Martin Jacques on When Would China Rule The World…

Martin Jacques, author of best-seller “When China Rules The World” is very positive of China’s development.  When, exactly, Martin thinks that China would rule the world?

Here is his recent review of Martin’s book:

While things may yet change to China’s relative advantage, the hyperbole and the certitude in the book’s title are at once a triumph for the publisher’s marketing department and a body blow to nuance. This would really be a good book if it restricted itself to “if” China rules the world, for Mr Jacques covers broad swathes of territory in geopolitics, geoeconomics, ancient and contemporary history, society and culture to present in one volume an assessment of what a China-dominated world would look like. The literary leap from “if” to “when” diminishes the scholarship in the work by creating a doubt in readers’ minds as to whether the facts have been chosen to support the author’s predetermined conclusion.

One of the book’s main arguments, that China will seek to transform international institutions and norms to its advantage, will not come as a surprise to students of history and international politics. Great powers do not become great powers merely by playing the game according to the rules. They become great powers by reshaping the rules in a way that bolsters their own position and restrains potential competitors. So, to the extent that China accumulates enough power, relative to the US and others, to impose its values and priorities on the international system, Mr Jacques is right to say that its “impact on the world will be as great as that of the United States over the last century, probably far greater, and certainly very different”.

What the book discusses but does not sufficiently account for, though, is the interaction of China’s values and priorities on its ability to rise to a position where it can impose them. China’s attitude towards race, which the author discusses with remarkable openness, is likely to create hurdles between its nationals and others. This is already discernible in the form of uneasy social relations along China’s borders as in Chinese projects in several African countries. Similarly, if Beijing insists on a foreign policy based on the Middle Kingdom mindset – which sees its neighbours as tributaries rather than sovereign equals – the countries of East Asia are likely to respond by tightening their embrace with global powers like the US and regional powers like India.

So there is an argument to be made that China must change its values and priorities if it is to become a world power. Values such as liberty, pluralism and democracy have universal appeal, even if nations of the world differ on the right dosage. These values have also acquired normative power over the last century and will be extremely hard to dislodge, notwithstanding attempts at a “Beijing Consensus” that emphasises political stability and economic growth over democracy and human rights. China might, at best, create bloc where a Beijing Consensus prevails (until, that is, the people shake off their authoritarian rulers).

In addition to China’s attitudes to race and its Middle Kingdom mindset, Mr Jacques distills two other important factors from his enquiry. He establishes that China sees itself – and must be treated – as a civilisation-state, rather than a European-style nation-state. This is related to the other characteristic: a lasting unity that it has retained throughout history. China, thus, operates on a “continental-sized canvas”, given its population and physical size. Novel as it might appear to readers elsewhere, we in India will be familiar with the challenging imperatives of governing a state that is both a “country and a continent”, is both “national and multinational”, and is both “developed and developing”.

Full article here:

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