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Understanding the Rise of China

By Martin Jacques | TED | February 3, 2011

In this TED talk, Martin Jacques looks at some false assumptions that prevent the West from fully understanding the rise of China. With the Chinese economy on track to match the U.S. economy around 2020 and to double it by midcentury, we are entering a unique era where a developing country takes the lead.

Jacques believes that China and the West diverge on three major points: 1. China sees itself less in nation-state terms and more in civilizational terms with ancient roots: Confucianism, family, guanxi; 2. Chinese report a more unified concept of race: more than 90 percent identify as Han despite variation within that group; and 3. China has a more intimate and less oppositional state-society relationship with quasi-religious overtones, a patriarchal guardianship that has endured no serious rivals or challenges to authority.

The result here is that modernization will not necessarily imply Westernization, and that Westerners risk being both arrogant and ignorant if they don't recognize this fact. The West will need to recapture its sense of future if it is to understand a China with many cities of more than 20 million inhabitants.

The big-picture positive Jacques sees in all this is that for several centuries humanity has been dominated by a cultural fragment of its total population. The cosmopolitan pluralism of a rising China, along with Brazil, India, and other large developing countries, thus presents itself as a global rebalancing.

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Read More: Cities, Culture, Democracy, Development, Economy, Globalization, Governance, Transportation, China, Americas, Asia, Europe

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