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Opinion

Understanding China

The West has gotten it wrong on China for decades -- even as it embraces a market economy, it has shunned Western-style freedoms. And its power is only growing.

November 22, 2009|By Martin Jacques

China, moreover, is possessed, like the West, with its own form of universalism. It long believed that it was "the land under heaven," the center of the world, superior to all other cultures. That sense of self, which has engendered a powerful self-confidence, has been persistently evident over the last 40 years, but with China's rise, it is becoming more apparent as the country's sense of achievement and restoration gains pace. Or to put it another way, when the presidents of China and the United States meet in Beijing in 2019, with the Chinese economy fast approaching the size of the American economy, we can be sure that the Chinese sense of hubris will be far stronger than in 2009.

But long before that, we need to try and understand what China is and how it behaves. If we don't, then relations between China and the United States will never move beyond the polite and the formal -- and that will be a bad omen for the future relationship between the two countries.

Martin Jacques is the author of "When China Rules the World: the End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order."

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