China: The New Leader of the World?

Martine Jacques (L) and Ronnie C. Chan, Co-chair of Asia Society and Chairman of ASHK, at the evening discussion on August 5, 2014. (Asia Society Hong Kong Center)

Hong Kong, August 5, 2014 — China is likely to become the most influential and powerful country in the world, according to Martin Jacques, Senior Fellow at the Department of Politics and International Studies, Cambridge University.

Speaking at Asia Society Hong Kong Center, Jacques predicted that a new international system will develop over time. “It is inconceivable, in my view, that in 10 years’ time and certainly in 15 and 20 years’ time, East Asia will look anything like it does today. It is going to go through a profound change.”

“It is going to go essentially from the American-centric system to an increasingly China-centric system, whatever forms that takes,” Jacques added.

Author of the best-selling book When China Rules the World: the End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order, Jacques observed that China is an entirely different global power compared with Western hegemony. “You can’t make any sense of China’s unless you are prepared to treat China and do it the justice and credit of understanding China in its own historical and cultural terms and not seek to project onto China a Western history, Western experience and Western concepts.” Jacques said.

“For China, universalism didn’t mean expand outwards, but it was sort of celebration of China’s civilization, of Chinese achievement. For the Chinese, essentially, their universalism was a stay-at-home universalism.”

However, Jacques also worried that the West, especially the United States, could not entirely comprehend what is happening in China and refused to recognize the rise of China and its displacement of the West due to the stakes involved. “The Americans are basically in denial.” Jacques noted. “It will be a very dangerous world if America, for example, refuses to adapt and insist on primacy and all relationships including that with China. Then we will be in real trouble.”

In response to how China will influence the world, Jacques argued that the first defining characteristic of China as a global power will be its relative economic influence compared with the US and the UK. He cited research conducted by Hu Angang, an economist from Tsinghua University, China, that in 2030, China’s GDP will account for 33.4% of global GDP, larger than the combined GDPs of US and UK that are respectively 15.1% and 13.1%. “With the economy counting around one-third of global GDP in 2030, China’s economic strengthen in the world, its power, its influence, and its leverage will be very, very large.”

While there are some concerns that China may impose its political and military influence on other countries, Jacques pointed out that China did not expect rule the world with military bases. “Where the danger in is Japan,” Jacques warned, “The South China Sea problems can be solved. The East China Sea issue between China and Japan are about Japanese behavior, especially in the last war but actually goes back to the Meiji restoration and how Japan handles itself after that.”

Reported by Philip Wei, Asia Society Hong Kong Center

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