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on 2 December 2012
An initial reading the title of Martin Jacques's study may give on the impression that this is to be yet another work in the continuing cliché over the decline of the US, and the rise of the rest, specifically China. This book, however, is more than that.
When China rules the world is in fact a broad based study that covers many aspects, political, economic, and sociological. The sociological study very precisely and elaborately pins the case that Chinese culture, in both a societal and political manner, is very resistant to change, and even when change comes, it does so on Chinese terms. Jacques, at some length, uses the example of Japan, which, despite it's modernity, has retained it's cultural and societal norms in a very complete sense.
With this precedent already established, Jacques examines how China has had a missionary or mother civilization approach to it's region, and how, even in the course of the 20th century, Confucian norms and approaches continued, even under the reign of Mao, a self declared opponent of Confucianism.
The book is as much about how China sees the world, and it's own views on relations between nations. This points to a possible return to the Tributary system in the future, rather than the Westphalian system of today.
The author makes no naïve assumptions about China's views on it's status in the region, regarding itself (perhaps rightly so) as the mother civilization.
The sections examining China's economy could have been due some more introspection, as they appear somewhat one sided. Jacques moves the date at which China surpasses the US in economic strength forward to 2018, taking into account the Western Economic Crisis. However, Jacques does not consider the weaknesses in the Chinese economy, something that is being talked about more openly, in editorials, academic circles, and regular people. For Economic studies on China, it is worth examining Red Capitalism or Chindia, which paint a far less grandiose image of China's economy.
Regardless of particularly slanted views in some sections, one cannot help but admire the breadth and scope of Jacques's work. This is by far the best analytical study on Chinese culture I have yet read, and is highly recommended.
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on 31 March 2017
Great quality and fascinating book!
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on 21 March 2017
Great read
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on 23 January 2015
Excellent, recommended seller.
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on 1 January 2015
An exceedingly detailed coverage.
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on 10 April 2017
There are two key messages in ‘When China Rules the World’. The first is that China is very, very different from the West. The second is that China’s growing impact on the world order has far from run its course – in fact it has hardly begun.

This is a hard book to rate. It is worthwhile but flawed – often frustratingly so. Yet what’s good is more important than what’s bad, so to give it three stars seems ungenerous.

Jacques is at his best when building the story behind the Chinese world view. One thing China shares with the west is a belief in its own innate distinctiveness, superiority, destiny and rightful claim to privilege. The similarity stops there. China’s historic and cultural references, its identity, its people’s relationship to the state, and its relationship to its neighbours – all are very different from the West’s.

China is used to being dominant, having been so for nearly all of the last two to three thousand years. It so happens that the recent temporary blip in this arrangement (a period including China’s ‘century of humiliation’) is the period during which the current world order (American power, the ubiquitous dollar, the UN, IMF and World Bank, the G7, the English language, even the Westphalian system of distinct sovereign nations) came to prominence.

China had no say in the creation of this world order. As it surges past the United States to re-establish its natural state of dominance (Jacques never questions the inevitability of this outcome), this state of being will slowly but surely change. China will replace, sideline or usurp all these aspects of the current world order and impose regime change – not on a nation, but on a planet. Once it has done so, it will rule the world.

Jacques’ weaknesses are related. The first is an overly dismissive attitude to the West’s achievements, resources and resilience. He would (I’m sure) argue that he is taking on such a wall of bigotry and complacency that any such excessiveness could be excused. Maybe he’d be right. But he fails to turn his critical analysis of the West to critique China. It’s true that since Deng China’s leadership has shown much wisdom. But Deng followed the calamity of Mao’s Great Leap Forward. Continued wisdom is not assured. Jacques overlooks much that is rotten in the state of China.

The consequence of these shortcomings is that a great deal of what Jacques predicts lacks credibility. His arguments simply don’t hang together. This is a shame, because Jacques presents a perspective on China that has much value. His argument that (contrary to mainstream opinion) a richer, more successful, more powerful China will not westernise, will not democratise, and will not shed its uniquely Chinese identity, has merit and implications.

‘When China Rules the World’ is far too long and (unusually for a book of this type) has too many facts getting in the way of making its point. It is too one-sided and selective. But it is worth reading.
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on 2 July 2012
I have been studying, working and living China for 45 years.

This book is head and shoulders above all others in its field for the quality of its content and analysis.

This is a blueprint for the inevitable inescapable changes which are transforming our world right now before our eyes, moment by moment. As I write, today the three top most profitable banks in the world are all Chinese for the first time in history.

A new world order is forming, whether we like it or not, in which China and its developing world partners including Africa, South America and Russia will own the greatest wealth and natural resources, whilst the US and Western Europe become second-tier, exhausted impossibly burdened in debt.

Every school child should read this book because this is their future, this is the handbook and guide to the world they will inhabit for the rest of their lives.

2012 is the year of the Dragon, and China is rising and cannot be stopped. All we can do is adapt.
As New Yorkers are fond of saying: Deal with It.

Read this book and understand the changes before they happen.

To be sure the title is melodramatic but no less true for all that.

For a foretaste of the new world order, read thrillers like: The Serpent's Head - Revenge
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on 27 January 2016
Knew what I wanted. Found it easily. Got what I wanted in good condition.
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on 30 October 2012
Martin Jacques was one of the great editors. He guided the affairs of the magazine Marxism Today, despite its outmoded name and having no money, and made it enormously influential. He would get prestigious commentators to write for him for next to nothing, and then argue their copy with them line by line, getting them to justify it to him.

This very long book could have done with his editing skills.

Its basic theme is simple. China is going to replace America as Top Nation sooner than we think, and when it does we will be surprised to discover that economic success does not inevitably make countries behave like Western democracies, that China will continue to behave as it does and as it always has done, and when it is Top Nation we shall all have to adjust our ways accordingly rather than, as until now, vice versa.

He makes this case convincingly. And then he makes it again. And again.

The language is leaden. Abstract nouns once skewered are repeated endlessly, first in their natural state, then as verbs and finally agonisingly as adjectives. Clichés are solemnly trotted out. It's like something written by a politician, or I suppose a Marxist. And he is transfixed by numbers. There are endless specious surveys reporting that a certain very precise percentage of people are very happy, quite happy or rather happy with the some state of affairs or other. Towards the end he assures us in a discussion of the Chinese diaspora that there are 347,000 Chinese people in Britain. Look around. I don't think so.

I read the book because I believe that its theme is true and I am interested in what it will be like when China is Top Nation. This is where the book resorts to windy generality. Here are two examples:

We are continually told that Chinese people uniquely regard themselves as part of a `civilisation state' rather than a nation state. What does that mean? How is that different from (or as Jacques tends to put it `different to') France, for example?

Another recurring idea is that the similarities between imperial China, Maoist China and modern China are greater then the differences because of the persistence of the Confucian tradition. Again, what precisely does this mean? He doesn't tell us. Buy a book about Confucianism, I suppose.

Secretly I wanted to know if we were likely to be allowed cheese when China was Top Nation. Chinese cuisine is one of the glories of the world, but they don't really do cheese. I struggled through to the very end of the book, but I have to report that on this not unimportant point I am none the wiser.
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on 15 August 2014
As a student interested in understanding China's rise, I found this by far the most informative book on the topic written in the last fifteen years. In it Jacques develops three key ideas which are not found in other recent literature on China, and by doing so he presents a clear vision of how China is likely to develop as it grows and takes its place on the world stage.

First, he puts forward the idea of China as a 'civilisation-state' (which he takes from Lucian Pye). By this he means that China is essentially different in character to the smaller, 'Westphalian' nation-states which first emerged in Europe. Chinese civilisation stretches back at least 3500 years and has absorbed a large number of smaller states into one unified socio-political entity. Jacques is suggesting that Westerners need to look at China in a very different way from the way they look at their own nation-states, which usually means (at least in the European context) discussing a history of inter-national conflict rather than the Chinese process of steady absorption and Sinicisation to create a vast country with a common culture.

Second he analyses what he calls the 'Middle Kingdom mentality'. This includes a unifying sense of historical purpose among the various peoples of China, as well as an understanding of China as being innately central, both in terms of political influence in East Asia and in terms of the long-term project of civilising the peoples of the world. Jacques connects this idea to the historical tributary system in which foreigners came to the Emperor to pay tribute and seek political and economic favours. Today we can see this tributary system beginning to re-emerge as European states send large parties of dignitaries and business people to Beijing to negotiate large-scale business contracts on Chinese terms.

Jacques' third main idea is what he calls 'contested modernity'. By this term he means that the world will no longer be dominated mainly by Western culture, economics and politics, but will increasingly be presented with alternative civilisational systems, most notably the Chinese Confucian-based one. This will produce a global sphere in which ideas from the West, the East and other parts of the world will interact and cross-fertilise, but in which, Jacques believes, Chinese civilisation will come to be increasingly predominant.

Because of these three main ideas, I would highly recommend this book to anybody interested in China's rise. The book is quite heavy going, and sometimes repetitive, but rewards concentrated attention with a wealth of detailed argument and evidence in a way that many other recent books on China do not.
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