Reviews worldwide have called it “by far the best book on China”, “a forcefully written lively book that is full of provocations and predictions”, “offering deep knowledge and understanding” about “the end of the Western world and the birth of a new world order.”
Martin Jacques, the author of this celebrated book When China Rules the World is currently promoting it in India, China’s largest neighbour which is also viewed as its challenger in the region. Sitting at the New Delhi office of his publisher, Penguin, Jacques dishes out a genial smile, almost sage like, or is it that of a conqueror who knows what today holds and what tomorrow shall bring? With hands clasped together behind his head, he is all keen to reason out with you why he thinks China is the crown prince of the world economy, how it is inching closer to the throne. After all, he chased the subject for almost a decade to fill up a tome of a book at 800 pages.
“We stand on the eve of a different kind of world,” he begins. And off he takes you, reason by reason, how China will change the world order, and how this change will appear less and less Western even though the West would want it the other way round. “The rise of China is a very good thing; it means 20 per cent of the world population is transforming and they now have better expectation from life in the level of education, health, etc. For 200 years, these people were suppressed very badly, there was great poverty and during this time it almost disappeared from the global map.”
Jacques is categorical that a transforming China will make the world go more and more Chinese instead. Here, he chips at the dominant Western view that globalisation will, and should, make the rest of the world increasingly Westernised. “With the adoption of free markets, the import of Western capital, privatisation, the rule of law, human rights, it seriously believed it. Much political effort has been expended by the West towards this end.” But China is the game changer. “Because China is a product of a history and culture which has little or nothing in common with that of the West.” Jacques’ book shows how the Western world looked at China’s rise only economically and didn’t fully fathom its spread to achieve wider political, cultural and military ends. “Having been hegemonic for long, the West, has, for the most part, become imprisoned within its own assumptions, unable to see the world other than in terms of itself.”
So the West (“the problem is more in America”) is a worried lot. “China has suddenly become a huge challenge for the West, even a threat.”
Like China has contributed greatly to the human civilisation over the centuries, India too has done so, but “its growth rate is not as good as China,” he points out.
“Both the countries have some things in common: lack of development for too long, a huge population, but it is a dangerous assumption that India can do it too.” Why can’t it do it? “The Chinese Government has worked incredibly hard for a long time to ensure this success. India still has a sense of complacence when it comes to implementing policies.” The world is taking note of India too, he underlines, but “because China is becoming successful, India need not necessarily be.” However much you think India’s democracy is its plus point, Jacques looks at the nature of the State in China as a plus. “The state embodies what China is today; its strength is the State. If you look back, it has a long history of a unified country. India is much more recent, there is a novelty, a newness about India.” The resolve to become a modern State, he points out, “is very new in India; it has no deep roots” and this, he calls “the weakness of India.”
But doesn’t a totalitarian government often muffle the voices of the people? “To see the State as a problem in China is only one way of looking at the question. Slowly, with progress in education, health, etc., the State, which is seeing itself as a world leader, just can’t afford to do so.”