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China's rise from 1978 took place in a relatively stable international environment. And at the core of this was the relatively benign relationship between the United States and China.
There were two fundamental assumptions that underpinned America's attitude towards China over this period.
The first was that China was so far behind economically, that it was virtually impossible to imagine China becoming an economic challenger or threat to American economic ascendancy in the world.
And the second factor and I think a more important factor was that the American belief was that as China modernized, it would westernize.
Because remember the American attitude fundamentally was that the process of modernization was also a process of westernization. So the American assumption was that over time, China would become increasingly look like a western country, look like the United States have, for example, centrally, a western style political system.
And the Americans took it for granted that if this didn't happen, then China's rise would come to an end, hit a wall, be unsustainable.
Now, what began to undermine these two American assumptions about China really starts with the financial crisis, Western financial crisis in 2008. This was the beginning of the turning point. Now, this was completely unexpected.
America had not experienced a financial crisis like this since 1931. And America was in big trouble – the West was in big trouble during this period.
And to be frank, it's never really recovered. Its growth rates are still, until the pandemic which is a different story.To some extent, the Western economy has been on a life support system.
Meanwhile, China has been in a completely different situation during this period.
I mean, China was of course affected by it, but basically China continues to grow at more or less the same rate, as it had before.
And by 2014, extraordinarily, China overtook the United States in terms of GDP, primary purchasing power, according to this measure from the World Bank. China by this time also, on an annual basis, was accounting for one third of global economic growth.So you see, there's a chasm in experience.
But there was something else we must add to this picture. And that was, remember, politics.
The economic crisis was expected by the West to happen in China - it happened in the West. The political crisis was expected by the West to happen in China - it happened in the West.
And you got the rise of growing dissatisfaction, particularly amongst traditional working class people and so on in the States and elsewhere. And the rise of what we came to know, as populism. So this was a really important moment, which began to undermine the situation in the West, both economically and politically.
And with the consequence that there was also a growing anxiety in the West, and particularly in governing circles, but not only in governing circles, about the challenge of China, the partner as it were since 1972, was seen increasingly as a threat.
There was growing anxiety; there was growing hostility towards China as a result of this. And eventually, of course, this culminates in the election of Trump in 2016, as American president.
Now, why couldn't America tolerate the rise of China? Why does it immediately translate China's rise into the China threat?
And here, we have to, I think, understand the psychology of an imperial power, and the United States in particular.
You see, the Americans are extraordinarily over a very long historical period, centuries, have always been on the rise. And since 1945, they've been overwhelmingly global hegemonic.
The idea that America is number one is part of the American DNA.It's not just the presidents and the congressmen and so on who believe this. This is deeply imbued, I think, in the average Americans.
The Americans think they are best; the Americans think they have to be top dogs.They're not going to be bossed around by anyone else.They're not going to be rivaled by anyone else.
Now, of course, the reality is rather different, historically speaking, because no country can ever expect to be number one forever. Think of China, the century of humiliation – China was displaced. And so this was the case with Britain, and so on. And this will be the case with the United States.
America's relative economic decline probably starts around the 1980s. But the Americans have basically been in denial of this. Even to this day, they're largely in denial. It would be suicide for an American president to say: "We are in decline, and we cannot change that situation. We have to accommodate ourselves to a new world." Americans are not ready for this kind of argument.
So what was the American response to China as a threat? Essentially, the American response was an assault against China, to find a way of making China's rise more difficult. To prevent China's rise, if possible. If not, at least obstruct China's rise.And so after Trump becomes president, you see, after a short while, the beginning of the trade war.
And then after the trade war, or alongside the trade war, the tech war and steadily as the acrimonious and abrasive approach to China developed, you see actions to be taken against China on all sorts of different fronts.
I would argue now, I think probably it would be appropriate to call the situation that the world is now in, and the relationship between the United States and China, as a new "Cold War".
But just because we use the term "Cold War" doesn't mean we should confuse or conflate this "Cold War" with the one between United States and the Soviet Union. There are three fundamental differences between them.
The first is that the United States and the Soviet Union lived and occupied two entirely different economic worlds. Never the twain shall meet – they just had two different international systems, one belonging to the United States, the other to the Soviet Union.
Now, of course, this is not the situation with China. China is hugely integrated with the global economy. Indeed, I would argue that in some respects, it's more integrated with the global economy than is true of the United States. I mean, take for one thing, trade. China is a much more important trading nation, exporting and importing, than the United States.
Now, whatever the American say, whatever the Trump administration would like to do, they will not be able to exile China from the global economy. They can go about it, but they won't get that far in my view.
They can't take China out of the global economy. It is simply too important; it is too integrated; its relations with so many countries around the world are too advanced for that to happen.
My second point is the Soviet Union was never an economic pair or equal of the United States. At most it had maybe 60% of the size of the American economy, probably less, probably more like half.
Now, you cannot say that of China. China, already in 2014 as we've seen, had overtaken the size of the American economy, measured by primary purchasing power, GDP.
Now, it is generally expected that within the next few years, maybe five years, depends partly on the impact of the pandemic, that China will overtake the United States by the other measure of GDP, which is in dollar terms.
And if we extend the time horizon a bit further, you'll see the picture of the global economy by roughly 2030.
Now all these figures are obviously projection so they're not facts. But you'll see, it gives you some idea, that by 2030 China could account for one third of global GDP, by which time it will be something like twice the size of the American economy, already by this measure, by the way, it is 20% bigger than the American economy.
So, you know, the rise of China economically is formidable. And it is deeply embedded. And it is showing its ability to perform in many different areas, including, of course, technology.
The third point I would make is that the Soviet Union made a fundamental mistake in its relationship with the United States. And that was the arms race. It tried to compete militarily with the United States. And it spent so much money, wasted such resources, a disastrous approach.
China won't make that mistake. China doesn't emphasize the military in a way that, for example, the United States does, or the Soviet Union did. China's approach is the fundamental importance of the economy.
I think the prospect is that we are looking at this kind of situation we've got now – the "Cold War" and an antagonistic relationship between the United States and China for the foreseeable future. It's impossible to predict how long. But you can say or I would argue that the condition for a change in this antagonism depends on a shift in the American position.
You see, the Americans are insisting that they should enjoy sole primacy in the world. And this is no longer possible.This atmosphere and relationship will change at the moment when the United States comes to the view that it must share primacy in the world with China, and that will be the precondition for, I think, a new term in the relationship between the United States and China.
And I think one of the most depressing, in fact, one of the most disgraceful episodes in western attitudes towards China was to do with the pandemic – COVID-19.
In January, China was struggling to understand to identify it and to work out how to deal with it. And the West, particularly the Americans, but not only the Americans, my own country Britain for sure, attacked, relentlessly attacked China, you know, cover up your secrecy. You're not telling us the truth. You're covering up the survival. The government matters, the party matters more than the survival of people.
This is a situation where China was struggling in great, great difficulty. Remember, China was the first to tackle the question of COVID-19. Now and you can see that actually, China's performance on COVID-19, certainly from late January, was brilliant.
These figures here, are on the basis per capita, the number of cases per million people, look at China, the strongest, probably the strongest performance of any country in the world, even though it had to tackle COVID-19 before anyone else.
And all those great critics, the United States and other Western countries, my own United Kingdom and so on, who could not stop themselves to (from) attacking China showed no compassion in January, had those two extra months to deal with it, could have learned from China. And look at them, a miserable performance.
And I would say this, in addition, that the pandemic has been, perhaps, above all, a test of governance. And without question, China has come through this fundamentally, with flying colors. And the United States has been proven under the Trump leadership, but I think, unfortunately, more generally, to have been incompetent.
And the fact that China is now coming out of the pandemic, of course, has created major economic opportunities.
There's only one country of this list here, that is going to have positive growth in terms of GDP in 2020. And that is China.
Let me just say something else as well here. Since China's rise started in 1978, China has not really been involved in any wars whatsoever. This is the period of China's great rise, great transformation, from nothing to now being equal with the most powerful country in the world economically.
Now look at American history, or German history, or British history, or Japanese history, all of these countries were involved in many wars during the equivalent period of their historical development. China, in other words, has exercised extraordinary restraint during this period of its development.
I don't believe the present international system can survive for a long time.We live in a completely different world, a rapidly transfer changing world.
In 1980, the center of the global economy was here.
And then slowly in the subsequent 30 odd years, it shifted.And today, it's somewhere about here. That's the center of the global economy.In those days, the global economy was essentially Western Europe and the United States.
By 2050, it'll be here, basically on the India-China border.
There's no way you can have an international system which is controlled by privileges, the United States and Western Europe, when actually, the center of the action is over here.
You need a different kind of global economy, a different kind of global order for that kind of situation. And I would say this, in relationship to this new international system. First of all, the heart of it will be China – 18% of the world's population. At the heart of the present international system, is the United States – just 4.3% of the world's population.
In other words, we're talking about an international system which will be far more representative of humanity than it is now.
In other words, we're moving from an essentially authoritarian, minoritarian system of global governance to something which is far more representative of the world as it has, as it is already, and as it will be even more so in the future.
The rise of China, not just China, the rise of the developing world as well which China of course, is part, is creating a big crisis in the West. I would call it the existential crisis of the West.
Because for 200 years, the West has run the world, has assumed that the world is its world, has been at the heart of all the major institutions, which it has designed. The assumption that its people will run the world, that its language, now English will dominate, that the people who run the world by and large will be white.
This era is coming to an end. This era is no longer sustainable. It's not just the rise of China. It's the rise of the developing world as well.
否决轻蔑私见的行动正在西方国家发生，这种变更，不光是发生在美国，它是一种举世性的变更，是不合夷易近族、不合肤色 、不合说话、不合文化 、不合文明的崛起。
And you're experiencing in the West now, a backlash against its prejudice. And this change is not just happening in the United States. It's a global change. It's the rise of different peoples, different colors, different languages, different cultures, different civilizations.
I like the Chinese expression, inclusive civilization. But the West has got no idea how to embrace that.
And I'll just finish by saying this. Look, I regard China's rise to be extraordinarily positive that doesn't mean that China doesn't make mistakes, hasn't made mistakes, won't make mistakes in the future. Of course it will.
It's on a learning curve. It's only just really beginning to be a great power.But China is a very good learner. We can all see that.
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