We are now witnessing a historic change destined to transform the world. Not bad, that, for an attention-getting opening, and it is a foretaste of many provocative statements in this hand grenade of a book.

Such as the subtitle: The Rise Of The Middle Kingdom (China) And The End Of The Western World. The end? How soon? Oh, in a mere 20 or 30 years.

Economic forecasters at Goldman Sachs predict that China will overtake the U.S. as the world’s largest economy in 2027. By 2050, China’s economy will be twice the size of those of the U.S. and India, its only rivals. The only European economies in the top ten will be the UK (ninth) and Germany (10th).

Now, says Mr Jacques – a Marxist fellow of the London School of Economics and a visiting professor at universities in Beijing, Kyoto and Singapore – we in the doomed West have made the complacent assumption that, if we are nice to China and buy enough of its goods, it will be a friendly giant and sit at the table like a good member of the international democratic club.

Not a chance. The Chinese will never be like us. For one thing, they consider themselves superior. Their civilisation is older – 3,000 years old. ‘China does not aspire to run the world, because it already believes itself to be the centre of the world, its natural role and position.’

What has China to be currently superior about? Its size, its numbers and, thanks to the industrial revolution started by Deng Xiaoping in 1978, its ability to make most things cheaper than almost anyone else.

What’s more, all this is made possible under a communist regime.

One can detect the Marxist glee beneath Mr Jacques’s repeated harping on about the decline and imminent fall of the U.S. world empire.

The U. S. trade deficit is now so great that China virtually props up its economy through huge purchases of U. S. Treasury bonds. It may be propping ours up soon. The Bank of China is already offering mortgages to home-buyers here.

‘The Chinese communist regime has, after all, succeeded where the Soviet Union failed,’ he claims. But only after it started introducing capitalism on a huge scale.

He praises the Chinese leaders’ ‘perspicacity’ for not allowing themselves to be distracted from economic growth by any move towards democracy which might embroil them in ‘chaos and turmoil’. How on earth, you wonder, did India manage both?

The Chinese, he argues, took well to communism because they were used to thousands of years of authoritarian rule under their emperors (of whom Mao was perhaps simply the largest and most brutal).

That is why, when China rules the world, it will provide an alternative system to the West’s. Theirs is founded on veneration for their long past, for their extended family business ties, and the belief that the individual matters far less than the state.

Mr Jacques keenly looks forward to the time when Beijing, not New York or Washington, is the world’s power centre, when Shanghai, now second only to Tokyo, is its financial centre, when the Chinese renminbi is the world reserve currency, and Mandarin (already spoken by twice as many people) replaces English as the most common international language.

An end to Westernisation? It will be an east Asian-dominated world that our grandchildren will live in.

At this point, a little voice in my ear kept repeating: ‘All predictions are unreliable, especially those about the future.’ Are the Chinese as submissive to authority and as non-individualistic as we are being told?

Not surprisingly, the author has almost nothing to say about the Tiananmen Square protest and massacre, except that it made ‘hardly any impact’ on the rest of the country.

He writes warmly about the respect in which Confucianism is still held – but I remember finding the cracked and neglected tombstone of Confucius clumsily put back together after being shattered by the red guards in the Cultural Revolution.

He says nothing about the arrests of outspoken intellectuals, the lack of a free press, the censorship of the internet and the general downgrading of civil liberty.

Now they are earning some money, won’t some Chinese start demanding free speech? Won’t more of them stand up and defy a tank?

Will today’s authoritarian China rule the world?

Answer: we don’t know. If it does, I doubt if we will like it.

– Peter Lewis