Prescient author now rules the roost

By Andrew Moody | China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-10 08:46

"She taught me to see the world from a non-Western perspective. If you are always with someone of the same culture you are an insider and never looking from the outside. She helped me see my country from an outsider's perspective," he says.

"I also learned about racism. Most white liberals see it almost as an intellectual construct but it is never at the forefront of your mind."

The book, which took almost eight years to write, predicted China would become a bigger economy than the United States by 2027.

It also argued that China's governance system was an effective alternative to Western liberal democracy and represented a new form of modernity. It also introduced the concept for the first time to many Western readers that China was more a civilization state than a nation state.

"China's view of itself was tian xia, or all the land under heaven, and there were no frontiers or borders and no essential differences between peoples," he says.

The book received a very critical reaction from Western Sinologists, in particular, who regarded Jacques as an interloper on their territory.

"I wasn't a Sinologist in any shape or form. My studies had all been about the West but I think I had a sensitivity to other cultures.

"I have always had a lot of respect for Sinologists who have spent years at the coalface trying to understand China. Some have a silo mentality though. They dig deep but very narrowly. Many American Sinologists, in particular, also believe in American exceptionalism and that the US is the example to follow."

Contrasts have been made between Jacques' book and US political scientist Francis Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man, which was published in the early 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union and argued that Western liberalism had triumphed over other systems.

"I like Francis. He is a very interesting man. He, however, got that catastrophically wrong."

Jacques' views, particularly after the Party congress, are, however, now on the ascendant. His Ted Talk video alone has attracted 2.4 million views.

" Most people in the West could not conceive of the West not occupying the position of dominance it has for the past 200 years.

"I am a historian professionally and you get great periods of change throughout history and this, in my view, is one."

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