Martin Jacques’ new book, When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order, is causing controversy.
Is it possible that China will “rule the world” in the not-so-distant future? Perhaps, but only if it’s able to successfully transform from an industrial-based economy to a knowledge-based economy, and then transform even further to an innovation-based economy.
China is off to a good start. It now has the largest higher education system in the world. Five of its universities are in the world’s top 100. University enrollment has more than tripled since 2000. More university degrees are awarded in China than in the U.S. and India combined. Over the past decade, annual awards of doctoral degrees in China have risen sevenfold. China recently surpassed the U.K. to become the world’s second-largest producer of academic research papers—and is on course to surpass the U.S. by 2020.
While the stereotype holds that Asians are not innovative, China has a rich history of innovation. The compass, gunpowder, papermaking, and printing were all invented by the Chinese.
The Art of War, widely accepted as a masterpiece on military strategy, was written by Chinese general Sun Tzu around 500 BC. Sun Tzu’s creative strategies have influenced many notable figures, including the first emperor of a unified China Qin Shihuang, Japanese samurai Oda Nobunaga, French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, U.S. general Douglas MacArthur, Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong, and Vietnamese Communist leader Ho Chi Minh. In addition to its popularity among military theorists and political leaders, The Art of War has also been embraced by business managers.
More than 60 years before Genoese explorer Christopher Columbus landed in North America, Chinese admiral Zheng He had already completed seven great voyages, sailing into the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Persian Gulf. This was made possible by cutting-edge technology used by the Chinese to build Zheng’s junks, which were four times larger than Christopher Columbus’ largest ship.
Dissatisfied with traditional martial arts styles, Chinese actor Bruce Lee created his own: Jeet Kune Do. It combines the best techniques from Wing Chun Kung Fu, American boxing, French fencing, and grabbling to create a highly efficient and practical style. Lee is considered the most influential martial artist of the 20th century.
Not content to serve as factory to the world, the Chinese government has been making enormous investments in its universities and stressing scientific and technological innovation. If China—with 20 percent of the world’s population and a rich history of innovation—is able to usher in a renaissance of innovation, then it could possibly “rule the world” in the not-so-distant future.