Either: do not have kids, or put them to learn Chinese. Those fellas are more likely to get over the world in a few years. Chilling!
That China is on the brink of becoming the world's largest economy should be a surprise to no one. Martin Jacques, however, asks us to ponder this in the larger context of "the end of the Western World."
Hyperbole aside, When China Rules the World does a nice job of giving the reader a background on China's historic role in the world, its traditions, values, self-perception. Mr Jacques is convincing in this respect as he warns the Western reader that we (via our elected representatives and policy makers) think wrongly about China and its motives/motivations. Mr Jacques is less convincing when he extrapolates past behavior with future consequences of China's ascension to king of the hill. I don't dispute, necessarily, the warning he gives, I simply wonder what it actually means for us - a question he doesn't really discuss.
One example where the meaning of Mr Jacques warnings is relatively straightforward is in the competition for natural resources - oil, specifically. Anyone who reads the news sees this playing out today; China courting oil-producing nations in competition with the rest of the oil-importing world - at what point in the competition do prices really start to rise? Does that create a dangerous hair-trigger for a hot energy war at some point?
Other warnings are less clear in their impact: When China becomes the world's largest economy - then what? There's only one largest economy in the world today, and that (by itself) doesn't have the rest of world moaning - visiting England one doesn't see the Brits moping about because they ceded their perch at the top of the world to the United States following WWII. Mr Jacques actually says, when narrating its history, that China had a tendency to let the status quo exist to a large degree. Yes, there was a historical tributary system, but they didn't necessarily impose changes on those countries paying them tribute (presumably as long as the tribute continued to arrive).
Mr Jacques' discussion of a future tributary system is also unclear in what it actually means for the Western World. I'd argue that as an important financier of America's growing burden of debt, that the tributary system is alive and well right here, right now. It's a more modern version, perhaps, but it exists in the form of Return on Investment all the same.
When China Rules the World is not what I'd call a fun read (I recommend Tim Clissold's "Mr China" for an irreverent look at a Westerner's experience in the Middle Kingdom), it is an interesting and thought-provoking read. The history lesson is very good; the forecast for the future is provocative and ill-defined at the same time. China will soon be the world's largest economic player; while I don't think the sky will fall as a result, Mr Jacques makes a good case that we need to think differently about what really makes China tick....Continua