Martin Jacques has written movingly and angrily about the death of his Indian-Malaysian wife in a Hong Kong hospital, claiming that the tragedy arose from a deep Chinese prejudice against anyone with a dark skin. So it comes as quite a surprise to discover that, far from warning of the dangers of a world likely to be dominated by a racist superpower, the author admires the Chinese enormously and views China’s self-proclaimed “peaceful rise” with a remarkable degree of equanimity.
Jacques claims that “In an important sense, China does not aspire to run the world because it already believes itself to be the centre of the world, this being its natural role and position”, and discusses sensitively and in depth what it means to be the “middle kingdom”. He also argues that China is essentially a “civilisation state” rather than a western-style nation state. “The term civilisation normally suggests a rather distant and indirect influence and an inert and passive presence,” he notes. “In China’s case, however, it is not only history that lives but civilisation itself: the notion of a living civilisation provides the primary identity and context by which the Chinese think of their country and define themselves.”