Reviews

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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Despite the unequivocal title of Martin Jacques’ large and detailed tome on China and its impending superpower status, we do not get a definitive statement of what a Sinocentric unipolar future will be like, if such a thing eventuates. Martin Jacques is too alert to the risks of prophesying to offer such a thing, at least in literal terms. But he is quite sure — and surely right — that China is rapidly becoming a superpower, and he thinks that its history, culture and unique form of modernity give some indications of what its superpowerdom will mean to the rest of us.

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Experts agree that China’s economy appears likely to become the world’s largest within two decades. But in the provocatively titled When China Rules the World, British journalist Martin Jacques goes much further.

He argues that within 50 years China will quite likely become an economic, political, and cultural colossus, displacing the United States as the world’s leading power. As a correspondent in China in the 1980s and ’90s, I learned how difficult it is to predict this vast country’s future. Anything other than short-term predictions can go badly wrong.

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A stimulating yet ultimately flawed portrait of a China-dominated world

Martin Jacques, academic and former editor of Marxism Today, is a big fan of the Chinese development model. In his new book, When China Rules the World: The Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the End of the Western World, Jacques makes the provocative argument that China is not only set to rise in stature within the current system, but in fact will overturn the system and reconfigure it according to essential Chinese principles.

The thesis is stimulating and the book well-written, but it falls short of convincing to those who do not already share the statist premise.

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Martin Jacques’ work, When China Rules the World, is an important one. It argues that the global order is in the process of rapid and fundamental changes. China, as a new economic giant, will begin to be much more influential, particularly in East and Southeast Asia, but also globally. This will necessarily result in major changes in the international economic and political order [1].

From the above summary, When China Rules the World might be thought to be one of a series of such cautionary analyses of the “rise of China.” However, this work is very different. Jacques argues not that China is on the rise, but that it is re-attaining the dominant position it has usually enjoyed in the world economy. In making this argument, Jacques redefines many critical issues. For example, most Western analysis prefers to see the brief period of Western world domination as a natural result of cultural superiority. That is, the Judeo-Christian tradition produced a culture uniquely capable of rapid advances in science, exploration, and business, whereas non-Western countries like China were doomed to backwardness, unless, of course, they adopted Western institutions.

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Historians may someday debate whether the financial crisis that began a year ago is most notable for how much damage it did to the United States, or how little it inflicted on the world’s major rising power, China. Helped by huge state intervention and buoyant optimism almost surreally undiminished by the crisis of confidence across the Pacific, China has had a very good downturn. It is closing the gap with the world’s most developed economies faster than anticipated and could overtake Japan as the world’s second-largest economy when the final figures for last year are tallied.

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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。

书的标题回答了许多人从来不认为是个问题的问题:西方(先是欧洲,然后是美国)占据了很久的世界主导地位是否终于行将结束,人类进入中国主导世界的时代?杰克斯看来答案很清楚。
经济实力是政治、军事和文化实力的基础,而根据投资银行高盛的预计,再过十多年中国就将取代美国成为世界头号经济强国,到2050年中国经济的规模将扩大到美国的两倍。
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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The start of a century seems to demand prognostications. One hundred years ago, the rise of Germany, the nation most determined to change the international status quo, caught the attention of European journalists, academics and writers of speculative fiction. How would an ascendant Germany reshape the world? Was it to be war or peace?

Martin Jacques, a British journalist, editor of volumes on British politics, and long-serving former editor of Marxism Today, invites us to consider this century’s future with China. His basic argument is threefold. First, China is rapidly becoming an economically advanced state. Given its continental size and 1.3 billion people, we should reasonably expect it to be the world’s leading economy in 20 to 50 years. Moreover, “given its scale and speed, China’s economic transformation is surely the most extraordinary in human history.”

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Attention last-minute holiday shoppers! We have an easy-to-purchase gift to recommend. And we guarantee that it will fit all sizes, shapes and tastes.

This is assuming your intended recipients are intelligent, literate and eager to learn about the world. For as your intellectually slothful friends (if any), we recommend you just keep off your list entirely. Why waste your (presumably) hard-earned money on them? Let them spend their holiday watching football or something.

The answer to your gift-list problem is to buy your friends a book on China—in fact, any book on China, or any two or even three books. You absolutely cannot go wrong. In the last year not one book on China has been published in the US that’s not worth buying and reading. This is a serious statement.

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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