Martin Jacques, writer and columnist
When China Rules the World:
the Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the End of the Western World
January 26, 2010
The China Desk Comments: Is Martin Jacques correct? Where is he coming from? Is he a Sinophile, trumpeting Imperium Americanus’ imminent eclipse by a rising China? Or is he a Sinophobe, sounding the alarm about a dangerous “China Threat?” The China Desk has many questions. Therefore it is neither endorsing nor condemning Jacques’ thesis, but merely presenting it to you for your consideration.
Martin Jacques is the author of When China Rules the World: the Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the End of the Western World.
He is a visiting senior fellow at the London School of Economics, IDEAS, a centre for the study of international affairs, diplomacy and grand strategy, and a visiting research fellow at the LSE’s Asia Research Centre. He is a columnist for the Guardian and the New Statesman.
His interest in East Asia began in 1993 with a holiday in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. After that, he found every reason or excuse he could find to spend time in the region, be it personal, for newspaper articles or television programmes.
For over two hundred years we have lived in a western-made world, one where the very notion of being modern was synonymous with being western. The book argues that the twenty-first century will be different: with the rise of increasingly powerful non-Western countries, the west will no longer be dominant and there will be many ways of being modern. In this new era of ‘contested modernity’ the central player will be China.
Martin Jacques argues that far from becoming a western-style society, China will remain highly distinctive. It is already having a far-reaching and much-discussed economic impact, but its political and cultural influence, which has hitherto been greatly neglected, will be at least as significant. Continental in size and mentality, and accounting for one fifth of humanity, China is not even a conventional nation-state but a ‘civilization-state’ whose imperatives, priorities and values are quite different. As it rapidly reassumes its traditional place at the centre of East Asia, the old tributary system will resurface in a modern form, contemporary ideas of racial hierarchy will be redrawn and China’s ages-old sense of superiority will reassert itself. China’s rise signals the end of the global dominance of the west and the emergence of a world which it will come to shape in a host of different ways and which will become increasingly disconcerting and unfamiliar to those who live in the west.
What they say about When China Rules the World
This important book, deeply considered, full of historical understanding and realism, is about more than China. It is about a twenty-first-century world no longer modelled on and shaped by North Atlantic power, ideas and assumptions. I suspect it will be highly influential.’
‘Mr Jacques is right to argue that democracy, as patented by the west, is a product of European history, not a natural phenomenon.
David Pilling, Financial Times
Why China is what it is and what its destination will be are two eternal questions. I agree with Martin Jacques that culture is the key for understanding China. This is, without doubt, one of the best and most serious studies of China I have ever read – a fascinating book.’
Yu Yongding, former Member of the Monetary Policy Committee, People’s Bank of China.
Jacques’s book will provoke argument and is a tour de force across a host of disciplines… Jacques’s arguments deserve to be heard; they are part of a debate the Western world should be having but for whatever reason – academic orthodoxy, political correctness or fear – has left for another time. By then, if Jacques is right, it will be too late.
Mary Dejevsky, Independent