What The Future Holds When China Rules British author Martin Jacques witnessed the decline of the British Empire over his lifetime. He predicts that Americans will have a similar experience as the power of the United States declines in the coming years, yielding to an ever more powerful China. He discusses his new book, When China Rules the World.
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What The Future Holds When China Rules

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What The Future Holds When China Rules

What The Future Holds When China Rules

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GUY RAZ, Host:

He says that it's just a matter of time before China unseats the U.S. to become the world's primary superpower. Here he is reading an excerpt from his new book, "When China Rules the World."

MARTIN JACQUES: (Reading) The mainstream Western attitude has held that, in its fundamentals, the world will be relatively little changed by China's rise. This is based on three key assumptions: that China's challenge will be primarily economic in nature; that China will in due course become a typical Western nation; and that the international system will remain broadly as it is now with China acquiescing in the status quo and becoming a compliant member of the international community. Each of these assumptions is misconceived. The rise of China will change the world in the most profound ways.

RAZ: Now, Martin Jacques' provocative thesis was influenced, he says, by a lifetime of watching the decline of the British Empire.

JACQUES: The history of humanity is the rise and fall of countries and civilizations and so on, so nothing is cast in stone, and the United States has enjoyed actually quite a long period in the sun, ever since certainly 1945. And I think that it's not so much what's wrong with the United States, although I think there are problems, it's more that the last 30 years has seen an extraordinary transformation in China and not only China but other countries, as well, India and so on, but China's the most striking example. And this is the backdrop to the shift in power.

RAZ: When you talk to Chinese experts in China, they say China does not have global ambitions; China has regional ambitions. There is nothing to fear of China.

JACQUES: I'm not talking about this period we're in now, which is really still in China's take-off period. I mean, half the people still work in the countryside. I'm talking about, rather, further down the road than that, when China has become a fully fledged modern country, no longer has the constraint of escaping from poverty and can begin to be, as it were, more comfortable with its own history and with its own position.

RAZ: Would it be good for the world to be led by China rather than by the United States?

JACQUES: You know, for the last 200 years, essentially, the world has been a very undemocratic place because a relatively small sliver of humanity, i.e., those that populate the West, have had a hugely disproportionate say in world affairs. Now, the rival of China and India and Brazil and so on, which is - you know, these are all parallel process happening at the moment - is transforming the prospects for these people and in a rough and ready way I think represents the most remarkable democratization the world has seen in the last 200 years.

RAZ: Martin Jacques, in a recent interview with the Taipei Times, you say that the rise of China will be a very painful experience for the United States. What do you mean by that?

JACQUES: So, I mean, what we're talking about here really is the power and influence exercised by a nation in the world.

RAZ: So when you consider all these factors, does your thesis still hold up?

JACQUES: Certainly, the position of the United States and the West will be diminished because what's happening is the world's most populous countries are on the move and will occupy a position at the center of the world over time.

RAZ: Martin Jacques, thank you so much.

JACQUES: Thank you very much.

RAZ: To read an excerpt from "When China Rules the World," visit our Web site. That's npr.org.

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