Is China ready to rule the world? Not quite yet, argues Simon S.C. Tay. Both Asia and America need to be realistic about their limitations (and both sides now have more than a few of those) and concede that the future is not a zero-sum game. If both sides are interested in prosperity, the relationship will have to be more about cooperation than competition. And if our time is in indeed witnessing the long handoff of global power from one empire to another, the smoother the transition, the better.
The middle kingdom is rewriting the rules on trade, technology, currency, climate — you name it
Back when President Obama lived in Indonesia, in the late 1960s, China loomed as a malign force to the north, where communist cadres plotted to export their revolution to the rest of Asia. The Jakarta he’ll visit later this month has an entirely different attitude toward the People’s Republic. Local companies are doing deals in yuan, the Chinese currency, rather than dollars. If Jakarta gets in financial trouble, as it did back in 1997, it will be able to call on a $120 billion regional reserve fund, an Asia-only version of the International Monetary Fund due to be launched this month, bankrolled in part by China’s massive foreign-exchange reserves. Asia’s key economic political issues are no longer being hashed out on trips like Obama’s — between individual nations and the United States — but at summits that include only China, Japan, South Korea, and the Southeast Asian countries. “China has been instrumental in this shift in focus from ‘Asia-Pacific,’ which was largely about the U.S. and Japan, to ‘East Asia,’ which has China at the center,” says Martin Jacques, author of When China Rules the World.
Google’s defeat foretells the day when Beijing rules the world
The blunt truth is that most Western forecasters have been wrong about China for the past 30 years. They have claimed that Chinese economic growth was exaggerated, that a big crisis was imminent, that state controls would fade away, and that exposure to global media, notably the Internet, would steadily undermine the Communist Party’s authority. The reason why China forecasting has such a poor track record is that Westerners constantly invoke the model and experience of the West to explain China, and it is a false prophet. Until we start trying to understand China on its own terms, rather than as a Western-style nation in the making, we will continue to get it wrong.
Conventional wisdom can be devilishly hard to dispute. For example, most pundits agree that the Great Recession helped China more than any other state. At first glance, this claim seems obviously true. Unlike the United States and the other major Western powers, which saw their economies plummet and their financial institutions come close to ruin, the Chinese economy has kept on growing. Chinese financial institutions, considered technically insolvent only a few years ago, now boast balance sheets and market capitalizations that Western banks can only dream of. With its economy expected to grow at 9 percent in 2010, China will soon surpass Japan as the world’s second-largest economy (measured in U.S. dollars). Pundits like Martin Jacques, a veteran British journalist, are predicting that China will soon rule the world — figuratively, if not literally.