Es­teemed au­thor says na­tion’s de­vel­op­ment model can be a blue­print for emerg­ing economies

China Daily (Canada) - - YEARS ON - By CE­CILY LIU in Lon­don ce­cily.liu@mail.chi­nadai­lyuk.com

China’s rapid growth since the re­form and open­ing-up process be­gan in 1978 has not only been an eco­nomic mir­a­cle for the na­tion, but it has also of­fered a new de­vel­op­ment model for other emerg­ing economies, said Martin Jac­ques, au­thor of the global best­seller When China Rules the World.

In do­ing so, China has proved the in­ac­cu­racy of the pre­vi­ous con­sen­sus that the West­ern model of de­vel­op­ment was the only path to suc­cess.

Ef­fec­tively, Jac­ques said, China has in­spired other emerg­ing coun­tries to ex­plore de­vel­op­ment paths that are suit­able for their own sit­u­a­tions.

“The achieve­ments of China’s re­form and open­ing-up are very sim­ple: one, the trans­for­ma­tion of China; two, the trans­for­ma­tion of the world,” said the 73-year-old from his apart­ment in Lon­don’s Hamp­stead, where piles of books and notes on China lay scat­tered across his desk, book­shelves and the floor.

Jac­ques is one of Bri­tain’s best-known Si­nol­o­gists. Born in 1945 in Coven­try, he had a decades­long distin­guished ca­reer in jour­nal­ism be­fore be­com­ing an au­thor.

He first rose to promi­nence as editor of Marx­ism To­day, a po­si­tion he held for 14 years from the late 1970s. He turned the pub­li­ca­tion from an ob­scure left-wing po­lit­i­cal mag­a­zine to one con­tain­ing views from across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum.

Jac­ques then went on to be deputy editor of The In­de­pen­dent in the mid-1990s and now com­bines be­ing a high-pro­file colum­nist with lec­tur­ing around the world.

But what re­ally made him world fa­mous was his 2009 book When China Rules the World, which has been trans­lated into 15 lan­guages and has sold 350,000 copies. His 2010 TED Sa­lon speech in Lon­don on un­der­stand­ing the rise of China has re­ceived more than 2.7 mil­lion views on YouTube.

His book cor­rectly pre­dicted China’s as­cent to global lead­er­ship, at a time when the trend was not so ob­vi­ous. More pre­cisely, it pre­dicted that by 2027, China’s econ­omy would be big­ger than that of the United States. His book also ar­gued that China’s gov­er­nance sys­tem was an ef­fec­tive al­ter­na­tive to West­ern lib­eral democ­racy and rep­re­sented a new form of moder­nity.

Jac­ques ar­gued against the pre­vail­ing con­sen­sus that China’s de­vel­op­ment model would be­come more like that of the West as it grew eco­nom­i­cally. Time has proved him right — China has ce­mented its eco­nomic strength in­ter­na­tion­ally with­out be­com­ing a mir­ror im­age of the West.

In ad­di­tion, China is now us­ing its in­ter­na­tional in­flu­ence to lead on mul­ti­lat­eral is­sues, such as glob­al­iza­tion, cli­mate change and global gov­er­nance, in its own unique way. In order to share its de­vel­op­ment ex­pe­ri­ences with other emerg­ing economies and im­prove global trade links, China has cham­pi­oned the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive and the Asian In­fra­struc­ture In­vest­ment Bank.

“China is go­ing to be a very dif­fer­ent kind of great power,” he said. “The Belt and Road is a pow­er­ful ex­am­ple of China try­ing to find a new re­la­tion­ship (that can ben­e­fit both China and other coun­tries). This no­tion is very dif­fer­ent from West­ern colo­nial think­ing.”

The AIIB, which fo­cuses on fi­nanc­ing in­fra­struc­ture projects in Asia, rep­re­sents the in­ter­ests of more than 80 mem­ber coun­tries through a pluralistic ap­proach. The BRI, which aims to im­prove trade and con­nec­tiv­ity be­tween Asia, Africa and Europe through in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment, has also at­tracted keen par­tic­i­pa­tion from pub­li­cand pri­vate-sec­tor play­ers glob­ally.

In Jac­ques’ view, these ex­cit­ing ini­tia­tives, sup­ported by China’s eco­nomic strength, chal­lenge the post-Cold War men­tal­ity that di­vided the world into the West and the rest.

For many, the fall of the Ber­lin Wall in 1989 and the dis­in­te­gra­tion of the Soviet Union in 1991 proved that so­cial­ist coun­tries could not make suf­fi­cient eco­nomic progress with­out adopt­ing the de­vel­op­ment model of the West.

“That was the great and fi­nal vic­tory of the West,” Jac­ques said. “It’s strange now to think that. And if you look back now, it’s ob­vi­ous, in my view, that 1978 was a far more im­por­tant year in world his­tory than 1989 or 1991.”

But China’s eco­nomic suc­cess proved that such progress can be made while the govern­ment main­tains an im­por­tant role in guid­ing the coun­try’s di­rec­tion.

“We must al­ways re­mem­ber that only about 15 per­cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion lives in the de­vel­oped world, which is es­sen­tially the West plus Ja­pan,” he said. “Eighty­five per­cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion lives in the de­vel­op­ing world. Un­til quite re­cently, the world was still a West­ern world. China’s rise gave the de­vel­op­ing world an al­ter­na­tive place to look, for de­vel­op­ment, for inspiration.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, the fact China grew from be­ing a poor, de­vel­op­ing coun­try to a strong eco­nomic power means it has ac­cu­mu­lated sig­nif­i­cant lessons and ex­pe­ri­ences that could be ap­pli­ca­ble to other de­vel­op­ing coun­tries to­day.

“China is a de­vel­op­ing coun­try and can un­der­stand the prob­lems of de­vel­op­ment in a to­tally dif­fer­ent way,” he said. “The United States can­not re­late to (the de­vel­op­ing world) in the way that China can.”

Although Jac­ques is now a firm ad­vo­cate of China’s in­cred­i­ble po­ten­tial, he ad­mits to hav­ing been some­what ig­no­rant of the East un­til 1993, when he vis­ited China, Sin­ga­pore, and Malaysia for a hol­i­day.

In China, he saw con­struc­tion cranes work­ing round the clock, roads stream­ing with trucks and carts, and women bal­anc­ing goods on the ends of bam­boo poles.

“It ab­so­lutely seized my mind,” he said. “Guang­dong prov­ince was a sort of huge build­ing site with land be­ing cleared as far as you could see. So many peo­ple were in mo­tion along the road. It was so ob­vi­ous this was a huge, im­por­tant his­tor­i­cal mo­ment I was watch­ing.”

From there, Jac­ques has watched China trans­form on his sub­se­quent trips.

“When you go to any city in China now, you see a mod­ern city,” he said. “Liv­ing stan­dards have clearly been trans­formed.”

While on hol­i­day in 1993, he met his wife, Malaysian-In­dian lawyer Harinder Ve­riah, on the is­land of Tioman, off the east coast of Malaysia. Ve­riah, who died in 2000, in­spired Jac­ques to un­der­stand more about Asia, and made him more de­ter­mined to write a book that ex­plained his dis­cov­er­ies to the world.

“She taught me to see the world from a non-West­ern per­spec­tive,” he said. “If you are al­ways with some­one of the same cul­ture you are an in­sider and never look­ing from the out­side. She helped me see my coun­try from an out­sider’s per­spec­tive.”

In the years that fol­lowed, Jac­ques fre­quently trav­eled to China and other East Asian coun­tries to re­search his book. When he started, the book’s work­ing ti­tle was “The End of the West­ern World”. But grad­u­ally, as he worked on it, he re­al­ized that the book had to be pri­mar­ily about China, which led to its new ti­tle, When China Rules the World.

Look­ing back, he stressed the cru­cial role of China’s re­form and open­ing-up poli­cies in shap­ing the coun­try’s eco­nomic achieve­ments and its global in­flu­ence. In par­tic­u­lar, he mar­vels at pioneer­ing leader Deng Xiaop­ing, who is cred­ited with turn­ing China’s planned econ­omy into a mar­ket-driven one and for strength­en­ing China’s ex­change ef­forts with the world.

He praised Deng’s courage in the way he “fired the start­ing gun” for China’s trans­for­ma­tion at a mo­ment of sig­nif­i­cant change in Chi­nese so­ci­ety.

In par­tic­u­lar, Deng trans­formed the world’s un­der­stand­ing of a so­cial­ist coun­try. In­stead of fol­low­ing the in­ward-look­ing model of the Soviet Union, Deng ad­vo­cated an un­prece­dented out­ward ap­proach.

“Deng Xiaop­ing said, ‘ We want to be a part of the world, we have to learn from the rest of the world, we must be open to the rest of the world,’” Jac­ques said. “That is fan­tas­tic. Now, we can see how im­por­tant Deng is as a so­cial­ist thinker, who is also a global thinker, a leader for ev­ery­one.”

For Jac­ques, Deng’s re­marks ex­hibit tremen­dous con­fi­dence, some­thing that is im­pres­sive, con­sid­er­ing China was then a poor coun­try.

“The idea that you can mea­sure against the rest of the world, and be will­ing to learn straight away, it’s a con­fi­dent at­ti­tude,” he said.

China’s re­cent his­tory de­tails a suc­cess story. In 1978, the size of China’s econ­omy was just one-40th of that of the US, but dur­ing the past 40 years, China’s GDP has grown by an av­er­age of about 9.5 per­cent a year. By 2017, the size of China’s econ­omy had grown to more than three-fifths that of the US, ac­cord­ing to In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund es­ti­mates.

Dur­ing the past four decades, China has also suc­ceeded in lift­ing more than 740 mil­lion peo­ple out of poverty.

Jac­ques said he feels con­fi­dent that China will con­tinue to de­velop. He said its GDP growth rate may drop to a more sus­tain­able level over the long term, but its de­vel­op­ment will in­creas­ingly fo­cus on in­no­va­tion and qual­ity growth.

He re­called that when he first pub­lished When China Rules the World, one ques­tion he was often asked at au­thor talks was how China could break free from the need to im­i­tate ad­vanced economies’ tech­nol­ogy, and what would hap­pen if the coun­try reached the point where it was in­vent­ing its own tech­nol­ogy.

“I never hear that ques­tion any­more, be­cause the an­swer is clear with the trans­for­ma­tion of the tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies in China,” Jac­ques said.

For in­stance, in the sec­ond quar­ter of this year, China’s Huawei over­took Ap­ple to be­come the world’s sec­ond-largest smart­phone seller.

In the pioneer­ing sec­tor of mo­bile pay­ments, China has emerged as the big­gest mar­ket, worth 40.36 tril­lion yuan ($5.90 tril­lion) in the first quar­ter of this year. Its two big­gest pay­ment com­pa­nies, WeChat Pay and Ali­pay, now have 900 mil­lion and 500 mil­lion ac­tive users re­spec­tively. These num­bers eclipse Ap­ple Pay’s 127 mil­lion ac­tive users.

Ac­com­pa­ny­ing these tech­nol­ogy in­no­va­tions is China’s rapidly strength­en­ing in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty sys­tem and its soar­ing num­ber of patent regis­tra­tions. Chi­nese com­pa­nies’ fil­ings with the Eu­ro­pean Patent Of­fice in 2017 were up 16.6 per­cent year-onyear, com­pared with the global av­er­age of 3.9 per­cent. This year, for the first time, Huawei topped the EPO’s league ta­ble by num­ber of patents filed by a sin­gle com­pany, ahead of Siemens and LG.

While China’s de­vel­op­ment path shows a rosy pic­ture full of ex­cite­ment, Jac­ques also warns that one chal­lenge China will en­counter in the fu­ture is the an­tag­o­nism it will at­tract from West­ern coun­tries fear­ful of be­ing chal­lenged.

Equally, the nov­elty of China-pro­posed ini­tia­tives such as the BRI could lead to ques­tions and doubts. US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s moves to in­sti­gate a large-scale trade con­fronta­tion with China this year is ev­i­dence of the sort of ex­ter­nal pres­sure China must learn to face, he said.

The trade dis­pute, which started this year, has seen the US slap tar­iffs on bil­lions of dol­lars of Chi­nese im­ports, and China do­ing the same in re­tal­i­a­tion. Many com­pa­nies have al­ready been neg­a­tively im­pacted, in­clud­ing US com­pa­nies that rely on the sup­ply chain in China.

Jac­ques said he feels that the at­ti­tude in the US un­der Trump is based on a recog­ni­tion that China has been suc­cess­ful, and that the an­tag­o­nism US ad­min­is­tra­tion has ex­pressed to­ward China has, in a sense, spo­ken of the suc­cess of China.

“As China has risen, its re­la­tion­ship with the US has be­come more dif­fi­cult,” Jac­ques said. “For the US, it’s one thing to look rel­a­tively be­nignly on China when it’s well be­hind, but when China is not well be­hind, but is a com­peti­tor who has an al­ter­na­tive view of the world, then that’s a dif­fer­ent game.”

He said that as China ex­pe­ri­ences rapid trans­for­ma­tion and gains global in­flu­ence, it must find its own new po­si­tion in the world and en­sure that other coun­tries are com­fort­able with it.

“China has got to find a way of deal­ing with it,” he said. “By and large, I think it’s suc­ceed­ing in do­ing it, but it’s not a sim­ple mat­ter.”

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