Martin Jacques, author of best-seller “When China Rules The World” offers three building blocks for understanding China:
- 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.
- 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 neighbours.
- 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.
Full interview of Martin here.
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