By Gideon Rachman, March 19, 2012 —
My book-shelves in London groan with titles such as Eclipse: Living In the Shadow of China’s Economic Dominance and When China Rules the World. But travel to China itself, and you will find plenty of people who are sceptical about the notion that the country is a rising superpower. . . .
So who is right? The people who think China is a rising superpower, or those who insist that it is a deeply unstable country? Oddly enough, they are both correct. It is clearly true that China has enormous political and economic challenges ahead. Yet future instability is highly unlikely to derail the rise of China. Whatever the wishful thinking of some in the west, we are not suddenly going to wake up and discover that the Chinese miracle was, in fact, a mirage. . . .
Yet, it is equally hard to believe that either the Chinese economic or political systems can continue along the same lines indefinitely. Rapid, export-driven growth of 8-9 per cent a year is not sustainable forever. And China’s political system looks increasingly anachronistic, as demands for democracy spread around the world. Mr Wen was probably implying as much last week, when he said that the Arab people’s demand for democracy “must be respected and cannot be held back by any force”. . . .