry into a more sophisticated analysis of popular declarations of Chinese exceptionalism.But it concludes that this critical analysis is largely overwhelmed by the wave of Sino-speak. 

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When China Rules the World: The Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the End of the Western World by Martin Jacques
Allen Lane, 550 pp, £30.00, June 2009, ISBN 978 0 7139 9254 0

Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics: Entrepreneurship and the State by Yasheng Huang
Cambridge, 348 pp, £15.99, November 2008, ISBN 978 0 521 89810 2

Against the Law: Labour Protests in China’s Rustbelt and Sunbelt by Ching Kwan Lee
California, 325 pp, £15.95, June 2007, ISBN 978 0 520 25097 0


These days Orientalism has a bad name. Edward Said depicted it as a deadly mixture of fantasy and hostility brewed in the West about societies and cultures of the East. He based his portrait on Anglo-French writing about the Near East, where Islam and Christendom battled with each other for centuries before the region fell to Western imperialism in modern times. But the Far East was always another matter. Too far away to be a military or religious threat to Europe, it generated tales not of fear or loathing, but wonder. Marco Polo’s reports of China, now judged mostly hearsay, fixed fabulous images that lasted down to Columbus setting sail for the marvels of Cathay. But when real information about the country arrived in the 17th and 18th centuries, European attitudes towards China tended to remain an awed admiration, rather than fear or condescension. From Bayle and Leibniz to Voltaire and Quesnay, philosophers hailed it as an empire more civilised than Europe itself: not only richer and more populous, but more tolerant and peaceful, a land where there were no priests to practise persecution and offices of the state were filled according to merit, not birth. Even those sceptical of the more extravagant claims for the Middle Kingdom – Montesquieu or Adam Smith – remained puzzled and impressed by its wealth and order.

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英国资深媒体人,专栏作家马丁·杰克斯(Martin Jacques)2009年出版的《中国统治世界之时:中央王国的崛起和西方世界的终结》(When China Rules the World: The Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the End of the Western World)激起很大反响。

杰克斯认为,假以时日,中国不会变得更西方化;世界将变得更中国化。中国作为一个“文明-国家”(civilisation state),它主宰下的世界会是什么样呢?到目前为止没有多少人真正思考过。世界并没有对此作好准备。

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