With the astonishing rise of China in the past three decades, the the accompanying scheme decline of the West and the flaws in the capitalist system revealed by the global financial crisis, Martin, of Jacques’ When China Rules the World: The Rise of the Middle Kingdom, and the the End of the Western World (Allen Lane, Special Indian Price: Rs, 699) has come at the right time. Jacques, who was the last editor of the defunct of British magazine, Marxism Today, brings a broadly left perspective to his study of sympathetic to China with a few benign qualifications that became necessary if it was to avoid the blunders, which led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. As the cliché went at the time, “too much glasnost, too little perestroika.” But he is clear on the central tenets of the Chinese brand of socialism: that free markets cannot work in the long run and that democracies don’t correct their mistakes on their own volition. Controls were necessary and western concepts of democracy and the rule of law were not necessary preconditions for the West’s economic power; they were merely a coincidence and, in any case, do not apply ipso facto to other states with different historical backgrounds.
Jacques has divided his study into two sections, “The End of the Western World” and “The Age of China”, accompanied by the usual paraphernalia of scholarship-figures, maps, tables-with a great deal of 19th-century history thrown in . The first section that provides the framework for his study has five chapters-The Changing of the Guard, The Rise of the West, Japan-Modern but Hardly Western, China’s Ignominy, and Contested Modernity. Their main thrust is that east Asian economies developed their own indigenous methods for economic development and did not depend on western ideologies for their progress. In the second section, Jacques tells us why China will emerge as the great superpower in six closely argued chapters: China as the Economic Superpower, A Civilization State, The Middle Kingdom Mentality, China’s Own Backyard, China as a Rising Global Power, When China Rules the World and finally, Eight Differences that Define China.
Broadly, there have been two kinds of responses to the rise of China. First, China is seen as an economic superpower and what this means for China’s position in the world. But economic change, fundamental as it is, is only part of the picture . This does not take into account the importance of politics and culture and rests on the underlying assumption that China, because of its economic transformation, will become more like the West and its consumerist culture.
The other response is sceptical about the rise of China, and always expecting it to end in failure. The sceptics argue that the rosy picture of China that works does not account for uncertainty, chaos and error. After all, the Soviet Union did collapse; the Cultural Revolution and Maoism’s costly experiments resulted in famines and the loss of millions of lives (some estimates put it at nearly 25 million) and similar setbacks can occur. Economic progress, in any case, is never a straightforward linear growth. So, the sceptics say that if China has to sustain its transformation it can only do so with a fundamental political change: that is, if it adopts the western model. So, Jacques concludes that the “first view holds that China will automatically become Western, the second that it does not. But both share the belief that for China to succeed, it must, in effect, become Western. “
Jacques does not accept such either / or alternatives. The western model is not the only viable model though he admits that “it has a formidable track record of growth and innovation, which is why it has proved such a dynamic force over such a long period of time. “Also,” the East Asian examples of modernization, including China’s post-1978 transformation “owed a great deal to western experience. But that was only part of the story-” the reason for China’s transformation (like those of other East Asian countries, including Japan) has been the way it has succeeded in combining what it has learnt from the West … with its own history and culture, thereby tapping and releasing its native sources of dynamism. We have moved from the era of either / or to one characterized by hybridity. “
What Jacques says is really quite commonsensical: borrow the technology from the West but don’t ignore local cultures and ways of thinking in the race for growth. Fukuyama, who had predicted the ‘end of history’ with the birth of western liberal democracy, said that the only flaw in his argument was that he had not anticipated the extent to which technology would shape the world in future. Technology will call the shots because, as the playwright Max Frisch put it, “It was the knack of so arranging the world that you no longer need to experience it. “And when you don’t feel the need to experience, local sensitivities don’t really matter, at least in non-democracies.