A very thoughtful analysis, well worth quoting in full below (emphasis are mine):
"When China Rules The World: The Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the End of the Western World
Reviewed by Kerry BrownPosted September 4, 2009
(Source: www.feer.com/reviews/2009/september51/when-china-rules-the-world-the-rise-of-the-middle-kingdom-and-the-end-of-the-western-world)Just after Hu Jintao's elevation to party secretary and president of China in 2003, Zheng Bijian, a septuagenarian Communist Party stalwart, started producing his "peaceful rise of China" declarations, one of which appeared in Foreign Affairs magazine. There was no question that Mr. Zheng was supported by the highest levels of the Chinese government in his intellectual charm offensive. Suspicions aroused by China's increasing economic might (overtaking Germany as the world's third largest economy and becoming holder of the world's largest reserves of foreign exchange by 2007), and mounting fears over the country's military and political intentions had led to the feeling that someone had to step forward and start explaining China's motives to the rest of the world, if only as a means of reassurance.
"Peaceful rise" did not exactly fit the bill. Many observers saw clear evidence of China's grand ambitions and viewed the world "rise" as sinister, despite the modifying adjective. "Peaceful development" became the more common term until the end of 2008. But perhaps as a result of the "can't win whichever way it falls" outcome of the Olympics, where the Chinese saw their hosting of a great event as marred bycriticism and brickbats from negatively minded people outside the motherland, the word "rise" has made a comeback this year. And this time, "peaceful" is nowhere in sight.
China is a huge, populous and massively influential country. It should not need to be so apologetic about having an impact. Even so, Martin Jacques's important new work about China's global role in the coming future captures one crucial element of why China's "rise" should matter. By his account, China is not just taking its rightful place among the major nations of our era; it is setting out a whole new way of being a nation.
Mr. Jacques, the former editor of Marxism Today, makes clear in almost 500 pages that if we want the world to continue as it is, then we are about to be rudely awakened. China's rise is a fact, but just as important is that this rise will have a radical impact on notions of nationhood, sovereignty and international order.
Mr. Jacques's thesis revolves around the argument that China is not so much a country now as it is a culture, or in his words, "a civilization." Its ability to assimilate and change the cultures with which it comes in contact is the key characteristic of its existence as a uniquely complex nation with a long, multifaceted evolutionary path.
This emphasis on cultural impact is something that is often overlooked. Outsiders view China as doing very well because it plays by economic rules generated by the developed world. But at a deeper level, China's integral feature —its strong cultural self-identification —has remained unaltered. Perhaps it is this that makes the border issues so problematic. Ethnic minority populations such as the Uighurs, Mongolians and Tibetans sense they are being drawn into a massive assimilative process where they risk losing not only their political or economic rights, but their own cultural identities.
While the title might be interpreted as a celebration of China's final predicted triumph and modernization, it is far less reassuring on another level. Mr. Jacques sees enormous ambition in China's development. Such ambition stretches far beyond economic and political triumph into something deeper —a cultural model, an attitude toward the world, a "world view" that will come to assimilate and dominate, post modernity.
Drawing on the work of Frank Dikotter, an academic, Mr. Jacques devotes a lengthy section of his work to Chinese views of race. Race as a term came late to the Chinese vocabulary, but there was a rich and very controversial debate about race throughout the early part of the 20th century. The People's Republic of China was established as a "multiethnic" state, but the attitudes toward other races in the press as well as popular and official discourse were often brutally hierarchical. This is an issue of great sensitivity, but one which Mr. Jacques had to address himself when his Indian-born wife died tragically in a Hong Kong hospital in the 1990s due to what appeared to be deliberate neglect by authorities.
Moreover, China's relations with Africa are now given great importance, though the impression lingers that relations are conducted within a master-servant framework where the Chinese take the upper position. No country is entirely immune from the mouthpieces of crude racial supremacy —witness the election in May of two extreme right politicians from the British National Party to the European Parliament —but Mr. Jacques sees Chinese "supremism" as something that is written deep in the genes of the whole "civilizing" mission in which China is currently engaged.
There is another interpretation for all this. While Mr. Jacques produces plenty of evidence from visits made to China and reading done on the subject, the alternative is simply that the sense of Chinese-ness he describes looks so strong and is shrilly declared by its main exponents largely because at heart it is weak and vulnerable. China's sense of nationhood was deeply traumatized by its encounters with the main agents of modernity from the mid-19th century onwards. Maoism was able to deliver a temporary sense of unity and strength; combined with economic development, the two gave China the brittle confidence we see today.
Is China really creating an exportable cultural model, something that will seep into the rest of the world and change us just as American cultural and economic models have? Beyond its most immediate borders, it is hard to see this. While it is good to have a warning about how we might interpret China's ambitions, it is just as well to realize that far from being a domineering force ready to change our world, China is deeply dependent on outside forces and suffers from profound fault lines.
Though we may all slowly be turning Chinese, it is just as likely that we may be brought down by the collapse of the Chinese model, a concept built on wishful thinking, speculation and fantasy. We will know the outcome within the next decade or so. In the meantime, reading this book is good preparation for that.
Kerry Brown is an associate fellow of Chatham House London and author of The Rise of the Dragon: Chinese Investment Flows in the Reform Period (Chandos, 2008)."