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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!
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on February 24, 2013
The writer paints with a very broad brush. His idea that China and Chinese people should be understood from a civilisational paradigm rather than a nation state paradigm is interesting. He argues that China is a civilsation behaving like a state. To appreciate what this means, think back to the ancient Greek states which were all members of a single advanced Hellenistic civilisation, but were hopelessly, and ultimately fatally, divided. China, like the ancient Greek states, once consisted of numerous warring states sharing a single civilisation, but over time these warring states managed somehow to fuse into a single state, with a homogenous sense of race and culture, which survived into the present day. The author argues that this civilisational state model gives the Chinese state a unique vitality - imagine, for example, what kind of power Greece would have become if the brief unity which it achieved during the Persian wars and Alexander the Great had been sustained to the present day.

Nevertheless, I do feel that the main thesis of this book - that China will rule the world - is ultimately not sustained. In spite of the sensational title (no doubt a marketing strategem in order to sell more books (worked on me!), the writer actually takes a very even handed approach to the subject by acknowledging both the achievements and challenges, the strengths and weaknesses of the Chinese civilisation state. So the impression that one is left with in the end is equivocal. China may suceed ultimately in dominating the world - or not.
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on January 1, 2014
Despite the fact that this seems to be a well-written and crafted Western-centric view of China, developed more from a journalist living within China and reading Chinese "tea leaves" rather than by getting his hands dirty either in Chinese politics or by dealing with the Chinese people at the ground level, it nevertheless contains a number of insights and views that deserve respect within Western academic and political circles.

That said however, it must also be said that this book is still missing the kind of geopolitical contextualization that would make it a proper critique of our global situation of the last generation in which China has made its spectacular rise to prominence. And while it helps to throw in reference to modernization, this analysis still begs the question: what did the West do (or not do) to facilitate China's meteoric rise to to geopolitical prominence in less than a full generation?

If it occurred solely due to the power and dynamism of China's own political system, then indeed maybe we only need to now fully acknowledge that China must have a superior political system and thus deserves to be crowned as world leader, and leave it at that? But with our eyes wide open, we can see readily that this has not been the case, Chinese Communism has moderated a bit but not enough to make the West comfortable or enough to account for its spectacular economic rise. Therefore, the Chinese have had a great deal of help in their Chinese project by the political and economic demise of the West. That is to say, other things must be at work here, things that are clearly left out of this analysis?

Indeed, how long can it be ignored that less than two decades ago, American policies towards China were the same as they are today towards Cuba, North Korea and Iran? At what point, and under what set of geopolitical conditions and circumstances, did China suddenly cease to be a part of Ronald Reagan's "great axis of evil?" I still hear echoes in conservative American circles of the Chinese leaders still being "those Commie Red Chinese SOBs?" Does anyone remember Mao Tse Tung?

Yes, my dear author, this Chinese revolution is about more than just more or less "Chinese rice? There is a geopolitical transformation matrix in progress here that this book does not even begin to "tap?" Rather than "wax" eloquent about how China plans to turn the world into Confucian Chop-Suey, would it not be better to stick to specifics about what has happened in the last generation?

And on that plane I do indeed have a few specifics that might assist the author in getting to the roots of the geopolitical situation. And here I speak of Chinese actions in Africa in particular.

As a U.S. diplomat, I had to attend conferences throughout Africa. My several trips to Bamako Mali stick out because, our group, sponsored by the UN, met in a beautiful, modern conference building courtesy of the "Communist Chinese." Surely this largesse did not come without some geopolitical strings attached, as Chinese merchants lived within the Malian communities and sold goods on Bamako streets rather than in "Walled-off compounds" as American and French diplomats did? This rebounded to Chinese credit, because when I discretely queried the Malians about this, they clearly had broken the U.S. code: For they said to me specifically that unless a clear U.S. threat was perceived from Mali, the U.S. and France could care less about their development.

And as if on cue, as soon as their was a perceptible Al Qaeda threat in Mali, only then did American and French military aide begin to flow like a mighty river. But before that, next to nothing. The Malians, even with the new Western military aide were profoundly insulted. Meanwhile, the Chinese goodwill was still working and had a one decade head start. When we needed Mali's vote in the UN, guess what? they doubled-crossed us and voted with the Chinese just to send us a clear message? (Geez I wonder why?) The reasons all can be found on page one of geopolitics 101.

In short, I guess what I am saying is that hypocrisy does not work quite as well as sincere concern for the things that the people we are helping care about. And thus to fully account for China's rise, we need a more full-throated and proper political critique of the context in which the West's demise and China's rise has occurred. With respect to the author's fine efforts, I do not believe that one can be discussed without discussing the other. We at least need to pose the question: How much has Western, and especially American stagnation, contributed to the Chinese rise to international power? Three stars
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on October 25, 2012
This book was carefully researched and written by a British journalist with a Western prism. He spent a good portion in the history 101 of China to help the Western mind to understand and comprehen. Understanding the past helps envision the future as Martin projects what he concludes with eight points in the last chapter. He is drumming up to welcome China into the global theater and stirs up pros and antis.

For a long time, China is the global trader with Middle East and Africa in silk and china and other goods by sea and land Silk Roads. The impact of Confucianism on statecraft helps the country in efficiency, competence and ability to undertake enormous public projects. The long civilization and technical advance at a high point in the Ming Dynasty was no match as Europe just came out of the Dark Age, America was still a continent to explore. European started the Industrial and Agricultural Revolutions after Jesuits introduced Chinese philosophy, notably Taoism and Confucianism back home to fuel the Enlightenment Movement. It was Mencius teaching that people has the divine right to take over if the Son of Heaven lost the Mandate to govern. Is it the very idea of democracy to promote French and American Revolutions? In Confucianism, his ideal of a commonwealth state is that in the democratic selection, the virtuous, worthy and capable candidate will be elected to hold civil posts.

Martin mentions that it is likely when China comes on, the old tributary system will come back with possible orbit from Australia and New Zealand. Why ancient and modern countries rush to China to be tributary and trade? Why Taoism and Confucianism attract more Westerners for power and freedom and gung ho? China endured a century of humiliation under Western and Japan colonialism and imperialism. Western creates airplanes, cannons and warships as hegemony power in sharp contrast to Chinese cultural harmony virtue of moral, justice and humanity. Who is to win friends and minds under heaven? According to I Ching, a gentleman will seek non-stop self strengthening. It is this spirit to strive to restore the former glory with the teaching of Confucius golden rule "do not do onto others what you do not want others do onto you" with moral and peace virtues. Master Kong's family value may be helpful for the dysfunctional family and gun violence of the West. It is evident from Zheng He's seven trips of peace goodwill. Otherwise, we would have New Beijing, New Nanjing instead of New York and New England! Zheng He was a Moslem and not a Han. Han Chinese is the dominant one as China is a family of 56 ethnic groups whose kids in their traditional dress carried the flag in the colorful parade at the Beijing Olympic. Chinese bank note carries five languages. Martin talked about Tibet but failed to talk about the British ambition into it in 1904. Japan in Meiji Restoration claimed "Rich country, strong soldiers" while China aimed at "Rich country and strong people". On p.238, martin talks about The Great Wall - appropriate to regard outer perimeter of an expanding Chinese Empire. This structure is a defense against the horse-back raiders to disturb and rob. Will Martin say the same to an English castle for an expanding British Empire?

China catches up since Deng's 1978 opening with the guides from Chou En-lai of the four modernizations based on the writings of Dr. Sun Yat-sen "Three People Principles" and Mao's quotation of "one day is equal to twenty years". The East is Red? In the free global market, China is accused of unfair advantage and trade, whether before the Opium Wars or the current new millennium. Are they business MBA genius? A strong and powerful China is not a new concept but is their long history of glory. This book helps open Westerners especially politicians for a wider update perspective and lesson.1421: The Year China Discovered America (P.S.)The I Ching or Book of ChangesThe Great Encounter of China and the West, 1500-1800 (Critical Issues in World and International History)Into Tibet: The CIA's First Atomic Spy and His Secret Expedition to LhasaThe Genius of China: 3,000 Years of Science, Discovery, and InventionThe sacred books of Confucius, and other Confucian classicsThe Sacred Books of China: The Yî King
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on May 10, 2013
A thorough review of the current situation in China and a most valuable description of the background conditions in the so-called Western world. ('So-called' because I had always thought the West was a geographical description; the author uses it exclusively in political terms -thus leaving South America floating who knows where.Not a pleasant feeling.).
The description of the stark contradictions it is facing at this point in time, plus its impact on the rest of the world is most illuminating. I am reading the chapter on the sustainability or lack of it, of China's development: definitely a cause of deep concern. M. Jacques has certainly done a veruy good and necessary job.
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on June 24, 2013
The concept that China is and will expand its role in impacting the world is by now obvious to many. Martin Jacques has done incredible research to give us so much statistical and historical information about the depth of the penetration so far and then overlaid that with well reasoned and easy to read arguments as to how China could develop. This is a must read for all students and anyone who ever thinks about the future.
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on April 17, 2014
Jacques seems to have it all.
I expect another update to follow how he puts in perspective:
- China's lower economic growth;
- China's larger Defense allocations;
- the US after Siria and Crimea, vis a vis China
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on July 6, 2012
Great eye opening book to undestand the roots of asian culture. A great read if you are planning to visit asia any time soon.
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on February 17, 2010
This is a great book. It not only looks imaginatively to the futue, but contains a great deal of well researched history. I warmly recommend it to anyone concerned about world affairs.
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on July 16, 2014
Don't bother. Also his stupid emphasis that the Han Chinese are not really one race is total BS.
He should look at his own race. The english are a mix of German tribes, French, celts, romans and vikings yet the english are seen as a race. You could say the same of the French, Russians and Spanish. All have ancestors from numerous backgrounds. So the Han Chinese are one race even though they have ancestors from numerous backgrounds.
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