Last year a British scholar, Martin Jacques, published his latest book titled “When China Rules the World.” In the prevailing global publishing and media environment, the title of Jacques latest book clearly owes much to an editorial emphasis on ensuring headlines and titles are punchy and can immediately attract the public’s attention. However, it was the subtitle of the book which really enticed me to buy and read this book: “The Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the End of the Western World.”
Jacques academic credentials speak for themselves. He is a senior fellow at the London School of Economics (LSE) in the Centre for the Study of International Affairs, Diplomacy and Grand Strategy as well as a research fellow at LSE’s Asia Research Centre. Recently he was also a visiting professor at Renmin University in the International Centre for Chinese Studies. Suffice to say,
Needless to say, Jacques latest offering provides an academic, very well researched and informed view of China, which for Western readers may provide an alternative view of the PRC to what is being offered by the mainstream media. It is essential reading for anyone who is interested in the role China has played, is playing and will play in shaping the world in which we live.
There can be little doubt that China has gained significant prominence in international affairs in recent years. Whether it be at the table of the G20, as a key negotiator in the issues around the tensions of the Korean Peninsula, as a full member of the United Nations Security Council or in forging stronger ties with developing African countries, China is unquestionably a global player. The question on the lips of many in the West is “what game is China playing?” From my own research and experience I will attempt to answer this fundamental question.
To answer such a question, an understanding of the Chinese people and China’s history is required. There is clear evidence its 5,000 year history has imbued China with a culture and civilization which cannot be neatly pigeon-holed by those who simply perceive the world in a Western paradigm. Instead, those who wish to engage with China should investigate the contribution China has made to humanity in the form of philosophy through the ideas of Confucius, China’s dynastical past, its tremendous scientific advancements, the deeply-embedded rich culture of the Peking Opera, the linguistic heritage of the Middle Kingdom etc.
More recently, the civil engineering wonder of The Three Gorges Dam and the spectacular success of the Beijing Olympics, in which China topped the gold medal table with 51 gold medals, are all examples of China’s progressive character. The list of China’s contributions to the world goes on and on. However, in recent years people should be made aware of China’s contribution to defeating the brutal fascism waged on the Chinese people from Japan. The establishment of the PRC in October 1949 should serve as an example to the rest of the world of how the Chinese people united and stood up to defeat a foreign power intent on destroying the humanity and dignity of the Chinese people.
There is no doubt in my mind that this great victory for the Chinese people was due to the sacrifices and efforts of the Communist Party of China. Indeed, China has suffered terribly in the past from foreign imperialist powers wishing to exploit and subjugate its people. Of course, I include Britain in this category of foreign powers seeking to forcefully control China and America for its attempts to undermine China, especially since 1949.
Even a casual onlooker, however can see that things have changed in China. China has grown more confident and influential in recent years. Especially, since Deng Xiaoping initiated the Opening Up and Reform Policies of the late 1970’s. Today, China is in a much stronger position. So, does that mean that China will wage war around the world in the same way that Western countries, most notably America and Britain, have?
It is my view that China, although it has huge military resources, has no intention of trying to establish global Chinese hegemony through armed conflict with other nations. China has a different outlook, which involves a more progressive, peaceful and cooperative agenda. After centuries of being on the receiving end of foreign aggression and the suffering caused by China’s own civil war last century, the Chinese people, through the Communist Party of China, have decided to pursue different goals which are founded on the principles of peaceful cooperation and respect for other countries.
There are, of course, issues within China which need to be resolved. For most Chinese people the reunification of Taiwan with the PRC is of crucial concern. For such issues, I believe it is best for other countries to let China solve this issue itself. It is not for other counties to meddle in the internal affairs of China. The diplomatic efforts made by Beijing to bring Taiwan back to the motherland are to be applauded and are a great example of how China is more than capable of resolving disputes with sensitivity and pragmatism.
From a personal point of view, I believe the world would be a much safer place if China and not America exerted more influence at the United Nations. Perhaps, if the West followed China’s example, we would not have had the huge loss of innocent life in Iraq and Afghanistan. If China is to play a more significant role in global issues in the future, the West should recognize that Chinese people see war as destructive, inhumane and barbaric. China is still a developing country. It is our responsibility to engage with China as an equal partner and a partner which is progressive and against imperial wars.
We have much to learn from China.
– Michael McShane