Books about China’s ascendancy to a leading world power are often prefaced by the word “if,” but author Martin Jacques has defied the formula by giving his book the eye-catching title, When China Rules the World: The Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the End of the Western World. The British writer, broadcaster and former visiting professor at Renmin University of China, is currently promoting his thought-provoking and somewhat controversial work.
Published by Penguin in June, Jacques’ latest book is a comprehensive and richly detailed analysis of China’s ascendancy and influence he believes it will have on East Asia and the rest of the world – including the West.
“I do not say that the West is disappearing, what I mean is the world shaped by the West is becoming less distinctive,” Jacques told the Global Times.
“The title is not a literal one, I do not argue that China will ever rule the world any more than the United States has for the last 50 years,” he said. “The nearest country to rule the world is the British Empire, but that was only a fifth of the world’s population.”
Since its release, When China Rules the World has caused heated discus-sion and plenty of controversy for both its title and content, in which the author argues that the 21st century will see the rise of increas-ingly powerful non-Western countries such as China and India. In his book Jacques says that the West will no longer be dominant and the future will take many forms. In this new era of “contested modernity,” he alleges that the major player of the century will be China.
“I do think that it is very likely, though not inevitable, that China will become the strongest part of the world, but still it will be a long process, for even if China takes over the US in size of economy, it will still be a lot poorer in terms of its population,” Jacques explained. He predicts in his book that China will overtake the US as the world’s largest economy in 2027 and double in size by 2050.
When China Rules the World reveals Jacques’ ideas on how China will seek to influence the world as a civilized state with its own model of development, not one based on that of the West. He claims that China will exemplify an alternative model for development as a “civilization state,” likely to spell the end to the West’s dominance in terms of economics, politics and culture.
“Chinese people have long regarded themselves as having the most sophisticated culture in the world and I think the defining sense of Chinese civilization is the very rich and historically very old and sophisticated culture,” he said. “China is a country with a deeply laid culture and profound sense of what it is. The Chinese are very clear about their identity.”
As for the preconceptions that many people have about China, Jacques explains that there is a lack of knowledge and many false images that people have come to believe over time.
“The problem with the West is that it’s well behind the curve of China’s develop-ment and what it means to the outside world. Westerners find it very hard to understand China and to understand where China is at and where it will head,” he said.
“For my part, the rise of China is a completely novel problem for the West and the West has the wrong kind of conceptual equipment to try and understand the rise of China and the influence it will exert on the world.”
As for future development and potential problems that may face China, Jacques said that keeping the country together is essential.
“The greatest problem that faces China is the cohesion and the unity of the country because China is so big and diverse and extremely difficult a country to come together,” he said. “To rule a country like China is much more difficult than to rule a Western country.”