194 of 209 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2009
Like many journalists who covered China in 1989, I thought it obvious that China's Communist Party would fall to ashes within a few years, having lost all credibility at Tiananmen Square. Got that wrong.
As China's economy took off in the 1990s, I knew for sure that steady growth would force the country to become more democratic. Wrong again. (Open, yes. Democratic, no.) At the very least, I figured, a broad swath of Western economists must be right to agree that China's modernization would require a following of accepted rules of Western finance. To develop, China would have to become more transparent and legally accountable, starting with a freely convertible currency. Right? Not really.
As Martin Jacques argues effectively in this book, the West has misjudged China because of a bedrock assumption that modern financial and political systems have to follow some basic principles of openness, rule of law and democracy. That is the paradigm that favored the United States, and paved the way for its world domination, from 1945 onward. But China's remarkable progress is not following the script, and is challenging Western assumptions.
With clear and compelling writing, Jacques makes the case that when China is the dominant power, it will make the rules. It may even create a new international paradigm, one that is just as hard for Americans to foresee as it was for the British a century ago to foresee their own decline, and as it was for the Romans, long before that.
"The West has, for the most part, become imprisoned within its own assumptions," Jacques writes. "Progress is invariably defined in terms of degrees of Westernization, with the consequence that the West must always occupy the summit of human development."
In the past few years, there have been dozens of books about China's rise. Most of them are mindless, over-the-top enthusiastic or else utterly alarmist. This one is an exception, a book that offers true food for thought, and plenty to chew on. It shook me from preconceived notions.
Jacques has limitations. His predictions about the future get more flimsy as he gets more specific. He glosses over the evils of Mao's era. But his critique of Western assumptions is pretty trenchant.
122 of 136 people found the following review helpful
Martin Jacques' "When China Rules The World" carries a provocative title, but it should not be a surprise. Anyone can see this outcome coming by simply projecting economic growth in the U.S. and China at roughly their current rates; Goldman Sachs gave such conclusions credibility in 2007 when it concluded that China would surpass U.S. GDP in 2027, and double it by 2050. Jacques' book suffers not from an overly wild imagination, but from taking entirely too long to get this already obvious conclusion, and then not exploring enough about what that means for either Britain (his nation) or the U.S.A.
Far too much of "When China Rules The World" is taken up by a detailed historical summary and analysis of China's 5,000-some year history - to establish that it is not prone to colonizing other parts of the world, values unity among its people, and that its predominantly Han 'nationality' of people are becoming increasingly smug (racist?) as China's economic power grows. Jacques could have shortened this material enormously by simply pointing out that the key to China's recent growth has been the pragmatic orientation of its leaders. Obviously, economic growth has been their #1 objective since Mao's death, and public announcements communicated that the military would have to take a back seat. The late Premier Deng Xiaoping demonstrated this pragmatic focus when - despite being Mao's #2 and having been purged twice for not being a strong-enough Communist, he turned the nation's direction around after Mao's death. At the time, Deng explained his lack of commitment to ideology or history as follows: "I don't care if it's a white cat or a black cat. It's a good cat so long as it catches mice." This was interpreted to mean that being productive in life is more important than whether one follows a communist or capitalist ideology.
Regardless, even if Chinese history was the clear determinant of its direction, the topic is so immense and complex I doubt anyone but a Chinese scholar would have the resources or credibility to synthesize the thousands of years involved. That rules Jacques out. However, Jacques' material on today's China is much more useful.
Many China naysayers contend it cannot continue with anything near its recent growth rates because rising demand for labor will end the supply of its low-cost labor. Jacques, however, points out that China needs to create 8 million new jobs/year for its expanding urban population, plus another 15 million for new rural migrants coming to the cities. By 2020 it is estimated that there will be 553 million non-agricultural workers in China - 100 million more than in all the developed world. Another estimate is that 20 years from now China will still have 20% of its population looking for non-agricultural work - in other words, China has a relatively limitless supply of cheap labor.
How will China continue to rapidly grow its economy? First, by increasing its internal consumption, and secondly by moving up the value chain. Manufacturing comprises only about 15% of the cost of getting a product to market. China's leaders aim to increase China's proportion of the whole by raising R&D from $25 billion in 2004 to $45 billion in 2010 and $113 billion in 2020. China is also intensifying efforts to persuade overseas Chinese to return (eg. one-third of Silicon Valley's professional and technical staff are Chinese), and to raise the status and enrollment of its best universities. China has also been very successful in leveraging access to intellectual knowledge in exchange for granting foreign firms access to its markets. Then there's also its reputation for intellectual piracy. Jacques envisions strong Chinese total-product competition in aircraft manufacture, electric automobiles, communications, computers, and solar panels. Given their growing number of engineering graduates and American research labs located in China, I suspect they will also be strong contenders in household goods, biomedical products, wind turbine production - probably about any area they decide to move into, given their strong cost advantages.
Another reason some doubt China's continued success is that it isn't bringing democracy to the masses. Jacques, however, contends that very few countries have combined democracy (as now envisioned) with the process of economic take-off. (The U.S., for example, was late to grant voting to women and minorities.) Jacques also contends that developing countries are especially likely to value a government's ability to deliver economic growth, maintain ethnic harmony, limit corruption, and sustain order and stability as equal, if not greater values to democracy. Regardless, "When When China Rules The World" also presents data showing that most Chinese believe the political climate has improved since 1989 (Tienanmen Square), and 72% of its population are satisfied with the condition of the country vs. only 39% in the U.S. (As for the widely reported large number of civil disturbances within China reported each year, Jacques contends most have nothing to do with the central government - eg. local land issues.)
Bottom line - like it or not, China will become the major global power by 2050 - assuming continued rapid economic growth, and Jacques doesn't think that is going to stop. What does this mean? Jacques says Chinese companies will be the biggest in the world, as will its stock exchanges and banks. Macao will take Las Vegas' place as gambling capital of the world. The dollar will continue its decline and American military bases overseas will become increasingly difficult to finance. China's new aircraft carriers, stealth submarines, etc. will take over the Pacific near China, and its anti-ship missiles render the U.S. Navy obsolete. Taiwan will return to China's jurisdiction.
My projections for the U.S. are a return to protectionism and/or continued decline in our standard of living. Off-shoring will expand to include higher-level jobs such as engineering design, R&D, branding, corporate ownership, and even some marketing. Absent gaining control of our trade and government deficits, the U.S. risks substantial inflation. Government spending will have to drastically reduced at all levels, especially existing outlays for health care, education, and defense.
The "good news" is that there is already compelling evidence of U.S. overspending in all three areas. U.S. health care and education expenditures as a percentage of GDP are both about 2X and more those of other major developed nations, while U.S. defense expenditures (6-7% of GDP) equal those of the rest of the world combined (more if Homeland Security is added in). U.S. outcomes in these areas, however, are middling at best. Thus, about 15.5% of GDP could be eliminated from government and private expenditures for these three areas - about $2.2 trillion/year. In addition, Social Security benefits will have to be cut, the maximum level of taxable earnings eliminated, or both.
Jacques makes a very good point when he says that globalization was largely developed and instigated by Western nations, especially the U.S.; the benefits, however, have largely accrued to East Asia and China, and the drawbacks to the U.S. Combined with increased private and public efforts to outsource service jobs to India, and more jobs lost to technology, its going to be a very rough next few decades in the U.S.A. Americans need to be much more careful about what they wish for!
126 of 142 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2009
The rise of China will likely be one of the largest shifts in global power in human history. The direction it goes and the consequences of the rise are what are pondered in this book and the conclusions are that they will be different than most expect. To be specific it is argued, China occupies a unique position of both size and cultural continuity that makes the nations priorities very different from Western priorities and the adjustment will be hard for people, but inevitable. It is hard to disagree with the high level conclusion that China's rise will continue and that it will be different from the Western growth model. That being said, as its not a contentious conclusion, the substance of this book is filled with imagery rather than fact, and goes between making interesting points and stating the obvious. It often tries to convince the reader of things that no person reading a book let alone this book would need to be convinced of and tends to be patronizing without a point. Regardless, there is a lot in this book, and for all that I dislike, it has interesting and important commentary nonetheless.
The book is split into two parts, The End of the Western World and the Age of China. The End of the Western World definately bothered me more, but luckily, it is the shorter part of the book. It goes to describe the history of Western success and US hegemony, and discusses how Japan is an example of a country which has modernized but has remained distinctly different from the West. One of the pieces of evidence that is discussed is the lack of a 2 party system with the LDP dominating as a one party system- reinforcing the point that its not really a democracy. Unfortunately for the author, the DPJ just took power after the LDP lost in a crushing defeat... The book then describes China's history from the Opium Wars and the pain that has caused the psyche of the people. The book then describes the rise of asia and the differences between western growth and asia. This chapter treats the reader like some sort of fool, who believes that being modern means having a starbucks on every corner and McDonalds is the cuisine of choice. There is actually a section describing food preferences and the fact that CHinese prefer chinese food to mcdonalds... Its very frustrating to read and almost made me just put the book down. Luckily, it gets better.
At this point in the book, I was particularly annoyed at the attitude of the author and his assumptions about the readers assumptions. The Age of China section is much better than the End of the Western World. It gives the reader a background of China in relatively decent depth. It describes biases and history. The uniqueness of the country/civilization that has no equal. It describes issues like racism, the repurcussions of Confucianism are described in depth. The attitudes of the state in foreign policy and sovereign rights. A lot of the statistics seem to be from earlier in the decade suggesting this book was written over a long period of time but only recently completed. THat being said, the main forms of argument of this section and the book, are images, not real facts. Chinese proverbs are used as evidence of the perspective, which I think is very ineffective, as for each one which supports a point, one can find another proverb which offers a different perspective. THe Rise of China is an incredibly important and seemingly irreversible process, this could have been a great opportunity to back up claims with case evidence, but that was really not done in any convincing fashion. The author often makes hyperbolized points, which within a paragraph become qualified with a much much more balanced perspective. An example is the description of China and democracy. China it is claimed has no need for democracy and there is no reason to expect it, based on their historical citizens arrangement with government, and the fact that the people are not demanding it today (there are several times when it is stated that the chinese need 8-9% growth as not to cause civil unrest implicitly stating that it is the growth that excuses the lack of demand for political rights and that citizens are willing to forgive political rights for economic growth)... Most people who make convincing arguments about China and democracy make the claim that democracy in China will follow from socio-economic developement. When people move to the point from having to worry about subsistence to worrying about their leisure time, their priorities of governance chance. The allusions to history are just not convincing arguments, they can be dismissed as contextual and the authors own description of growth needed to prevent civil unrest makes the same point as stated above. The author Im sure knows this, so after making a claim which is not backed up, qualifies it by saying, it probably will democratize, but not the way you expect. Well, I dont know what that means. Points like this should be argued with case studies, look at the political associations and power that the well off have vs the poor, look at how those have changed. If there has been no change in political ideals of a person/group as their socio-economic condition has changed, make a point. Unfortunately the book does not take this approach, it looks to the past when the world was little changing in a relative context to today, and makes inferences. To quote Park Chung Hee from Korea which also took a state centered followed by democracy approach - "In human life, economics precedes politics and cluture." If one is going to dispute this, one should be doing it with cases not words with no evidence.
The auther discusses a lot, and as a source of information, i recommend reading it. I dont recommend reading it though without being very critical. THe author is inconsistent at times and does not draw conclusions based on the evidence he presents rather than the feelings that he has about the subject. It often seems like the author is describing a 0 sum world, china moving up is the west moving down. The West has started growing again, given there are major issues still being worked through (though the author says the West is in a depression...) and there is a title called the end of the Western world. In my opinion if the US manages to grow, then that doesnt mark the end of the western world. As long as the quality of life per person is greater than in China or wherever, it is a model for something right? Otherwise one should just join the country with the greatest number of citizens. The end of strict western hegemony seems inevitable, but the west is a model for something as again, it has the highest living standards in the world. One should read Good Capitalism Bad Capitalism to get a sense that we are lookings for systems of success, not nations to champion. If china doesnt dominate the US gdp that would be a tragedy, it has 5 times the people... This balance of power perspective is what drives a lot of the commentary. It is an important perspective and it would be naive to dismiss it, but as long as the model for economic growth is yielding good results, it is a valuable model for how a society should run. One cannot compare China and the US/Western Europe. They are not anywhere close on a GDP per capita. The rise of Chinese nationalism is very much a result of the great things China is achieving and the desire to be a part of it and to show the world what the Chinese are capable of. It is not a we are better, any average chinese citizen would with a high degree of confidence switch place with a US citizen of chinese origin- as long as that is the case, we havent seen the end of the west. That phenomenon will be around for a long time and the end of that situation isnt even contemplated in this book, the more defining data point to the author is, when will china's GDP exceed the US. So as not to bore people, the book gives good history, discusses central aspects of Chinese culture that arent prevalent in the west, and discusses how they might manifest themselves on a global scale. That perspective is an important one, as the strategic power of China grows, so will its use of influence and it is important to understand the context of its perspectives. THe book does not however convincingly conclude any strong statement about how the cultural manifestations will look or whether they will emerge at all. Points are made with imagery and hand waiving, rather than documentations of continuity in a concrete fashion with any single case as China has made great strides and thus presented cases to be studied. I would hope that the next in-depth book on the rise of China takes a more concrete approach as that is what would really be fascinating.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2010
Jacques' challenging premise is that coming Chinese economic hegemony will have a profound change on the world order which, in effect, ends western-style dominance and ushers in a whole new Chinese-based global order. It is an intriguing premise by a thinker well-versed in history and geo-politics.
But there are holes in his thinking. His assembly of the jigsaw of forecasting world history is skewed by faulty logic, in my view. His book, nevertheless, is worthwhile as a thinking exercise.
I agree with Jacques that economic power undergirds military strength. Jacques' argument that the 2008 recession was a symptom of western decline may be right, and his analysis about U.S. imperial over-reach in Iraq and Afghanistan seems sensible. He argues western institutions such as free markets, capital investment, privatization, the rule of law, human rights and democratic norms are manifestations of western culture, and that it is possible for different sets of values to prevail in a successful world order run by an emerging China. People have become so accustomed to thinking of the western order as the only one possible, he argues, since it's been around for two hundred years, but he argues that other versions are possible. Chinese culture has a long historical tradition and strong current economic position (Jacques looks at these dimensions) and that westernization is "only one way of being modern," he writes. He makes an interesting case by looking at historical patterns, and notes differences between Japan and China. Japan was a "vassal" of the U.S. after its defeat in World War II, and kowtowed to a western-style orientation. But China was never a U.S. vassal; it has had a long tradition dating back millenia, and Jacques uses his assessment of Chinese history to help make his case that the new Chinese world order will be substantially different from today's. Clearly, Jacques is well-read across different disciplines, and thinks.
What makes China different? Jacques argues against the current wisdom which suggests that China will grow into a world power with a "western-style" approach, but rather the new order will be vastly different. Jacques criticizes this vision for being an example of "European exceptionalism". Jacques argues that China sees itself as a "civilization-state" and not a "nation-state" although exactly what this means is somewhat blurry. China has a long history of insularity, seeing other races as inferior, according to Jacques. When central government in China was strong, it adopted a tributary arrangement with outlying satellite powers. China has long had historical unity, and great size. As a result, Jacques concludes that China's forthcoming hegemony will be substantially different.
But I don't think Jacques understands the link between what he thinks of as "western" institutions -- the rule of law, free markets, private property, and such -- and economic success. These so-called western institutions aren't just nice things we happen to like which could be options on a Chinese restaurant menu. You can't pick one from column A, and one from column B, and mix and match. Rather, these institutions are vital building blocks for economic success. Laws? They're needed for economic growth. Free markets? Of course. Private property? Take this away and it's like pulling the rug out from any economy. These aren't merely western cultural institutions which an emerging China can be free to adopt or not adopt as it sees fit; rather, these are necessary cause-and-effect relations necessary for economic growth. It's well confirmed by experience. I think the rule of law is REQUIRED for a successful economy; Jacques thinks it's a western option. In my view, if China abandons the rule of law, free markets, private property and such, then its economy will tank. So, why does Jacques see the world this way? Check out the back flap of the book: he used to edit "Marxist Times"; he's a socialist. So, maybe in his desire to see a more "socialist" world order, he overlooks basic economics, and this skews his prediction?
Jacques read Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs and Steel", supposedly, since it's listed in the "Select Bibliography", but I was puzzled why his understanding of Europe's rise differs from mine, based partially on Diamond's analysis. Jacques thinks that the reasons that Europe outpaced China at the beginning of the Renaissance was because Europe lacked an "external threat"; in addition, European powers had colonies, which Jacques supposes were extremely important to Europe's rise. My sense of Europe's rise was different. Its topography played a key role, in my view; it varied considerably, with mountain ranges blocking key passes, such as the Pyrenees separating France and Spain, the English channel separating Britain from the continent, Scandinavia separated by water, with the Alps in the center blocking access to Italy from some directions. This meant that is was difficult for one monarch to conquer the whole of Europe, whether Napoleon or Hitler. As a result, it was difficult for any government to tramp down too hard on merchants (which they love to do) with an imposing tax or restrictive regulations, since merchants could flee to other parts in Europe, and continue doing business. And this dynamic kept commerce alive. But the competition between emerging nation-states led to intense creativity, invention, and thinking. A dynamic European civilization emerged, although intense intra-continental wars did have, at times, devastating effects on overall European hegemony. In some respects, Renaissance Europe was like ancient Greek city-states, encouraged by water routes to trade, and with difficult mountainous topography hindering the ability of one monarch or government from squashing down on commerce continent-wide, and the trading and competition resulted in a highly dynamic environment which advanced civilization. I'm less clear that the colonies were that helpful to European mother countries; some analyses suggest expenditures securing and maintaining colonies were counter-productive, although clearly an access to precious resources such as coal was a benefit.
What will happen in the next fifty years? Jacques is probably right to agree with experts forecasting China to have the world's largest economy by 2027, although I think institutions such as private property, rights, free trade, the rule of law and such will remain, since they are the essence of the successful functioning of ANY economy, Western or Chinese.
I agree China will become a dominant power for perhaps a different reason than what Jacques proposes. Basically, China has a superior architecture of government which allows its foreign policy to be intelligent, long-range, consistent, steady, focused, practical, and patient. It has an essentially aristocratic body of leaders who control foreign policy, and as such, it is like a "wise man who never dies", according to Tocqueville. By contrast, U.S. foreign policy has Attention Deficit Disorder; its policy may change every four years, definitely every eight, replaced by a new and inexperienced president possibly incompetent at world politics. Allies can't trust the U.S. to show a steely resolve. There's a tendency to befriend sometimes malevolent dictators while espousing policies of human rights. In addition, the constitutional structure of American government has numerous flaws which prevent it from grappling with serious issues, such as corruption, bloat, rigged elections (over 90% of congresspersons seeking reelection are reelected), lobbying, and litigiousness. Clearly a parliamentary structure similar to Britain's would be superior to the present arrangement, but there is virtually no possibility that the U.S. could agree to a constitutional convention to reform the structure of government. Its fate is fixed. By historical analogy, according to the current trajectory, the U.S. is like Carthage, China is like Rome. But there are many variables.
My best-guess but imperfect forecast is that the world will gradually become dominated by China, but that China is unlikely to dispense with institutions worldwide such as private property because these enable its own growth and power. In the near term, I agree with analysts such as Nina Hachigian of "The Next American Century" who suggest that the emerging six powers (Europe, Japan, US, India, Russia, and China) have strong incentives to cooperate to solve climate issues, prevention of nuclear terrorism, and economic growth, although it's unclear how well these nations will be able to cooperate; hopefully war won't break out. In the next thirty years, the six powers will have more greater parity, with U.S. relative dominance gradually being eroded by China. But I disagree with Jacques that China's rise will entail a huge Chinese-centric overhaul to the world economic order, and it's possible that the U.S. may someday have to pay some form of tribute to China. In the long term, however, if China can solve some rather serious internal problems (distribution of wealth issues; inability to accommodate foreigners; racism; difficulty accepting criticism; lack of openness hurting its universities; etc.) then it may well one day become the world's leader, but isn't forecasting the future so very very difficult? Still, I recommend this book because it provides an interesting and challenging perspective.
Thomas W. Sulcer
Author of "The Second Constitution of the United States"
(free on web; google title + Sulcer)
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2010
Most of the reviews on this book take issue with the author's politics. What bothered me about this book was how much it needed a better editor. It is a good first draft, but to me, it seemed very disorganized, repetitive, and just undisciplined. Not to mention, there is almost no time spent on the what will happen when "China Rules the World" -- the title should be "Look Out: here comes China, and they are different from you and me".
Topics are covered in a circular fashion -- not really in depth, but referred to over and over again. He goes into great details with tons of footnotes on some items, and then throws in a statement that is pure opinion with no references or even examples. He continually refers to China as a civilization-state rather than a nation-state as if this were an everyday distinction, but it seems to be his creation. I think that I understand these two terms, but he certainly could have laid a better foundation for defining them. And, at one point, he contradicts himself by stating "of course, one sees a parallel with the Roman or Egyptian empires". I thought that his whole point was that China is NOT like the Romans or Egyptian empires: China has lasted; they have not. [Where once there were Romans, now there are Italians; where once there was Latin, now there is everything but.]
What is so frustrating is that this is such a fascinating topic. In Houston Smith's book on world religions, he takes the viewpoint that there are three different ways of looking at the world, and that the Eastern religous/ethical traditions are built around relationships, very different from the Judeo-Christian culture [of individualism] that we take for granted. And, what we take for granted may not in fact be the only possibility for "civilized" man.
It is clear that China will be a dominant economic power in the 21st century: they already are. They hold our debt. If you look at the Fortune Global 500 rankings, in the past five years, the number of Chinese companies on the list has doubled; in 2005 there were a total of 16, the highest ranking was 31st. In 2009, there were 37, with one in the top 10 and three in the top twenty.
If you look at the clean energy sector, in five years, China has taken over the number one position in PV manufacturing from Japan; it is moving up to No. 1 in wind. Economically, China is living in the future. And, with approximately 1/3 of the world's population, its influence is bound to be felt. There is no need to go on and on with chart after chart "proving" this.
The big question is: what will this influence be?? There are teasers in this book -- Confusionism, how they deal with trading partners in Africa, hints from their history -- but these are briefly sketched over.
We have a materialistic heritage. "Fill the earth and subdue it" says Genesis. What exactly does Confucionism say? What exactly is its influence in modern China?
The important points that he makes in this book would have been a good magazine article. The points he touches on would have made a good book. This is neither. Someone needs to write a second edition. With a much less tolerant editor.
And, if I never see the word hegemony again it will be too soon. It seems that the author has a very limited vocabulary -- limited to words with three or more syllables that are not used much by the population in general.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2011
A widely held opinion in the West is that China is in the process of embracing democracy and it's only a matter of time before China will become a democracy. Furthermore, China is becoming more and more "westernized" and eventually it will fully adopt the Western way of living. In his book, Martin Jacques's main argument is that China will not become another western country, but rather, China will influence the West, and the West will shaped by China. I don't quite see eye to eye with the author, as someone who used to live in China it's pretty obvious that some of the cities (and the people) in China are already highly "westernized". Moreover, most of the author's conclusions seem to be based on his own wishes of how he would like to see China shaping up rather than based on pure analysis. After that being written, the book still provides an interesting perspective and a lot of important information can be obtained from it. So, if you're interested in Chinese history and culture this book is a good start. Just remember to read this book with a critical eye.
53 of 69 people found the following review helpful
on November 28, 2009
It is amazing that in this 550-page tome Jacques does not mention just for once the extremely important role of the Legalist School in the governance of China.
The first Chinese emperor Qin Shuhuangdi was an ardent advocate and ruthless practitioner of Legalism. After his short-lived dynasty, starting from Han Dynasty in the 2nd century BC, most Chinese rulers adopted the guiding principle of "wai ru nei fa or yang ru yin fa -- Outside(Overtly) is Confucianism, but inside (covertly) is Legalism", i.e. use Confucian moralistic preaching as a façade but practise draconian law in real governance. That is one of the consensus views of most Chinese historians, the most prominent of whom may have been Prof Fung Yu-lan (one of the first generation of modern Chinese philosophers and author of A Short History of Chinese Philosophy, an all-time classic.) In Modern time, Mao Zedong was a great admirer of Legalism. He prided himself in outdoing ancient Legalists by 100-fold. In 1972 he even composed a long poem defending and eulogizing brutal legalistic practices.
But Jacques bores me to tears with his assertion that the Chinese state was governed by Confucianism with its emphasis on morality and the elite's moral examples.
Fact is almost every Chinese emperor, in order to maintain the opulent lifestyle of his extended family and ensure the loyalty of the rapidly expanding bureaucracy (which is inevitable), would have to impose ever heavier taxes on subsistence peasants. Consequently every Chinese dynasty saw bloody peasants' uprisings and civil wars. Almost every Chinese dynasty ended in bloodbath. Isn't that a verifiable fact? As to Confucian moral example as the cornerstone of Chinese governance, I fail to find one single instance in his 550-page tome. Could please Jacques give just a couple of examples? Oh, yes, the modern-day Communist Emperor Mao Zedong gave up his beloved Chinese homemade "soy sauce braised pork" in 1962 when several tens of millions of Chinese peasants were dying of starvation caused by his lunatic agricultural policies! At that time, however, Mao was cultivating a new gourmet taste, with his chefs successfully innovating 17 ways of cooking seafood and 14 ways of doing chicken in the style of haute European cuisine.
Was that rule by moral example! Not to mention him as a hardened womanizer!
Throwing legalism to the winds and praising moralistic (and hypocritical) Confucianism as the essence of Chinese governance, Jacques paints a Voltarie-sque idealized picture of China. While Old Voltarie's indulgence was harmless, Jacques's misinterpretation and false picture have serious political consequences as it may mislead readers, and prepare them for the time "when China rules the world" with false expectations.
Over 200 years have passed since Voltarie's time, but there always seems to be a strong desire among some Western intellectuals to find superior men and women in the Orient. The book quotes a much-quoted anecdote first created by Henry Kissinger (page 391). When he asked Zhou Enlai in 1972 about the consequences of the French Revolution, Zhou replied, "It is too early to say". "Such thinking", Jacques almost swoons, "is characteristic of a civilization-state rather than a nation-state." Sorry, to me, a simple-minded Chinese, this was just Zhou's way of stalling a rather unexpected and difficult question. In Chinese we call it "tangse". We often do that.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 2010
In reading the existing reviews I noticed two things. First of all Chinese people say Martin Jacques does not understand China and that only a native Chinese scholar can write a book of this sort. Not so. The problem here is that native Chinese have neither the knowledge nor the objectivity to write a book on modern-day China. I am an American but lived and worked in China teaching at various universities for four years. In the course of this time I came into contact with many Chinese students and professors. The Chinese education system and the lack of openness in the country prevents Chinese people from fully understanding their own country.
Secondly, Western people say the book is "anti-western" because of the negative and critical comments Jacques makes about Western countries. Again they are wrong. Much of what Jacques says about American foreign policy for example is simply true, however unpleasant it may seem to Americans. I also lived in India and saw first hand what damage the British did to that country.
Finally there is the criticism that Jacques spends too much time recounting Chinese history and social, political and cultural practices and not enough time stating what he thinks will happen when in fact China rules the world. But I like his approach. If you do not understand the past and the present you can hardly expect to understand the future. To focus just on the future would make the book mere speculation. Instead it gives insights into the Chinese mentality (as well as that of Japan) that are invaluable in understanding Chinese behavior in the world now and in the future. Simple ideas such as the fact that Chinese dye their hair because white hair means one should not work (Check out the hair on Hu Jintao if you want an example!) and the practice of women carrying an umbrella on sunny days because they are adverse to dark skin are very useful examples of the Chinese psyche.
In sum, read the book for a good understanding of China, its past and current behaviors in the world and that of other world powers in what is as close to an objective analysis as one person can make. Then draw your own conclusions as to what the world will be like When China Rules the World.
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
There is an ancient saying in Eastern countries in general, and China and India in particular, and in some African countries too, that "A man is rich when other people owe him money". What applies to an individual could very easily apply to a nation as well. And judged from this point of view, China, which owns more than a trillion dollars of America's debt, is a very wealthy nation indeed.
In his fascinating, sprawling, and thought provoking book, with a long, sprawling and rather scary title: "When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order", Martin Jacques, a columnist for The Guardian of London, elucidates that China will not only displace the United States as the preeminent superpower, but also dominate the world stage in economic, social and cultural fields, and change the Western world's concept of what it means to be the preeminent global power. For me, what was even scarier than the title was the impression I got as I read the chapters and his well-reasoned and masterfully articulated points, and the stubborn, indisputable facts that can not be simply brushed away as pure fantasy. And what is truly enigmatic is that America seems to be steadily and willfully marching in the direction of a steep precipice not too far away.
I find it quite fascinating that what he predicted and wrote last year is happening right now, that the United States will find itself on the eve of a psychological, emotional and existential crisis as it enters a protracted period of economic, political and military trauma. With unemployment hovering around 14% in several states, and a large number of Americans subsisting on food stamps only and zero income, and now that President Obama has decided to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, even as civilian deaths caused by drone attacks and night raids have increased dramatically, causing a great deal of trauma, and ever growing anger and resentment and even hatred of America, the author is certainly right regarding "a protracted period of economic, political and military trauma" .
Written in lucid prose, this book is quite reader friendly: "The meltdown of some of Wall Street's largest financial institutions in September 2008 underlined the shift in economic power from the West, with some of the fallen giants seeking support from sovereign wealth funds and the US government stepping in to save the mortgage titans Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae partly in order to reassure countries like China, which had invested huge sums of money in them: if they had withdrawn these, it would almost certainly have precipitated a collapse in the value of the dollar. The financial crisis has graphically illustrated the disparity between an East Asia cash-rich from decades of surpluses and a United States cash-poor following many years of deficits."
I do not agree with all that the author has written, of course. He states: "At least for the next century, the new world will not be Chinese in the way that the previous one was Western." But at the rate our nation is marching in the wrong direction propelled by misguided notions, and the belief that we can solve many of the world's simmering problems using our military might, I am afraid that the loss of USA's preeminence on the world stage will occur sooner even than the author predicted.
Not all readers would be persuaded by this book, however. This book is worth reading if one reads it with an open mind. I found the book truly fascinating and thought provoking.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2010
I think it's a little early to count the United States out just yet. Yes, Chinese power will continue to climb to the level of global power, but this author makes a number of outlandish assumptions about that rise.
Just how realistic is the expectation that China will maintain a 10% annual economic growth rate for the next 30-40 years? Why is the fact that the Chinese demographics will get old before they get rich not a problem? The Japanese will simply accept vassal state status in regards to China? Chinese development in nation-states considered international pariahs without regards to official corruption won't have the same impact as the United States' treatment of the banana republics following World War 2?
The author gives wonderful insights to Chinese views of the world, but his bias remains obvious.