East is East: PW talks with Martin Jacques

by Parul Sehgal — Publishers Weekly, 9/21/2009

Jacques reveals the implications of China’s assuming the status of the world’s biggest market and most influential superpower in When China Rules the World.

You write that China is playing a long game that’s very subtle and hard for the West to understand. Is this a consciously articulated strategy or a modus operandi central to Chinese consciousness?

I think it’s both. Because the U.S. is such a recent creation, the American timescale is extremely short. China’s civilization goes back 5,000 years, and the Chinese constantly access very distant history to illustrate the problems of the present. Kissinger once asked Zhou Enlai what he thought about the French Revolution, and Zhou Enlai said, “It’s too soon to say.” With that mentality coupled with its size and growth, the balance of power is constantly being reconfigured in China’s favor, and they can be patient. But it’s also conscious strategy; after the “century of humiliation,” they prioritized creating the best possible circumstances for development, and they’ve tried to get on with the countries that they perceive to matter.

According to you, the rise of China will be “profoundly traumatic” for the U.S. Why don’t we hear more about the U.S.’s waning power?

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