As part of the Town Hall of Cleveland speaker series, which is partially sponsored by Case Western Reserve University, acclaimed economist and author Martin Jacques spoke on Nov. 4 at the Playhouse Square’s Ohio Theatre. Local Clevelanders came as well as many students from the university to listen to Jacques’ speech titled, “When China Rules the World”.
Jacques is perhaps most known for his 2009 global bestselling novel, “When China Rules the World: The End of Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order,” which was well-received by political pundits and economists for its analysis of Chinese economy as well as the study of Chinese culture and how it relates to the workings of Chinese economy.
The lecture given at Ohio Theatre didn’t deviate much from Jacques’ novel, save for updated statistics, such as a new numbers that predicted that the Chinese economy would overpower the American economy by 2018 instead of 2027, which was previously predicted by Goldman Sachs in 2007. This new statistic created an audible gasp in the theater since the current prediction is more pressing, being only a few years away.
Although people who read Jacques’ novel or watched his TED talk were disappointed by the relative lack of new information and new topics, the lecture did serve as an eye-opener into China’s rapid economic and political growth as well as how this growth would affect the world.
Jacques started off by giving a historical context of China and how the Song dynasty (A.D. 960-1279) provided the basis for Western industrial revolution with the invention of coal in the 11th century.
Bringing in economics and transitioning to current events, he stated that the Chinese economy was about one-third larger than that of the U.S.’ at the eve of the financial crisis. Jacques also mentioned that China is the largest export destination and import-trading partner for many countries, such as Australia and many East Asian countries. This change is incredibly drastic compared to past economic standings.
In a more global context, Jacques stated that with China’s large government surplus and the amount of loans the Chinese are given, soon the World Bank will diminish in importance. A statistic given by Jacques stated the China Development Bank and the China Export-Import Bank gave $110 billion in loans to developing countries while the World Bank only gave a mere $100.3 billion.
Jacques also argued that with China’s rise, it’s only reassuming a position of power and that when China does take it back, it will be in a manner that is unfamiliar to Westerners. In 1820, China had one-third of the global gross private product and is predicted to return to that position in 2030. The Chinese way of thought is drastically different from that of the West in terms of modernity, and Jacques gave an example describing the Chinese thinking of themselves primarily as a civilization state whereas the West develops their identities as countries on the basis of nation.
Towards the end of the lecture, Jacques explored the differences in culture, including Confucian mannerisms, China’s shame-based culture, Western guilt-based cultures derived largely from Christianity and also how America could respond to China’s rise.
While the lecture was interesting and humorous as Jacques injected jokes throughout (he began with “Just as my country [England] didn’t rule the world… though it had a good bash at it”), there were huge overarching generalizations in addition to a noticeable avoidance of the rampant corruption in China and how it could ultimately deter China’s growth.