Martin Jacques

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Last week's dismissal of Bo Xilai, the party secretary of Chongqing province, casts this autumn's Chinese Communist party congress, with the anticipated replacement of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao by Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, in a dramatic new light.

Bo Xilai, son of a former Communist party leader and veteran of the Long March, has been exploiting his office for a thinly veiled campaign for a place on the party's nine-member standing committee that runs China. His fall was triggered when his righthand man in Chongqing, the police chief Wang Lijun, sought refuge in the American consulate in Chengdu, claiming that his life was under threat from Bo.…  Seguir leyendo »

We have entered one of those rare historical periods that is characterised by a shift in global hegemony from one great power to another. The last such was between 1931 and 1945, and marked the end of Britain's financial ascendancy and its replacement by that of the United States. It might be argued that the cold war represented a similar period, but that is a fallacy: the cold war was an ideological struggle between two powers that were always hopelessly ill-matched. This new period is marked by the rise of China and the decline of the US. Arguably the process started around a decade ago, but at that stage it was barely noticed, such was the west's preoccupation with 9/11 and its after-effects.…  Seguir leyendo »

The key relationship for any global recovery is between the US and China. By the same token, any serious deterioration in their relationship would propel the world towards a second Great Depression. The Chinese citizen has funded the credit-driven American consumer boom: or, to put it another way, China's government has enabled the US to run an enormous current account deficit by buying huge quantities of US treasury bills. If China stops this, the value of the US dollar would plunge, and a bitter trade war, engulfing the rest of the world, would ensue.

There are grounds for optimism. The relationship between the countries has been remarkably stable for three decades - notwithstanding Tiananmen Square, China's meteoric economic rise, and presidents like Bill Clinton and George Bush threatening to treat China differently.…  Seguir leyendo »

A feverish atmosphere now grips Malaysia. The country is awash with rumours. Until the resignation in 2003 of the previous prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad - after 22 years in office - its politics was entirely predictable. Now it is becoming highly unpredictable.

Malaysia is one of the great Asian success stories. It has enjoyed a growth rate of up to 8% for much of the past 20 years, and the fruits of prosperity are everywhere to be seen, from the magnificent twin towers in Kuala Lumpur to the expressways and traffic congestion. Without doubt Malaysia is the great economic star of the Muslim world.…  Seguir leyendo »

We are but halfway through 2008 yet it has already born witness to a sizeable shift in global power. The default western mindset remains that the western writ rules. That is hardly surprising; it has been true for so long there has been little reason for anyone to question it, least of all the west. The assumption is that might and right are invariably on its side, that it always knows best and that if necessary it will enforce its political wisdom and moral rectitude on others. There is, however, a hitch: the authority of the self-appointed global sheriff is remorselessly eroding.…  Seguir leyendo »

Already 2008 has proved a tumultuous year in terms of global perceptions of China, and there are still 59 days to go until the Beijing Olympics. The tragedy of the Sichuan earthquake followed hard on the heels of the riots in Tibet and the demonstrations surrounding the Olympic torch relay. Sympathy and compassion, combined with admiration for the rescue efforts of the Chinese government, served to soften the harsh memory of the riots in Lhasa and the blue-tracksuited Chinese officials. The world is having a crash course on China.

Inevitably, our view of these events is shaped by our western mindset.…  Seguir leyendo »

In June Justin Lin Yifu, a Beijing professor, will take up the post of chief economist at the World Bank. Nothing could be a clearer sign of the times. This is the number two job in one of the two major international economic institutions, the other being the International Monetary Fund. Earlier incumbents have included the Nobel prize winner Joseph Stiglitz, the former US treasury secretary Lawrence Summers and the UK's Nicholas Stern. Previously the top jobs in these two outfits have always been shared between Americans and Europeans. Lin's appointment thus marks a major break with political tradition. Hitherto there have been hardly any appointments of Chinese to senior positions in the major international organisations.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Beijing Olympics are a huge occasion for China. Ever since the opium wars, the country has experienced what it describes as a "century of humiliation". Extraordinarily, the handover of Hong Kong in 1997 was its first major foreign policy success since the early 19th century.

Western countries are thoroughly accustomed to being the centre of global attention, which they have come to regard as their natural birthright. Not so China. It was thwarted in its attempt to hold the 2000 Olympics, which, as a result of American-led pressure, was awarded to Sydney. For China, therefore, the 2008 Olympics assume a huge importance as its first opportunity to command the global stage.…  Seguir leyendo »

The world is holding its breath, still trying to grasp the potential enormity of what is unfolding. Economic downturns and stock market crashes are hardly unfamiliar, of course, even if a decade or so seems a long time ago for western consumers habituated to rising house prices and non-stop shopping. But this crisis threatens to be rather different, a Big One. Already it has forced the government to engage in what has been a heresy for almost three decades: nationalisation. Major crises such as the Northern Rock debacle are not matters of punctuation or pauses for reflection, but defining historical moments, marking the end of one era and the beginning of another.…  Seguir leyendo »

A black formula one world champion seemed, even last year, unthinkable, yet Lewis Hamilton so nearly made it. This is a sport that has long suffered from an almost total white-out. Apart from the Japanese, virtually every face in the paddock, let alone on the starting grid, was, until recently, white. This is hardly surprising. The more expensive and/or exclusive a sport, the whiter it tends to be: the fact almost has the force of a law. That is the main reason why the Rugby World Cup, the Pacific islands excepted, was so desperately white, the Springboks included.

But then along came Lewis Hamilton.…  Seguir leyendo »

Those who feel a certain sense of deja vu about the deteriorating relationship between Russia and the west can be forgiven. But this is no simple return to the cold war. Russia is far weaker than even the atrophied superpower of the late 80s. Its population has been more than halved, its gross domestic product halved, and living standards diminished. It simply does not have the capacity to be what it once was.

After the Soviet Union collapsed there was a brief interregnum during which the relationship between the west and Russia was set fine. The underlying reason was that Russia was a broken country and Boris Yeltsin was prepared to do the west's bidding by embracing, at least ostensibly, western-style democracy and the free market.…  Seguir leyendo »

It is a disturbing mark of our times that Ségolène Royal enjoys such little support from the media and politicians on this side of the Channel, notwithstanding her highly credible performance in Wednesday's TV debate. Nicolas Sarkozy seems to be their overwhelmingly preferred choice. Downing Street, unsurprisingly, is backing him: Tony Blair prefers the right as always - Silvio Berlusconi, José María Aznar, Angela Merkel, George Bush. David Cameron is supporting Sarkozy. So is the Economist. Matthew Parris, the Times columnist, is backing Royal, but only for the perverse reason that France is not yet ready for Sarkozy, but a Royal presidency will prepare the ground for his subsequent triumph.…  Seguir leyendo »