New Globalisation and China’s Greater Bay Area

Understanding China Conference organised by the International Department of China Institute for Innovation and Development Strategy (CIIDS)

Speaker and Participant

25-27 October 2019

Guangzhou, China

Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area: New Horizon for China’s Reform and Opening-up, New Practice of ‘One Country, Two Systems’, and New Platform for Win-Win Cooperation”.

International Forum organised by the Hong Kong SAR Government and the Office of the Commissioner of China’s Foreign Ministry

Speaker and Participant

24 October 2019

Hong Kong Ocean Park Marriott Hotel, Hong Kong

‘This is Tomorrow’

Symposium organised by the University of Bath Institute for Policy Research (IPR)

Keynote One: Beginnings of a New World Order: The Rise of China

Chair: Professor Nick Pearce, IPR

10.10-11.10, 12 September 2019

Arts Lecture Theatre, The Edge, University of Bath

Mining Conference

Keynote Speaker: China, The Philippines and a New World Order

Other speakers include the Cabinet Secretary, the Chairman of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, and the Former Dean of the Asian Center, University of the Philippines

14.00-18.00, 10 September 2019

Manila, Philippines

Special Session of the China Development Forum 2019

Luncheon Speaker alongside CDF Secretary General LU Mai and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman on the topic of US-China relations

6 September 2019

Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, Beijing

By Invitation Only

Intesa San Paolo Meets the Gurus

China and the New World Order

Martin Jacques in conversation with Gregorio De Felice, Enrico Pagliarini and Giacomo Biraghi

Wednesday 24 July 2019

Milan, Italy

Private Event

 

The following interview with Martin Jacques originally appeared in the New Internationalist.

Yohann Koshy: How did China respond to the global financial crisis?

Martin Jacques: It was essentially a Western crisis but China had to respond because the American and European markets, on which it was quite dependent, went down very badly initially and [it did this] by having a huge stimulus programme. It pumped very large amounts of money into the economy and the consequence was that Chinese growth went down slightly but remained very high. It was pushing 9 and 10 per cent during this period and, in fact, went up to 12 and 13 per cent.

In the longer period, basically what happened was a serious attempt to shift the centre of gravity of the Chinese economy. In 1978, China’s economy was a 20th the size of the US economy. The reforms over the following decades were about becoming an export-driven economy, dependent on cheap labour that came from powerful migratory movements from the countryside to the main cities, with, of course, very strong input from the state.

But since the financial crisis the shift has been towards an economy that is increasingly dependent on domestic rather than foreign consumption, with much greater dependence on research and development, and with a lower growth rate. The new norm for a growth rate is between 6.5 and 7 per cent, which China has maintained to this day. But when the economy is growing at that rate, given the size of the whole country, the global impact is still enormous: China’s been responsible, since the Western financial crisis, for somewhere between 40 and 50 per cent of global growth. Without the Chinese economy, the global economy would be in a mess.

Could China be going down the route of financialization like the Western economies? Blackrock, the huge hedge fund, was recently granted a licence to start operating there.

Well, I don’t think the Blackrock announcement itself constitutes anything like that. I think the Chinese will very strongly resist going down that path. Of course, they need a strong financial sector. They will need to develop capital markets [financial venues where cash can be raised for investment]. But the thing is that the Chinese economy is very different to the US economy. It’s still got tremendous manufacturing capacity and emphasis on the importance of scientific and technical labour. The state is very fundamental to the way in which the Chinese economy works. They’ve also been much more able to deal with special interests in the way the Western economies haven’t. The banking sector became [dominant] within Western societies during the neoliberal period from the late 1970s through to the financial crash. It seems to me there’s very little evidence of this happening in China.

And when Mark Carney says he’s worried about shadow banking in China…

The main debt problem in China is corporate debt. The state-banking system, but also to some extent the shadow banking system, has built up indebtedness because it’s sometimes over-lent to schemes, plans and investments which weren’t that sound, and that has increased. But it is not, like the US or Britain, the state which is indebted… So it’s a problem but it’s an internal, rather than external problem. What really did for the smaller Asian economies during the Asian financial crisis [in the 1990s] was that they held major assets in foreign currencies and suddenly, as their currencies fell, their debts increased rapidly.

Also, the Chinese population itself is not indebted. They tend to have very big savings, which is one of the reasons behind the country’s financial strength… You have to say that the economic management of the Chinese economy has been quite remarkable. They’ve gone for 35 years without a serious crisis. Compare that with the West!

A key development since the crash is China creating the New Development Bank and Asian Infrastructure Development Bank, which even Britain and Germany signed up to – much to US displeasure. Why are they creating these alternatives to the World Bank and the IMF?

After 2007-08, the Chinese realized… they couldn’t rely on the interests of US economy and the global economy being aligned. They had to develop their own institutions. The Americans had also dragged their feet on reforms to the IMF because they wanted to retain control of it.

In this situation you don’t want institutions like the IMF and World Bank, which are essentially Western institutions whose primary function is serving Western economies. You need something with a much more expansive and inclusive view of the world… This is why we’ve seen the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank, the New Development Bank (the BRICS bank), and we’re going to see a much bigger development of this altogether with the Belts & Road initiative [a massive infrastructure programme that aims to improve connectivity between Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australasia]. The vehicle for the global transformation for the next period will be this Belts & Road initiative.

I understand why Chinese investment has been welcomed by governments. However, in Ecuador there are indigenous communities protesting against rapacious Chinese mining companies. In Gambia, local fishers are being crowded out by Chinese firms. At a moral and political level, how should China deal with these struggles? Because there is no development without conflict.

You’re right: there is always conflict in development. China has, with great speed, developed a presence in many different developing countries. On the one hand, this has led to growing demand for commodity producers [in poorer countries] – from oil to metals like iron ore – and that’s had a powerful effect on their economies. On the other hand, China is also extremely competitive in lots of industries and this can have negative effects. There are plenty of examples where China on the low-end of manufacturing has out-competed with firms in the developing world that haven’t got the scale and level of investment to compete.

In terms of the relationship with places like Africa and southeast Asia, Chinese companies have been a major factor in developing the beginnings of a serious manufacturing capacity in places like Ethiopia, which by and large never really had one before. I think that China’s relationship with Africa has been basically very positive. I’m not saying there haven’t been problems. For example, there is a lot of resentment about Chinese companies bringing Chinese labour into some of the infrastructural developments. But the reason I think it’s been broadly positive is that China was a new source of demand for commodity producers in Africa. That means they were no longer just dependent on Western demand; it became a competitive market, which bid up the price of commodities during that period and meant that they were in a better economic situation.

Secondly, and this is why I deeply resent the argument that China is the new colonial power in Africa, China understands the problem of developing countries. One of the big problems is developing infrastructure that delivers transportation, energy and the necessary building blocks of a more developed economy. What China has done in all the major countries in Africa is to provide road systems, railways and so on. For the Chinese it’s all about development.

China has not always behaved well. If you take Myanmar, it got far too close to the military regime [that is persecuting the Rohingya] and a weakness of the Chinese is… [that they often arrive in new countries without being] sufficiently sensitive to local opinion. That has definitely happened in Myanmar and Sri Lanka. So those kind of tensions are real and important. And no doubt the Chinese will make many more mistakes. The question is whether they learn from them. So now they’re learning how to deal with civil society in other countries because they don’t have a civil society in the same way as most countries.

Let’s end with the US. There is growing bellicosity between the two superpowers. However, their economies are also dependent on each other. China owns more US debt, in the form of Treasury bonds, than any other country, which in turn allows the US to spend beyond its means and buy China’s products. Is this sustainable?

The difficulty in the West is the inability to make sense of China. Listen to the BBC’s Today Programme, read The Guardian: there is little sense of this shift in the world. How many articles have there been on the Belt & Road initiative, which is the most important global project of this era?

Ironically, Trump was the first leading US politician to recognize US decline: this is the premise of ‘Make America Great Again’. He is, however, deluded in the belief that he can reverse it. I do think there is going to be a trade war, but nothing will [reverse China’s rise]. These are deep historical forces at work, just like the rise of Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries were deep historical trends. So America has to come to terms with the rise of China and renegotiate its relationship with China. At the heart of any answer to your question is this: how is the West going to handle its own relative decline?

Martin Jacques, former editor of Marxism Today, is the author of When China Rules the World (Penguin).

This article, by Modesto P. Sa-Onoy, was published in the Daily Guardian, 16th May 2018

CHINA has reportedly installed facilities for a missile strike in the Philippine’s side of the disputed South China Sea. The Philippine Navy estimates that the facilities can be operational in three months. Pro-Chinese Filipino officials claim that the missiles are not pointed at the Philippines as if the missile launching pads are stuck to one direction. The Philippine Navy said they have interceptors, but how many? Are they enough to prevent missiles from devastating the country?

For years China has set its eyes on the Philippine Sea that had been proven in the international court to be Philippine territory but China refuses to accept that decision and uses its military might to bully the Philippines from enforcing its rights.

Now it is using its economic clout to entice the Philippines not to outright demand the removal of its missiles but to just keep on making statements against them. In return it has befriended President Duterte with offers of economic aid, loans and investments. But as one commentator warned, “don’t trust China with those financial offers.” But Duterte wants to be close to China as a counter-balance to the US that he accuses of unfriendly acts for the US criticisms of Duterte’s human rights record.

China needs to expand to survive and the Philippines is an easy target – close, weak and “friendly”. Martin Jacques whose 2009 book, “When China Rules the World” I had quoted before, has a grim assessment of China’s rapid development that bears on this subject of expansionism.

“China is increasingly dependent on the rest of the world for the huge quantities of raw materials that it needs for its economic growth. It is already the world’s largest buyer of copper, the second biggest buyer of iron ore, the third largest buyer of alumina. It absorbs close to a third of global supply of coal, steel and cotton, and almost half of its cement. It is the second largest energy consumer after the US, with nearly 70 per cent produced from burning coal. In 2005, China used more coal than the US, India and Russian combined. In 2004 it accounted for nearly 40 per cent of the increase in the world demand for oil. If the Chinese was to continue to expand at 8 per cent a year in the future, its income per head would reach the current US level in 2031, at which it would consume the equivalent of two-thirds of current world grain harvest and its demand for paper would double the world’s current production. If it were to enjoy the same level of per capita car ownership as the US does today,  it would have 1.1 billion cars compared with the worldwide total of 800 million; and it would use 99 million barrels of oil a day compared with a worldwide total of production of 84 million barrels per day in 2006. Of course, such a level of demand would be unsustainable in terms of the world’s available resources, not to mention its global environmental impact, which is dire.”

These are not just estimates but projections and we are already feeling the impact of China’s needs. The Western countries were able to expand their economies without harming or exhausting their natural resources because they had colonies to provide the raw materials and absorb their outputs. Japan had the same idea at the turn of the 20th century and embarked on expansionism in 1936 with its slogan, “East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere”, its euphemism for Japanese colonies like the Philippines.

Martin’s book was published nine years ago and we are now seeing the movement of China to expand and secure a new kind of colonies, dissimilar to the concept and methods as the Western colonizers but colonization nevertheless.

A few years ago a report said that China wanted to lease one million hectares in the Philippines that it will cultivate for food production. That is not for local consumption but to help feed the billions of Chinese. Although China has large tracts of land not all are suitable for agriculture and their water source for agriculture is limited. It must expand.

A report said that real estate prices in the Philippines are rising fast; one reason is that Chinese investors are buying land. Caveat emptor is still an excellent policy.

Modesto P. Sa-Onoy

Earlier this year, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography published its entry for Stuart Hall, written by Martin Jacques. The entry is reproduced here with kind permission of the ODNB and the OUP, and can also be accessed through their website.

Hall, Stuart McPhail (1932–2014), cultural theorist and political commentator, was born on 3 February 1932 in Kingston, Jamaica, the son of Herman McPhail Hall, accountant, and his wife, Jessie. He was of mixed African, Scottish, and Portuguese descent. He had a brother and sister, both of whom were older than him.

Kingston, Jamaica

Hall grew up in Kingston. His brown-skinned father rose to become the chief accountant of the Jamaican subsidiary of the American giant United Fruit. His fair-skinned wife (Hall’s mother) never worked outside the home but treated the family as her personal fiefdom. Hall, for his part, had by far the darkest skin in the family. The family was relatively well heeled, with servants, a large bungalow house, and an ample-sized garden. His parents strongly identified with the colonial system, looking down upon the lower classes and those of darker skin. Hall’s sister, Pat, who was five years older, became a victim of her mother’s outlook. Pat had a black boyfriend, a medical student at the University College of the West Indies: her mother ordered the relationship to end on the grounds of his colour and origins, and, as a consequence, Patsuffered a serious mental breakdown from which she made only a fragile recovery. Hallwas traumatized by what happened to his sister.

At the age of eleven Hall won a scholarship to Jamaica College, one of the top secondary schools in the colony, where he received an overwhelmingly Anglocentric education containing no Caribbean literature. He became increasingly ostracized from his family and what he describes as ‘their cringing display of a desire for social recognition’ (HallFamiliar Stranger, 51). As he grew older he became increasingly aware that there were two Jamaicas, that of his family who owed allegiance to the colonial order, and that of the overwhelming black majority who lived in abject poverty. In 1938 the ‘other’ Jamaica rebelled in a major uprising that was to spell the beginning of the end of the colonial era. At home this Jamaica was never allowed entry, apart, that is, from the servants. But at Jamaica College and through his journeys around the Jamaican countryside Hall came into growing contact with the other Jamaica. Like many of his background he came to reject the colonial system: at home he felt an outsider, unable to accept the values of his mother, who continued to think of England as her home even though she had never lived there.

Hall was chosen as Jamaica’s Rhodes scholar of his year and won a place at Merton College, Oxford. In 1951 he left Jamaica and set sail for Britain, believing that once he had completed his studies he would return to Jamaica. Independence, meanwhile, was still some way off: it was not achieved until 1962Hall, thus, was a product of colonial rather than post-colonial Jamaica. He was already troubled and perplexed about his identity: the conflict between his pro-colonial family and the growing rejection of colonialism by his peer group at Jamaica College, with many of his generation from such élite schools subsequently becoming key figures in the fight for independence and later in the newly independent country, provoked much reflection on his part. Who was he? How to place himself? He went to England hoping that he might find some answers.

Oxford and the Universities and Left Review

Almost on arrival Hall realized that he was not English and never could be. He found Oxford an alien environment. He was the only black student at Merton and there were precious few in the university. Initially he experienced no overt racism; ‘there were so few of us’, he wrote later, ‘we were regarded as oddities, quaint, rather than embodying any kind of threat … But I was conscious all the time that I was very, very differentbecause of my race and colour’ (HallFamiliar Stranger, 158). The situation changed later, by which time he had become a graduate student, when West Indians—the Windrush generation—began to be employed on the buses in Oxford in large numbers. One day, not long after arriving in England, Hall saw large numbers of West Indians at Paddington Station. They were too poorly dressed to be tourists. Who were they and what were they doing? They were, of course, early migrants. From that moment, he recalled, everything looked different. He and they were from very different backgrounds, ‘but’, as he wrote later, ‘we belonged to the same historical moment’ (ibid., 44).

Hall read English at Oxford. As a boy he dreamed of being a poet, then later a novelist, though that idea rapidly faded at Oxford. He graduated in 1954 and stayed on to work for a DPhil degree, choosing Henry James as his doctoral subject. He had always had eclectic tastes in the visual arts, music, and literature, spanning both cultures and centuries. He went to the cinema several times a week and played piano in a jazz band. He became increasingly interested in British politics and in culture. He never completed the DPhil. In 1957 he moved to London. Oxford was never his kind of place: too white, too stiff, too establishment, too upper-class, too ‘English’. Oxbridge held no attraction for him, then or subsequently: for him they were places to avoid rather than be attracted to. His new locales of Brixton and Soho were far more to his taste. The move, more or less coinciding with his editorship of Universities and Left Review, was to mark the beginning of a major turning point in his life.

In 1957 Hall had become the joint founding editor of the Universities and Left Review, soon to be renamed the New Left Review. In the aftermath of the convulsive events of 1956—the Hungarian uprising, the Suez débâcle, and Khrushchev’s revelations about Stalin’s crimes at the Twentieth Congress of the Soviet Communist Party—a new space opened up on the left based on the rejection of both the American and Soviet camps. He went on the first Aldermaston march in 1958 and became extremely active in both the ‘new left’ and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, devoting most of his time to them. He taught English at Stockwell secondary modern school and later was a lecturer in film and mass media studies at Chelsea College, part of London University. A major preoccupation of the Universities and Left Review (and the New Left Review) was how to understand and analyse cultural change, and especially popular culture. Hall later described this period as the beginning of cultural studies, a discipline in which, from the outset, he was to play such a decisive role.

Another of Hall’s great concerns also began to take shape during this period. In 1958, exactly ten years after the arrival of the first West Indian migrants on the Empire Windrush and seven years after Hall’s own arrival in the UK, the white riots took place in Notting Hill and Nottingham, a response to the growing presence of West Indian migrants. The overwhelmingly dominant British response to colonial migration had been one of incomprehension and ignorance. As Hall wrote: ‘Their histories, and their long historical entanglements with Britain, disappeared from daily consciousness. Who are these people? Where are they from? What language do they speak? And, above all, what on earth are they doing here?’ (HallFamiliar Stranger, 185). He argued: ‘Post-war racism in Britain begins with … profound forgetfulness … The history of empire really does seem … to have fallen out of mind. It is judged impolite and faintly anachronistic even to mention it’ (ibid., 186, 195).

In 1963 Hall met Catherine Mary Barrett (b. 1946), a young Yorkshirewoman about to go to university. After a number of unsatisfactory relationships, he was at a low ebb. He fell for Catherine immediately and, notwithstanding their age gap of fourteen years and the fact that he was black and she was white, which was most unusual at the time, they married on 15 December 1964. In his autobiographical Familiar Stranger (2017), he touchingly recounted: ‘She must have understood something about me. Early in our courtship I kept her waiting for nearly two hours outside a West End cinema to see Antonioni’s L’Avventura while I was at a CND committee meeting. When I finally arrived, she was still waiting’ (HallFamiliar Stranger, 268). Theirs was a lifelong union of almost fifty years. Family—they had two children, Becky (b. 1969) and Jess (b. 1971)—was very important to Hall. He took immense pride in Catherine’s later emergence as a distinguished historian and the fact that in their latter years together she knew more about Jamaica and slavery than he did.

Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies

In 1964 Hall was invited by Richard Hoggart to become a research fellow at the new Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at Birmingham University. In 1968 he became its acting director and from 1973 to 1979 its director. He was now an academic, a description he always eschewed. He was indeed no ordinary academic. In almost every sense, the centre was highly original and unconventional. It was run on a shoestring. Although it made Birmingham University famous, the university authorities were seemingly embarrassed by it. Its intellectual output was prodigious, pouring out a succession of books, papers, monographs, and articles. Hall, of course, was at the core of everything, the éminence grise, except he shunned the limelight and his own writings invariably took the form of collaborations with others, mainly his graduate students. This was Hall’s preferred mode of writing. Extraordinary as it might seem, though there are many books that bear his name—and of which he was the architect—there is not one single book that carries his name alone. Inspirational as he was, he was ever supportive, approachable, encouraging, sharing, sympathetic, open, and democratic.

The Birmingham centre became synonymous with cultural studies. Before the centre existed, ‘culture’ was a somewhat rarefied term that was relatively seldom used. More than any other institution the centre was responsible for changing that situation. The term ‘culture’ became ubiquitous: seemingly everyone began to use it. Hall held that culture was fundamental to an understanding of everyday life, societal change, and politics. He saw it as an overarching concept, multidisciplinary in nature, and in popular rather than élitist terms. In that context, he was influenced by Raymond Williams and especially the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci. Following Gramsci, he was above all interested in culture because of its crucial relationship with politics and power rather than culture in the abstract or cultural studies for their own sake. For this reason, indeed, he became increasingly critical of much in the discipline of cultural studies in the latter phase of his life. Such was the success of Hall’s cultural studies that it not only embraced other disciplines such as sociology, politics, literary theory, and cultural anthropology, but also partially displaced at least some. He respected other disciplines but also maintained a not misplaced scepticism. He said, ‘We … live in a period when many of the existing paradigms established … within traditional intellectual disciplines either no longer in themselves adequately correspond to the problems we have to resolve, or require supplementing from other disciplines’ (Hall, ‘Through the prism of an intellectual life’, 276). Tellingly, he added, ‘I have never been able to be satisfied with working from within a single discipline’ (ibid.). He became a hugely influential figure in cultural studies, not only in the UK but around the world, his name almost synonymous with the field. To name but one of his multitude of articles, his essay on television—‘Encoding and decoding in the television discourse’, which was originally given as a paper at a conference at the University of Leicester in 1973, and subsequently published by the Birmingham centre the same year—was to enjoy a huge impact. In this, taking issue with the prevalent mass communications model, he argued that the meaning of a message is never fixed or transparent, and that the recipient ‘decodes’ the message according to his or her personal background, social situation, and frame of interpretation. Moreover, he underlined the ‘performative’ nature of media messages, such that through repeated retelling, socially and culturally specific interpretations have the ability to become dominant, widely accepted, and hegemonic.

Of the centre’s vast output on youth culture, crime, the media, gender, race, the post-colonial, and much else besides, its most important publication was Policing the Crisis, published in 1978 and, typically, with five authors including Hall himself. It began by analysing the moral panic in the 1970s around the mugging of white people by young black men, showing that there was actually no rise in such crime. It explained how this provoked social anxiety about how communities were changing, strengthened the view that Britishness was synonymous with whiteness, and convinced many of the socially excluded that the cause of their deprivation was race not poverty. It traced the central place of race in the rise of the ‘new right’ and the other issues that helped to shape it. In its wide-ranging character, its ability to articulate the various elements that were together shaping a new political conjuncture, it was a profoundly important book.

In 1979 Hall was appointed professor of sociology at the Open University. His choice was unsurprising. He was attracted by the possibility of teaching those who otherwise, as often older and working people, would probably never have had the opportunity to embark on a university education. But there was also another reason. Hall was a brilliant communicator: a wonderful lecturer, a mesmerizing speaker, and a natural on television. The Open University used television as one of its modes of communication, something that attracted Hall, as did the summer schools and the creation of the study guide books that were typically creative and collaborative. He eventually retired from this, his last academic post, in 1998.

Marxism Today and Thatcherism

In the autumn of 1978 the editor of Marxism TodayMartin Jacques, approached Hall to write an article on the rise of the new right. The resulting article, ‘The great moving right show’, was published in the January 1979 issue. It was to prove one of the most important and influential articles written on British politics since the Second World War. It broke the established mode of political writing. Drawing on his work at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies and in particular Policing the CrisisHallargued that the aim of the new right—in the article Hall used the term ‘Thatcherism’ for the first time, over four months before the election of Margaret Thatcher—was to break the impasse in British politics that had endured throughout the 1970s. More fundamentally, he contended that the new right was a new kind of political formation that was determined to undermine the social democratic consensus that had prevailed since 1945, and which was now historically exhausted, and replace it with a very different order. He recognized the populist appeal of the new right’s themes: the efficacy of the market, the inadequacy of the state, law and order, a growing reaction against the unions, the appeal of individualism as opposed to collectivism. It was politics of a new type that widened and transformed what was meant by the political and that was to leave the left on the defensive and increasingly beleaguered. These themes were to become the new common sense but when Hall wrote the article at the end of 1978, they were, from any viewpoint on the political spectrum, breathtakingly novel. Nor should the opposition on the left to Hall’s arguments be underestimated: indeed it took the left most of the next decade and longer even to begin to understand what Hall was trying to say.

The article proved remarkably prophetic, anticipating not simply Thatcher’s ten years in power but more importantly the neo-liberal era that was to last well over thirty years. What lay behind his insight? Hall drew heavily on the work of GramsciHall’s central concepts in this context were ‘conjuncture’ and ‘hegemony’. The central theme of his political writing, and much of his cultural writing too, was conjunctural analysis. Heavily influenced by Marx as he was, his main argument with much Marxist writing was its belief in the inevitability of history, or politics with guarantees, which served to downplay greatly the role of politics, culture, and much else, in contrast to the economic. He rejected the idea of certainty and placed great emphasis on the role of contingency. He wrote: ‘I shifted from thinking of theory as the search for the certainty of all embracing totalities … to the necessity of recognising the power of contingency in all historical processes and explanations’ (S. HallCultural Studies 1983: A Theoretical History, 2016, 76). It was impossible in his view to understand the nature of a conjuncture narrowly in terms of politics, but rather the latter had to be seen in terms of its articulation with culture, race, gender, sexuality, identity, the environment, and law and order, to mention a few. He saw Thatcherism as a hegemonic force which successfully addressed the new political conjuncture that had been evolving for over a decade and, as a result, was able completely to redraw the nature of British politics.

From 1979 to the magazine’s closure at the end of 1991 Hall wrote many articles for Marxism Today, the majority of which were concerned with the nature of Thatcherism and neo-liberalism. The fact that Marxism Today became the most influential political publication in Britain in the 1980s owed a very great deal to Hall’s writing along with that of the historian Eric Hobsbawm. At the many events organized by the magazine, Hall was always a star attraction. He was a quite brilliant speaker, engaging, conversational, witty, and always intellectually stimulating. During this period he also co-edited two books with Jacques, with whom he enjoyed an extremely close relationship, that were based on articles that had appeared in Marxism Today, namely The Politics of Thatcherism (1983) and New Times (1989).

When New Labour came to power in 1997Hall had no illusions about what it would be like. In April 1997, just before the election, he and Jacques wrote an article for TheObserver arguing that:

[the] fundamental point of departure [of New Labour] is that the last 18 years of Conservative government constitute the new natural law. The Tories’ philosophy, their dynamic, their logic, their legacy are regarded as untouchable and unquestionable. It has become New Labour’s common sense.

(The Observer, 13 April 1997)

In other words, even by the turn of the century, the left had still failed to grasp the import of Hall’s ‘Great moving right show’ published eighteen years earlier. There followed in the autumn of 1998 a special issue of Marxism Today, revived for this one-off occasion, and containing a withering critique of Blair and New Labour, in which Hallwrote one of the major articles.

The black arts movement

Hall had always been interested in the arts in the broadest sense of the term, from high culture to popular culture, and, of course, most importantly, from a multicultural perspective. After his retirement from academic life in 1998, he became increasingly committed to the black arts movement, which brought him into conversation with new generations of black artists, photographers, and film-makers. There followed a whole series of new articles and papers in catalogues, journals, and anthologies. He became the central figure in the creation of Rivington Place in Shoreditch, east London, which opened in 2007 as a centre for public education and exhibition in the contemporary visual arts around the themes of multiculturalism, global diversity, and black identity. He chaired both Iniva (the Institute of International Visual Arts) and Autograph (the Association of Black Photographers), which were the two commissioning bodies. He was the moving force in the project, which cost £8 million to complete and was the first publicly funded new-build international art gallery since the Hayward Gallery more than forty years previously. Designed by David Adjaye, the RIBA award-winning building became home to the Stuart Hall Library.

In 1995 Hall became one of the founding editors of Soundings: a Journal of Politics and Culture, which he continued to write for until his health would no longer allow. In the mid-1980s he was diagnosed with kidney disease which eventually resulted in dialysis and, towards the end of his life, a transplant. He was enormously energetic and prodigiously hard-working but, as his health gradually deteriorated, he was obliged to slow down and eventually forced to retire from public life. He bore his ill health with great courage and determination and until his last days was still writing. He died on 10 February 2014, of renal failure, at St John’s Hospice, Westminster, London.

Hall and Britain

Hall never regarded himself as English. Indeed he was to think himself less and less English as the years went by. But nor did he think of himself as simply Jamaican, for he had left the island when he was nineteen, never to live there again. He came to think of himself as being of both and neither, of being ‘here’ and ‘there’, of being diasporic. He rejected the idea of identity as fixed, arguing that it was always in a process of constant change. In his own words, ‘identity is not settled in the past but always also oriented towards the future’ (Hall, ‘Through the prism of an intellectual life’, 274). He was a colonial subject (he left Jamaica eleven years before independence), a post-colonial, and a long-term resident of the imperial metropolis where he made his home, his family, and his career. This mobility coincided with a world increasingly characterized by globalization. The very quality of being an outsider, from the colonial world rather than the imperial heartland, offered him a vantage point and enabled insights into Britain that were denied to insiders, who believed that by virtue of birth and the longevity of their belonging (not to mention their whiteness) they somehow understood. That is why he was able to make sense of Britain in a way that was denied to its inmates. He saw it all in a very different way. He could write ‘The great moving right show’, for example, precisely because he was an outsider.

Hall was always pessimistic about Britain and its ability to transform itself, which he regarded as crucial to its future. At the heart of this lay race. Hall wrote that ‘though vigorously disavowed, race has played a historically determining role in the self-definition of Britain as a nation’, arguing that Britain could ‘never think afresh unless it understood its history’ if colonialism and slavery (HallFamiliar Stranger, 180). But when it came to empire, Britain chose amnesia rather than historical engagement. In an interview with Caryl Phillips in 1997, he said:

Britain is drawing the horns in more and more around little England …This is not a climate which encourages openness to new experience. It’s a very defensive climate which sees everybody and any kind of difference as a fundamental threat to the whole history of British culture.

(Phillips, 41)

He added that the retreat into ‘heritage England’ was the ‘worst sort of mixture, the combination of a deeply rooted, closed conservatism around a tiny myth of a nation with a homogenous culture’ (ibid., 40). Bleakly, he suggested that Britain might well be incapable of changing itself by its own efforts:

National states and national cultures are now exposed to difference and the impact of difference from other places that they cannot insulate themselves against, and it’s more likely to come in that way than it is from any self-transformation in which the British do it themselves.

(ibid., 42)

Hall wrote later that ‘recognising myself as a colonised subject meant accepting my insertion into History all right—only backwards, upside-down, by negation’ (HallFamiliar Stranger, 21). Miserable and downgrading as that was for the colonized peoples, it gave Hall a highly original and remarkably perceptive view of an imperial power trapped in a seemingly endless process of decline. In denial of its most important achievement (a huge empire) and therefore unable to draw the lessons of that experience, it was unable to rethink itself in order to live in what was becoming a very different kind of world.

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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:

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US second edition is available now via: 

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