Will China rule the world? Many have expressed doubt, but Martin Jacques, author of a bestseller on China issues, is firmly on the side of “yes.”
At a recent Beijing book reading to celebrate his release, the second edition of When China Rules the World, Jacques said he wondered why people are ignoring the rise of the new global powerhouse with a closed mind.
Although three years have passed since the book’s release, Jacques said he still believes China will shape the world as it continues to grow.
“I don’t see any reason to change (my conclusions) because as I finished the book, its development was speeding up,” he said.
However, he did make some revisions in the second edition that was published in March. He added a new chapter at the end about the world financial crisis and the possible transformation of China and the US. In addition, a two-hour interview he had with a Chinese journalist in 2009 inspired him to add fresh points on the section about the “civilization-state.”
Civilization-state is one of the most important concepts in Jacques’ book. He got the idea from a book written by Lucian Pye that states China is a civilization masquerading as a nation.
The word “civilization” inspired Jacques to research China’s history. After extensive digging, he began to realize that it was more fitting to call China a civilization-state rather than a “nation-state.”
“The identity of Western nations has more to do with nations, because they have been nation-states for much longer,” Jacques said.
What amazed him about China’s identity was the policy of “one country, two systems” in regards to Hong Kong.
According to Goldman Sachs, China will overtake the US as the world’s largest economy in 2027 and double its size by 2050. Jacques said it might happen even sooner — by 2015, since the US economy is suffering a slowdown.
Nevertheless, he pointed out that the situation is more complicated than the numbers imply. China’s size will mean that its citizens’ standard of living will be lower compared to the US, even if it does have a larger GDP.
“In 2050, the Chinese economy will be twice the size of the US’, but its living standard will be half,” Jacques said.
Despite the problems, Jacques said this development will be “a significant moment,” since the American economy has been the largest in the world for about a hundred years.
“What will happen to the IMF and World Bank? Are they going to carry on or are they going to be replaced by other things?” he asked.
Jacques, originally from the UK, became interested in China after touring southern China and Hong Kong in 1993 as a columnist at Sunday Times and BBC producer. In his first two tours to Guangdong Province, he saw the incredible energy of the farmers along the road. Later, he visited quite a number of cities, such as Xi’an, Chengdu, Chongqing and Wuhan, and saw much of the same.
Two years later, he quit his job, and spurred by a friend, he began writing his book about China in 1998.
He experienced false starts along the way though. When his wife, Harinder Veriah, died tragically in Hong Kong, Jacques said it felt like “the end of my life.” She left behind a young son for Jacques to raise on his own.
There was then a lawsuit against the city’s hospital authority in relation to Veriah’s death. It was only in 2005 that Jacques resumed writing his book, which he completed three years later.
As a visiting professor at Tsinghua University and a former professor of Renmin University, Jacques is challenged by students all the time, which sharpens his thinking.
He has noticed that readers react differently to his book depending on where they’re from. The British, he said, can’t accept his view because they always focus on the negative news coming out of China. Americans are more open-minded — they may not always like what they read, but they’re still curious.
People from East Asian countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, Jacques said, completely understand his writing because they’ve been in close contact with China.
Chinese readers’ opinions, meanwhile, differ. Many are keen to point out the country’s existing problems.
These differences are reflected in the book’s sales by region. It has sold very well in Hong Kong and Taiwan, but not so well in France, Spain and Japan.
Jacques said the next stop on his book tour will be India.
As for his next project, he said he wanted to write a book about the global race. China, no doubt, will be featured.
– Bao Chengrong