Home .Globalization winners Understanding the Rise of China -- Martin Jacques
Understanding the Rise of China -- Martin Jacques
Sunday, 22 July 2012 16:54

"We can't understand the rise of China using Western concepts" argues Martin Jacques, the author of "When China Rules the World: The Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the End of the Western World".

Here are Jacque's main points.  But do yourself a favor and watch the full TED Talks video -- see link below.

China is on track to become the world's largest economy, and by 2050 India's economy could also rival the US.  This is a unique situation as we have not had for 200 years a developing country as the world's dominant country.  Moreover, Westerners assume that modernization means westernization -- but China is not like the West and will not become like the West.

Jacques offers three building blocks for understanding China. 

First, China is a "civilization state" more than a nation state.  While the West fragmented at the end of the Roman Empire, and remains fragmented today, China has remained a single civilization with its values of ancestor worship, family, state, guanxi, Confucian culture and so on.  While China may be diverse and pluralistic, the Chinese are fundamentally shaped by their civilization.

Second, at least 90% of the Chinese think of themselves as one race, the Han.  This is fundamentally different from other great powers like the US, India or Brazil which are multicultural.  Without China's Han cultural identity, the country (and civilization) China could not have held together.  With this comes, of course, the Chinese attitude of cultural superiority, and disrespect of other countries, especially its neighbors.

Third, the Chinese state is the embodiment of Chinese civilization.  In Western democracies, the state and power are constructed differently -- the Western state's power is limited and challenged.  In China, the state has legitimacy and authority as it a member of the family.  The state is ever present in state-owned enterprises, private enterprises which must follow the state, state targets for economic growth.  The state has always played a major role in building infrastructure -- Great Wall, Grand Canal and today the Three Gorges Dam.

The West, which has ruled the world for 200 years, thinks of itself as cosmopolitan.  But in reality, the West is parochial.  Developing countries have been forced to learn about the West and know the West -- whereas as the West, especially Europe, is ignorant of the rest of the world.

The rise of developing countries, following 200 years of world leadership by a small fraction of world powers ("the West"), represents a major democratization of world power, for which we should all be happy.

In his talk, Jacques did not explore the issue of China's possible ruling of the world. 

Today, America still rules the world, despite its economic and other problems.  It can do this in part because it has a wide system of alliances and partnerships with other countries.  In contrast, China's only real allies are countries, mainly African, which are dependent on China.  And even Burma, another China dependency, is now distancing itself from China because it does not like being dominated by China.

America and the West can also rule the world because they have values and ethics like pluralist democracy, respect for human rights and market economy.  China's only values are defending the Chinese state and civilization -- this is not sufficient for ruling the world.  



TED Talks.  Understanding the Rise of China.  Martin Jacques


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