The west presumes there is little discussion and argument in Beijing over policy. This is wrong

Last week’s dismissal of Bo Xilai, the party secretary of Chongqing province, casts this autumn’s Chinese Communist party congress, with the anticipated replacement of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao by Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, in a dramatic new light.

Bo Xilai, son of a former Communist party leader and veteran of the Long March, has been exploiting his office for a thinly veiled campaign for a place on the party’s nine-member standing committee that runs China. His fall was triggered when his righthand man in Chongqing, the police chief Wang Lijun, sought refuge in the American consulate in Chengdu, claiming that his life was under threat from Bo.

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Martin Jacques defied the odds to expose racial prejudice and medical negligence in a Hong Kong hospital. Here he tells of his feelings on learning that his 10-year struggle was over

The settlement approved by the Hong Kong high court last Wednesday in the legal action brought by me and my 11-year-old son, Ravi, against the Hospital Authority over the death of Harinder Veriah, my wife and Ravi’s mother, represents a major victory. It has taken 10 years and a huge commitment of emotion, time and resources. We have faced monumental obstacles. From the outset the Hospital Authority denied any responsibility and it has used its limitless funds to try to bludgeon us into submission.

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China’s tough response on US arms sales to Taiwan reflects the shift in the global balance of power

The Chinese response to the decision of the United States to sell a $ arms package to Taiwan represents a small but significant raising of the ante. The Chinese have partially halted the military exchange programme between the two countries, only recently resumed following a suspension after the last such military package in 2008. This time the Chinese have also threatened to impose sanctions against the US firms involved in the deal. This is causing serious disquiet among firms like Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
Taiwan, of course, is of special significance to the Chinese; since 1949 the return of the island to China has been seen as an overriding priority. Beijing regards Taiwan as an internal Chinese issue, and the US arms sales are ­therefore regarded as interference in China’s internal affairs and a violation of its sovereignty. When the pro-independence DPP held office in Taiwan, China’s relations with the island were fraught; but with the victory of the more ­moderate KMT, they have improved immeasurably and some kind of ­reconciliation between China and ­Taiwan is now conceivable. This has made the Chinese more confident in their handling of the Taiwan issue.

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Although a historic victory for Japan’s Democratic party, Sunday’s election result will mean little in practice

Measured by the yardstick of Japanese politics since 1955, the result of Sunday’s general election is extraordinary. Only once since 1955 have the ruling Liberal Democrats been ousted from office and that was in 1993, when an eight-party coalition took office for a brief and highly unstable period of rule; and even then the Liberal Democrats remained the largest single party. This is quite different. The Democratic party now enjoys a big majority and the Liberal Democrats have suffered a huge electoral defeat.
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A powerful sense of Han identity pervades China – any respect for Uighur difference would break with centuries of attitudes

The acute ethnic tensions between Han Chinese and Uighurs revealed by the violent clashes in Xinjiang province last weekend, coming as they do only a year after similar clashes between Han Chinese and Tibetans, suggest that the government’s present approach in these two regions is singularly failing to achieve its goal of integrating the Uighurs and the Tibetans. There is clearly deep resentment by both groups towards what they perceive as discrimination against their culture and religion, together with the growing tide of Han Chinese migrants who are turning them into a minority in their homelands and who are seen as the major beneficiaries of the rapid economic growth that both regions have been experiencing.

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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.”

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Perhaps in half a century, the world will be rather more interesting than the Sino-centric one offered by Martin Jacques

In my view there is both less to Martin Jacques’s thesis and more. The reason there is less to it is that the central principle he is asserting as a new one – that modernity does not have to mean westernisation – is in fact a very old one. It has been debated ever since Japan became the first non-western developed nation in the late 19th century, shocking the world by defeating Russia in war in 1904-05. Japan’s modernisation has never been westernisation, and it still isn’t, a century later. But the point and the distinction is less notable and less interesting than it might seem. Who cares whether modern Japan should be thought western or something else? It is just Japan, and to be cherished and studied and learned from as such. The same can and will be true of China.

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China has raced to prop up threatened industries and preserve jobs, but will these moves drive a global recovery?

Hope never dies, particularly not when it can give the stockmarket a boost in uncertain times. When the financial crisis rolled out into a general economic downturn last year, the theory of “decoupling” raised its head, offering the prospect that China and other big emerging economies would be able to continue to grow in such a way as to keep the global economy afloat. That proved not to be the case as the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) felt the strain of sharply falling external demand and the tightening of capital flows.

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Our myopic model of modernity means we have yet to grasp not just that the future will be Chinese but how very Chinese it will be

There is a growing recognition that China’s economic rise will change the world. But that change is still seen in narrowly economic terms. There is an assumption that the political and cultural effects of China’s rise will not be that great. This is profoundly wrong. The political and cultural impact will be at least as great as the economic.

There is always a time-lag in these matters but, as Paul Kennedy argues in The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, economic ascendancy is a pre-condition for broader political and cultural influence. I suspect the reason for this tunnel vision is western hubris: a belief that our modernity is the only conceivable one, that our political and cultural arrangements will ultimately be adopted by everyone else. This is an extremely provincial mentality. Modernity is not simply a product of the market and technology, but is shaped by history and culture.

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The country’s trajectory and the change in its people’s values and aspirations are cause for heated debate. Two experts go head to head

Dear Will

It is now widely recognised that the balance of economic power is shifting from the rich world to the developing world. Indeed, the role accorded to the G20 rather than the G8 in seeking to tackle the financial crisis is a vivid illustration of this. But what is not recognised – and has been barely discussed – are the political and cultural ramifications of the rise of the developing countries. That, I suspect, is because there is a deeply held western view that they will – and should – end up as clones of western modernity: in other words, there is only one modernity and it is western. This is a fallacy. Modernity is a product of culture and history as much as markets and technology. The central question here is China: will it end up like us or will it be something very different and, as a result, change the world in very fundamental ways?

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