When China Rules the World [book review]

Essay/review by Gerald Horne on Martin Jacques' recent book "When China Rules the World: The Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the End of the Western World". Some most interesting excerpts below (full article):

/////There are signs of this decline: it cannot be avoided that “the United States has ceased to be a major manufacturer or a large-scale exporter of manufactured goods, having steadily ceded that position to East Asia.” Yet, as the author sees it, the rise of China is simply a reassertion of historic trends with the era of British, then US ascendancy, seen as the anomaly. For, he declares, as late as 1800, China was the planet’s leading economic force but it was then that the accumulated wealth and power brought by the African Slave Trade and colonial dispossession began to assert itself more forcefully, leading to what has been referred to colloquially, as “the rise of the West and the decline of the rest.” Echoing historians like Walter Rodney, the author cogently writes, “without the slave trade and colonization, Europe could never have made the kind of breakthrough it did.”/////

/////He discounts the perception that China’s apparent failure to comport with democratic norms as perceived from Washington, compromises its model of development. In Britain, he says, it was only in 1918 “over 130 years after the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, that women (over 30) won” the right to vote and in the U.S., it was not until 1965 that voting rights for African-Americans were solidified in law. Moreover, those in Washington who obsess about “democracy,” rarely – if ever – examine the dearth of democracy “at the global level” – e.g. the Security Council of the United Nations (where Africans do not have a permanent seat and Asians are under-represented) or the World Bank (where US nationals rule) or the International Monetary Fund (the bailiwick of Western Europeans). The “global order,” concludes the author accurately, “has been anti-democratic and highly authoritarian” with little objection from Washington – and China’s rise will complicate this scenario tremendously, he suggests./////

/////On the other hand, I think he could have done a better job in limning this profound area for nowadays hysteria is mounting in Washington about China’s inroads in Africa, the site of a storehouse of precious metals and petroleum necessary to propel a dynamic economy. And news media in the US particularly seem to believe that a “new colonialism” and “new racism” is arising in Africa – with China as the chief culprit. Troubling is the assertion by the author that Chinese-Americans “did not join with black Americans in the major civil rights campaigns” in the US – which happens to be untrue. He harps on the allegation that in China negativity is associated with darker skin. This declaration underpins his notion that changes on the racial front brought by China’s ascent will be of most significant moment for those of African descent, which is rather surprising given the overall tenor of this text. It is disconcerting that Jacques, who has been deeply influenced by the Marxist tradition, fails to ground his racial analysis in the potent realm of property relations and note that white supremacy was turbo-charged in the US because of the direct association of Africans with chattel and the uncompensated expropriation of this form of wealth.

Unfortunately, like many North Atlantic intellectuals, Jacques disparages Japan – which remains the world’s second largest economy and surely, has severe adjustments to make because of US imperialism’s decline and China’s rise. However, the single biggest flaw of this book may be the failure of imagination that causes the author to fail to foresee that just as Washington helped to build up Beijing as a counterweight to Moscow, it is now building up India as a counterweight to China – and this factor will no doubt buoy Japan, whose exceedingly close relationship with India stretches back 2500 years to the founding of Buddhism. Tokyo will probably be a major beneficiary of Washington cozying up to New Delhi, just as Beijing benefited from the crusade against Moscow./////

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