Barack Obama’s visit to China comes at an interesting time. I am engrossed in Martin Jacques’ book, When China Rules the World, bought because of its compelling title.

Jacques reckons that by 2027 China’s economy will have overtaken the US. China will dominate, but not in ways Westerners understand.

“China’s rise signals the end of the global dominance of the West and the emergence of a world which (China) will come to shape in a host of different ways and which will become increasingly disconcerting and unfamiliar to those living in the West.”

This may have played some part in the anger in America this week at the footage of “Groveller-in-Chief” Obama bowing before the Japanese Emperor.

Perhaps more than memories of Pearl Harbour touched a nerve.

Time this week lists five things the US can learn from China. The most pertinent is “save more”. That applies to households, businesses and governments. Asian frugality is one reas on for China’s success.

Thrifty China, the world’s biggest creditor, with $2,1 trillion in US dollar reserves, looks askance at America’s unsustainable 2009 budget deficit of $1,4 trillion.

President Hu Jintao will have that in mind when Obama hints at China’s human rights record.

Before you rush off to learn Mandarin, note it is not a given that China will overtake the US in 2027, or at any time.

I recently attended a seminar where Marriot CEO Simon Pearse painted a slightly different picture.

He put the US at 30,1% of global market cap, dwarfing second-placed Japan at 8,7%, with China third on 7,2%, and UK fourth at 6,6%.

America would have to go back wards at a truly alarming rate to surrender its position soon.

Will Hutton in The Observer is more robust: “There is no prospect of China ruling the world. This is a country whose uncertainties of iden tity and economic frailties prevent it from ever projecting hegemonic hard and soft power. Its authoritarian in stitutions, far from being a source of strength, are a source of weakness.

“Its current economic model, dependent on high exports and mountainous savings, is disintegrating.”

What to make of all this? China certainly is making inroads in Africa. And one of SA’s largest banks is 20% owned by a Chinese institution, the biggest bank in the world.

It may help to know Hu is president, China.

Martin Williams