The rise of China will consign our current western-centric views of modernity to history’s trash heap
The rise of China that Martin Jacques charts in his indispensable new book will transform global geopolitics, creating an international system in which the US is only one great power among several that are struggling for control of the world’s resources. At the same time – and perhaps even more importantly – China‘s rise is bound to change the way the world thinks. The western-centric conception of modernisation that shaped thinking and policymaking in much of the world over the last hundred years belongs in history’s trash heap.
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On his first visit to China as US treasury secretary, at the start of this month, Timothy Geithner attempted to reassure an audience at Peking University that there is no need to worry about the enormous holdings China has built up in US government bonds. “Chinese assets are very safe,” he declared. Geithner’s statement produced loud laughter from the largely student audience.
Unlike most western commentators, who still give the Obama administration the benefit of the doubt, China’s emerging elite know there is no prospect that the United States will pay back its debts at anything like their current value. The only way the US can repay its vast borrowings is by debasing the dollar – a process in which China will inevitably be short-changed. Significantly, the students’ response was not anger, but derision – a clear sign of how the US is now perceived. Resentment at US power is being replaced by contempt, as the impotence and self-deception of the American political class in the face of the country’s problems become increasingly evident.
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