MARTIN Jacques, British political commentator, observes that Western developed countries, the U.S. among them, are scrambling (my term) to prepare for a China-dominated global future. Ten years ago they didn’t think it was possible but American multinational group Goldman Sachs has just made this expert prediction that China’s economy will be the biggest in the world by as early as 2025. Unmistakeable signs of this happening are everywhere.
The West has always presumed its civilization’s universal application and never cared to study Eastern civilization, China’s for one, deeply enough. China is now proving them wrong. China is not like the West, never was or will be. Its dominance will call for an uneasy paradigm shift by the West.
There’s even more shifting to do as this will also be the first time that the biggest economy is not of a developed country in the West, as in the past and at present, but of a developing one in the East as China is. Nobody quite knows, for lack of historical precedent, how an economic, and presumably military, giant of a developing country will relate to developed and developing countries of both the West and the East.
Anyway, in the face of these uncertainties surrounding the inevitable future dominance of China it is easy to second-guess that the scrambling is for either of two alternative ways of relating politically to China. One is how not to provoke to anger an economic giant that is just waking up. The other, which is really the other side of the same coin, is how to partner with China for long-term economic stability.
If the big boys are at a crossroads so are their sidekicks and hangers-on. We must also prepare for a political and economic paradigm shift. If we had to adjust as we went along orbiting the biggest-in-the-world US economy, there is no reason we should not prepare to orbit around China that is now poised to wrest world economic supremacy from the US.
Besides, our economy has only moved sideways with the Western model of development. We could learn a lesson from China’s development model that rests on three pillars: “Good Order” (Spirit or Mind) shaped by Taoism and Confucianism, “Current Behavior” towards one’s own society and country, and “Energy” or entrepreneurship.
This is the development model that has liberated 800 million Chinese from poverty since 1978 and is now bringing China to the cusp of world economic dominance.
To conclude, how we should assert our rightful claim to the South China Sea must be cued by the overarching contextual question of how we should relate to China. That she is inexorably becoming the world’s biggest economy is most compelling that we assert that claim not as a foe but as a friend.