Martin Jacques has a simple and sobering thesis. The West is in terminal decline and the 21st century will belong to China. More significantly, it will not be simply a rerun of western democracy, with all its obvious positives and glaring limitations. No, this will be a competing modernity complete with eight distinct Chinese characteristics. It’s all change at the head of the table so we damn well better get used to it.

Jacques is clearly a more than competent scholar of Asian and in particular, Chinese affairs, but it is this academic competency that may well be his undoing, for in concentrating as he does on the historical dimensions of China’s staggering rate of industrialisation and modernisation, he may well be in danger of blinding himself and his readers to what is really taking place on planet Earth. Yes, there clearly is some sort of a changing of the guard at the top table, and no one but the most reactionary neo-cons in the US can now doubt the inexorable decline of western power relative to the equally inexorable rise of Asian economic and political power. But all this only serves to obscure the more profound fact that so called free-market, neo-liberal capitalism has run its course, and only those nations that apply rational state planning to their economies are going to prosper.

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