BEN CHACKO reviews Jonathan Fenby’s latest analysis of China’s chances
JONATHAN FENBY is one of Britain’s more knowledgeable China-watchers and his latest work on the subject deserves attention.
The book, however, ought really to take the title of its final chapter — Why China Will Not Dominate the 21st Century.
It reads rather like a refutation of Martin Jacques’s When China Rules the World, mirroring the latter even to the extent that both contain a section quoting attitude surveys “proving” that positive or negative views of China are the norm worldwide.
In this it is quite effective. Fenby relentlessly highlights China’s weaknesses, and in many respects he is right — right that China is nowhere near displacing the US as a global superpower, right that there is scant evidence that it wants to, right that it faces serious economic, political and environmental challenges which will keep its politicians’ focus firmly on their own country and not on attempts to become a world leader.
Factory Girls is a fascinating video by Aowen Jin. The migrant girls that have left the countryside to go and seek a new life in China’s cities are often considered to be the victims of China’s transformation. Jin tells a different story: she shows the girls as full of dreams and ambition about their future, taking their lives into their own hands and transforming their prospects. The video has been entirely filmed on mobile phones which are seen by Jin as a crucial agency of their empowerment.
The more China grows as a world power the more complicated its relations with the US become. But it is unlikely that China would ever resort to a military means to solve its disputes worldwide, China expert Martin Jacques told RT.
RT:It looks like Xi Jinping is going to adopt the foreign policy course of his predecessor, what will that mean for relations between Beijing and Washington?
Martin Jacques: It is no surprise that Xi Jinping is really expressing continuity because that is the whole way now the Chinese leadership is constructed. I mean, if it is going to shift, it is not going to shift now, it will shift several years down the road, I think. What will it mean for the relations with the United States?
The relations with the United States have steadily been getting more complicated, and I think the reason for that is because, before China was very much still a developing country and a much weaker global power than the United States. China, of course, has been growing like crazy and is more and more present around the world, in different continents, in different countries, so their interests are liable to be in more conflict in more areas that in previous decades. And I think is the reason why it’s getting more complicated.
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