As a rule, one should not bother to criticise famous people for the thoughts contained in articles under their name

He or she almost certainly didn’t write it — and perhaps didn’t even think about it, either.

Nevertheless, it is hard to resist when a piece entitled “I was a fool to talk about admiring Hitler” appears under the name of Bernie Ecclestone, the British billionaire boss of Formula One racing. This was a commentary in The Times on Tuesday, attempting to quieten the furore that followed his remarks to the newspaper three days previously, to the effect that the Führer was his favourite dictator because: “Apart from the fact that Hitler got taken away and persuaded to do things that I have no idea whether he wanted to do or not, he was in the way that he could command a lot of people, able to get things done.”

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The subject of this long (much too long) book is important: the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is a fast-rising power and the rest of the world had better take note. China’s challenge to the democratic world is perhaps greater than the Soviet Union’s ever was, because of its economic success. The mixture of autocracy and capitalism is an attractive model to authoritarians and aspiring authoritarians everywhere.

Martin Jacques, however, is not concerned with politics. Culture, history, tradition, roots, race, “China’s genetic structure”, are what interest him. He believes that a future clash between “the West” (a concept he does not define) and China will be a cultural one. The Chinese, he writes, have always regarded their civilisation as superior, and the rest of the world as barbarians. To be Chinese, he explains, is to belong to a superior race. This means China’s world leadership will result in a “cultural and racial reordering of the world in the Chinese image”. Apart from the fact that “race” is a relatively modern concept, I’m not sure what this would mean. That the African lingua franca will be Chinese? That foreign diplomats will have to offer tributary gifts to the Communist party secretary in Beijing? The main point seems to be that western norms will no longer be regarded as universal. But if we leave politics out of this, the significance remains obscure.

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Five years ago Martin Jacques and his family moved to Hong Kong to start a new life which all too soon ended in tragedy. Finally, an anti-racist law that might have saved his wife’s life is to be introduced

Hong Kong has been shaken over the past few months by a series of crises: the Sars epidemic, continuing economic difficulties and huge opposition to new security legislation. No doubt Tony Blair, during his brief visit last week, will have discussed each of these, together with another, less-publicised affair: the long-running debate about the need for anti-racist legislation.

When my wife Hari and I arrived in Hong Kong on November 2, 1998, accompanied by our little boy Ravi, just nine weeks old, we were borne on a wave of optimism and expectation. We planned to spend three years in Hong Kong: Hari working for her international law firm, me to write a book and make a television series. It was familiar territory to us: our relationship had started there during a whirlwind week back in 1993.

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26/11/00 - The Sunday Times

A year after his young wife’s sudden death, Martin Jacques tells Margarette Driscoll he will never accept the way his life has been torn apart

The streets of Hong Kong were thronged on Millennium Eve, as its citizens ushered in the new century in style. There was no hope of getting a tram: the public transport system had ground to a halt because of the crowds. Instead, Martin Jacques and his Malaysian wife, Hari, walked well over a mile to meet some friends outside the Excelsior hotel in Causeway Bay. They arrived at midnight and saw in the new year standing outside the hotel entrance.

At about 1am, Hari, who had been unwell for just over a day, shouted: “Martin, Martin!” Jacques, a former editor of the British magazine Marxism Today, knew immediately what was happening. Hari sank to the floor, her eyes twitching wildly and her arms and legs jerking uncontrollably.

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12/11/00 - The Sunday Times

IT WAS supposed to be one of the happiest nights of their lives. Martin Jacques, the former editor of Marxism Today, and Eric Hobsbawm, the veteran left-wing historian, were spending the Millennium Eve in Hong Kong with their wives. Hobsbawm’s son Andy, an internet company executive, had just proposed to his girlfriend in a restaurant and she had accepted. Half an hour after the stroke of midnight heralded the new century, the six were hugging each other in the street in celebration.

But a few minutes later Hari, Jacques’s lawyer wife, who had also been celebrating her 33rd birthday that evening, collapsed with an epileptic fit as she and her husband waited for a taxi. She was still holding the Gucci bag her husband had given her as a birthday present.

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