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LIBG and Chinese Liberal Democrats forum with Martin Jacques

May 28, 2011 5:45 PM

Martin Jacques, author of When China Rules the World, addressed a 23 May forum held jointly by Liberal International British Group and the Chinese Liberal Democrats.

He pointed out that his book's title has no question mark in it; China's economic power is growing so fast that it will dwarf that of the USA within a few decades, with profound but unknown consequences for the rest of the world.

China has become an important trading partner for many countries but Europe has so far been something of a bystander to is progress, and not very interested in it.

This approach was short-sighted, Jacques argued, because "China's economy is growing by 7% a year, so doubling very seven years, and we are going to have a hell of a shock."

Jacques argued that it was a mistake to view Chain "through a western prism".

He said that while it had been a modern nation state for only a century it had seen itself as a nation for more than 2,000 years, since the Qin dynasty.

The Chinese had always worried about how their vast and diverse country would be held together and so "unity is the most important political value, Mao is respected, whatever else he did, for reunifying China, and the Chinese state is seen as the protector of Chinese civilisation," he explained.

China was likely to be concerned with ensuring that its near neighbours were economically tied to it and did not present a threat - a recreation of the medieval system in which the rest of East Asia comprised Chinese 'tribute states' - but not with conquest.

Jacques points out that when the British left Hong Kong, few had taken seriously Chinese promises of 'one country, two system', yet it had turned out that the Chinese had been serious about this, and had left Hong Kong's economy and politics alone.

"When Taiwan decides to adopt Chinese sovereignty, as it will, it will keep its own autonomy and democracy, China is most interested in the acceptance of sovereignty," he said.

This though did not mean that China proper would adopt democratic reforms in the near future. Jacques suggested it might become like Japan, which has the outward forms of a parliamentary democracy but has, with rare exceptions, been ruled by one party since its foundation.

China is well on its way to becoming the world's dominant economic power and despite it being a key trading partner of many countries the rest of world has yet to wake up to this or think through the consequences, Jacques said.