Australia is leading the West into a new era of Chinese ascendancy, according to author and China-expert Martin Jacques.
‘You are incredibly privileged because you are the pioneer Western country as we move into a completely new historical era in which China is dominant,’ he said.
As part of his only public appearance in Melbourne, Jacques introduced an audience of over 300 to the updated version of his best-selling book ‘When China Rules the World’ and acknowledged Australia’s place on the ‘cutting edge’ of relations with China.
He also warned that it is ‘no longer a Western economy’.
‘Australia has now entered the Chinese sphere of economic influence,’ he said, adding that other Western countries must take Australia’s lead in harnessing China’s ‘immense economic prowess.’
Jacques said the world must come to grips with the fact that it has never before seen a country grow as rapidly as China has in recent years.
‘When China started this extraordinary process, its economy was very small. Now it’s over half the size of the American economy,’ he said.
He cited China’s enormous import market for raw materials, with figures showing that it consumes some 45% of the world’s iron ore.
In 1992, Jacques said, there were no countries for whom China was the biggest trading partner. Today, several of the world’s largest and fastest developing economies count China as their biggest partner, including Japan, Brazil, India, South Korea, Australia and the USA.
‘It is now absolutely clear China is constantly restructuring, reformatting and transforming the world as we know it,’ he said.
Jacques also stressed that learning to understand Chinese culture is a pressing challenge for the international community, which cannot afford to continue making outdated assumptions about China.
‘Modernisation is not just a process of ‘westernisation’, he said.
‘We cannot possibly understand a society like China by simply using Western-centric ways of thinking.’
In a Q&A discussion with ABC journalist Auskar Surbakti following his presentation, Jacques highlighted the importance of Chinese language skills in Australian society.
‘If Australians are going to have anything like a true relationship with China, as I think they need to, then they’ve got to learn Chinese.’
‘I think mandarin is going to become a lingua franca in this region, alongside English.’
The event was presented in collaboration with The University of Melbourne and Australia’s Role in the World.
The revised and expanded version of Martin Jacques’ ‘When China Rules the World: the End of the Western World and the Rise of a New Global Order’ is now available.
– Jaime Berrill