The backdrop to the events surrounding Bo Xilai is provided by a huge debate about the country’s future
The news that Bo Xilai has been stripped of his positions on the Communist Party Politburo and Central Committee and that his wife, Gu Kailai, is being held on suspicion of murdering a British businessman has added a dramatic new twist to a story that first began to break in February. The dismissal of Bo, the former Chongqing party chief, surely marks the end of his political career. It also suggests that the path to the crucial Communist Party Congress in the autumn, when, in effect, a new President and Premier will be elected and seven of the nine-member standing committee that runs China will be replaced, could run somewhat smoother.
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Martin Jacques’s thesis – that China will become the dominant global power within decades, and it won’t become more westernised but will make the rest of the world more Chinese – is hard to dispute, and if one felt like disputing it one would soon be discouraged by the weight of evidence in the form of statistics, graphs, surveys and analysis Jacques brings to bear.
Reading this made me aware of my ignorance – I didn’t know the Chinese invented steam power before James Watt. At times I could wish the explanations crisper – Jacques repeatedly says that China is a “civilisation-state”, not a nation-state, and I would love to have the difference neatly explicated. But Jacques’s erudition is impressive – and persuasive.
– Brandon Robshaw
As another Chinese New Year dawns this week, Jonathan Fenby assesses the world’s second-biggest economic power – and charts the risks ahead
China enters its lunar new year on Thursday in anything but rabbit fashion. Having overtaken Japan to become the world’s second biggest economy late in 2010, it has just unveiled economic figures that underline its continuing ability to deliver high levels of growth (10.3 per cent) accompanied by a string of superlatives – from having the world’s biggest car market (13.8 million sales) to holding the largest cache of foreign reserves ($2.85trn). Goldman Sachs forecasts that the last major power ruled by a Communist Party will surpass the United States by 2027. Others see this happening earlier.
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China’s growth has spawned an anxiety industry to rival the infamous ‘Yellow Peril’ panic of a hundred years ago
China was at last awake… She was the colossus of the nations, and swiftly her voice was heard in no uncertain tones in the affairs and councils of the nations… China’s swift and remarkable rise was due, perhaps more than to anything else, to the superlative quality of her labour. The Chinese was the perfect type of industry. He had always been that. For sheer ability to work, no worker in the world could compare with him. Work was the breath of his nostrils. It was to him what wandering and fighting in far lands and spiritual adventure had been to other peoples. Liberty, to him, epitomized itself in access to the means of toil… China rejuvenescent! It was but a step to China rampant.
– The Unparalleled Invasion (1910), Jack London
Look out, because the Chinese are the masters now – or shortly will be. At least, that’s the impression that can be drawn from recent media headlines and new books. “Buying up the world – the coming wave of Chinese takeovers,” blared the cover of The Economist last month, followed up a few weeks later with a front page devoted to “the dangers of a rising China”. Martin Jacques’ When China Rules the World: The Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the End of the Western World was published last year and will come out in paperback in 2011. Last week, in The Financial Times, the headline on an article by Philip Stephens informed us that “a risen China reaches for power”. Unsettled yet?
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The Chinese state has a competence that far exceeds that of Western states
There is a standard Western reflex to any discussion about China: it is not democratic. True, but that does not get us very far. Nor was any Western country during its economic take-off; nor was Japan; and nor were the Asian tigers. The great majority of countries have not been democratic during their period of take-off: the most obvious, and remarkable, exception is India. As for China, about half the population still lives in the countryside, meaning that its economic take-off – the shift from agriculture to industry, from the countryside to the cities – still has a long way to run.
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Well before it was published, even before the author had typed his final chapters, this book was causing a stir. What Martin Jacques set out to do – and has done in meticulous detail – was to challenge what he regards as a dangerously false premise: that the rise of China will be benign. Don’t lull yourself into a false sense of security, he warns. China’s ascent to global dominance is inevitable, and the Western world has much to fear.
In so saying, Jacques takes on a formidable global establishment and breaks a series of taboos. Chief among them is the idea that Western civilisation reflects the pinnacle of universal achievement and that the success of individual countries will forever be measured by how closely they match that model.
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Harinder Veriah who died in a Hong Kong hospital within hours of celebrating the new millennium and her 33rd birthday had her roots in the legal and political worlds of Britain and Malaysia. The daughter of Karam Singh, the youngest (Socialist) MP in independent Malaysia’s first Parliament, she was married to Martin Jacques, the noted editor of Marxism Today and, more recently (1994-1996) Deputy Editor of the Independent.
Shortly after her birth, her father was imprisoned for four years for leading a march of rubber plantation workers. Her mother, Harbans Kaur, died when she was six.
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