Tuesday, January 26, 2010

When China Rules the World

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.

For the record, The China Desk does not believe that any national government should "rule the world." Instead, sovereign individuals should rule themselves. The China Desk believes in "individual sovereignty, universal harmony." The China Desk believes in Free Market Anarchism, the doctrine that the legislative, adjudicative, and protective functions unjustly and inefficiently monopolized by governments should be turned over to the voluntary, consensual forces of the free market.


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.’
Eric Hobsbawm

‘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


  1. I saw Jacques' talk, and it was interesting in some ways. In some ways China is less regulated and its citizens more pro-trade than many Western nations. However, their government can still be quite nasty at times.

  2. Dear Ricky,

    Yes, you are quite right. As a market anarchist, I am not about to make excuses for any government on earth.

    There are no "good governments" anywhere. There are only bad governments and worse governments.

    During Mao's era, mainland China was one of the worst governments. Now it is just another bad government.

    It may do some things right. But it is nevertheless bad because like all governments, it demands obedience and extorts wealth from private individuals at the point of a gun.

    During its early years the US government was one of the "least bad" governments. Now, sad to say, it is one of the worst.

  3. Anonymous2:31 PM

    I would be very skeptical of this book by Martin Jacques.

    He is a fellow at the London School of Economics, one of the intellectual centers of British imperialism, and his work most likely reflects this worldview.

    Jacques' work sounds like a more sophisticated and sinister form of British/Western sinophobia--in which the imperialist West ... sorry, democratic West imagines itself as being overtaken by the hordes of the East, in this case China.

    That's why it has gotten major hype from the mainstream Western media system.

    I remember similar types of Western propaganda about Japan Inc. in the 1980s with the economic success of Japan. And look how that turned out.

    And for all the pants-wetting hysteria about China's economic ascendancy by Western propagandists, hundreds of millions of Chinese are still peasants or sweatshop workers (often slaving for European or American corporations) for pennies a day.

    Ultimately, one of the defining pathologies of Western imperial nations like Britain, America, and France is that they love to build up a bogeyman or threat--even as their own nations wage aggressive wars around the world from Iraq to Afghanistan to Libya.

  4. Dear Anonymous,

    I have not ruled that possibility out either.

    That is why I refrained from either praising or critiquing it.

    I merely posted it for reference, and adopted a wait and see attitude.

    In time, the truth will out.

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