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Martin Jacques on Understanding China

Martin Jacques is famous for his controversial book, “When China Rules the World.” Everyone on the planet seems to have weigh in on him and his book. A good friend of mine asked me to weigh in on what he said in the video below. Honestly, I think most Chinese dare not think China ruling the world. However, as I said in this post, “Peaceful rise, the biggest international relations issue of our life time,” China’s or any other country’s rise is an inevitability. For that reason, Martin Jacques forces the issue, and therefore is helpful. He also promotes this idea that the West should try harder to understand the rest of the world. That message certainly deserves repeating. Conversely, I think the Chinese need to enhance their appetite for understanding the West and the rest of the world too. Some of you who have followed this blog or Fool’s Mountain will find Martin Jacques’ views in the video below quite consistent with what we have been saying all along.

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  1. r v
    January 26th, 2011 at 17:01 | #1

    Mutual understanding and mutual respect, may be too typical of Chinese catch phrase, but I believe that may be the ONLY eventual peace that the world can reach.

    The future is uncertain, but what is certain is that the CURRENT world power system, where the Western cultures clearly dominates all political powers, but clearly view their own cultural political systems as the “correct” ones, this world system cannot be a stable long term system of equilibrium.

    Other cultural political systems will rise in their own rights, and assert their influences in the world.

    The West can deal with this by acceptance, understanding and respect, or conflict will arise. There is no way around this.

    Undoubtedly, a great deal of understanding and respect has already been afforded by the world to the West. Western influences are undeniable, and cannot be removed from the world.

    But the West needs to come to terms with the fact that no one is seeking to remove the Western influence in the world, only that it needs to be properly proportioned to the West itself.

    The sheer size of Western dominant influence in the world today, is a deadly sin of pride.

  2. silentvoice
    January 26th, 2011 at 22:44 | #2

    yinyang I am glad you brought up Martin Jacques. I’ve been meaning to bring to your attention an interview he did. In this interview he commented on China’s behavior in 2010. His analysis is, imho, very astute. He’s one of the best western China watchers out there.

    http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_international/457711.html

    As for his book, I read it. It raises some good points. At the same time, he tends to put too much weight on certain things (in the book, not the interview), for example, using Chinese history and culture as a way to predict future events. I don’t necessarily agree with that part.

  3. January 27th, 2011 at 00:23 | #3

    @silentvoice

    Thanks for the link to the interview. I agree with you his observations are very astute. I had similar hopes for Hatoyama as he did. In my view, Hatoyama was partly taken down by the U.S. for trying to draw Japan closer to Asia.

    Anyways, I am almost done reading the interview, and there is a passage comparing China and the U.S. I thought especially worthwhile quoting:

    There‘s a lot more freedom in people’s lives. And actually, although it’s limited, there’s a lot of debate going on here. In fact, there’s more useful debate taking place here about the future of society, than there is in the United States. Because the American discussion has become completely paralyzed, so it’s impossible now in America to make any headway because the society is so split. Whereas here, there‘s a lot of engagement with how to deal with this problem, that problem, and so on. But it’ll take time. Maybe in ten year‘s time, people… you’ll see the process happening earlier but, and of course if they find a way of opening up their political system, which I assume they will at some point, I don’t know how they’ll do it. But you know government is very effective here. So it‘ll take time to, you know, it works, This place works. I mean, in some profound way, this place works.

    It is very consistent with what we have being saying. Many espouse this idea of a “free market of ideas” in a “free” media, but the result of polarization, competing for ads, and pushing dogma has warped the society to a point unable to come together on anything.

  4. January 27th, 2011 at 01:35 | #4

    @r v

    This is a great point, and I am adding it to the random quotes section.

    But the West needs to come to terms with the fact that no one is seeking to remove the Western influence in the world, only that it needs to be properly proportioned to the West itself.

  5. TonyP4
    January 27th, 2011 at 10:49 | #5

    It is just fair for intelligent citizens to rise when they work hard, save for future, and have bad lessons from the past.

    Chinese emperors treated themselves as son of God. They had high civilization when the west wore animal skins and lived in caves. Chinese did not colonize as the west did in 1400s. They just wanted them to be a tributary state – it is more a face issue.

    However, in the last 250 years, the Chinese were humbled for ignoring the industrial revolution, the more advanced weapons and warships. They learn their lessons. They will not rule the world by force at least in our generation. Improving the living standard of its citizens will be their objective.

  6. tc
    January 27th, 2011 at 11:17 | #6

    I believe China is still too far behind, Chinese people have been working very hard trying to catch up. Talking about “When China rules the world” today is ridiculous. The guy is taking advantage of (the majority of) the western people’s ignorance about China, Chinese culture to make money.

  7. Milwaukeeprogressive
    January 29th, 2011 at 18:30 | #7

    Just so it is clear… in previous lectures Mr. Jacques has stated that the title of his book, “When China Rules the World,” was made by his editor in a marketing decision, and he resists any notion that what china seeks is in any way related to the notion of “ruling” in the sense of domination, but more along the lines of the increasing cultural influence that coincides with rising economic influence.

    I have read his book and found it refreshing to learn about other aspects that will accompany China’s rise besides economic (as astounding as it is, but more singularly focused on by other observers).

  8. nic
    January 30th, 2011 at 03:46 | #8

    Thanks for the pointer to the interview and M.Jacques’ book. I’ve just ordered it and I’m looking forward to reading it.

    Milwaukeeprogressive :
    Just so it is clear… in previous lectures Mr. Jacques has stated that the title of his book, “When China Rules the World,” was made by his editor in a marketing decision […]

    Now, why does that [disconnect between an author’s intent and the publisher’s narrative and marketing] remind me of another recently discussed book?

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