The return of the Chinese juggernaut

The war on terrorism occupies the bulk of our attention in the international arena, as wars usually do. There are, however, some profound secular shifts underway, most notable among them, the development of China and, to a lesser degree at least for now, of India. This piece in Le Monde Diplomatique puts the issue in historical perspective.

“An article in the New York Times this year asked whether the 21st century would be a ‘Chinese century’. This may be overstating the case: the Chinese transition is under way but is far from complete. None the less, assuming that the growth dynamic is maintained without major social or political disruption, China will indisputably become a dominant player in the international economic and financial system this century.

This represents a huge tectonic shift. Its distant origins are to be found in the position that Asia occupied in the world system before the North-South divide and the creation of third world countries . . . – a divide brought about by the European industrial revolution and colonialism. In a long-term perspective China, like Asia as a whole, can be seen to be resuming its precolonial history and gradually reclaiming the place that it occupied before 1800, when it was one of the main centres of the world economy and the world’s principal manufacturing power.”