Across the globe, China’s influence is increasing – most especially in Africa

Napoleon Bonaparte was a very quotable guy. He preferred lucky generals to smart ones, and he was convinced that an army marched on its stomach. But the French emperor would never have guessed that his most quoted bon mot would concern a country he never visited, let alone conquered. “Let China sleep; when she wakes she will shake the world,” he once observed. As The Economist points out “it has become the quote that launched a thousand articles”, including this one.

Not just articles, too. James Kynge’s award-winning book is titled China Shakes the World and Martin Jacques seems to have drawn on Napoleonic inspiration for his own 2009 effort When China Rules the World: The Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the End of the Western World.

Mark Leonard also penned a volume on a related theme. Hitherto an expert on European Union affairs, Leonard realised that the policy papers he was writing all had some type of China angle. As he put it in his book’s introduction: “Very few things that happen during my lifetime will be remembered after I am dead. Even 9/11 or the Iraq War – events which transfixed us, took innocent lives and decided elections – will gradually fade until they become mere footnotes in the history books. But China’s rise is different: it is the big story of our age and its after-effects could echo down generations to come.”