October 17, 2012
Change is in the air. In China a leadership transition is taking place amid debate over the future of its economic and political model. At the same time the EU cannot avoid fundamental change in order to resolve its crisis. This occurs at a time when change on a global scale is taking place, not least in the economy.
China looms large in these changes, and its relationship with Europe will be the main focus of this blog. However, this blog deliberately avoids using the term China’s rise to describe its recent development, which often favoured by both Chinese and non-Chinese commentators. This is partly out of caution. Keeping in mind Zhou Enlai’s perhaps apocryphal comment on the impact of the French Revolution, it may be too early to tell if what we are witnessing really is China’s rise. But more importantly, describing what has happened to China over the last three decades simply as a rise is both too superficial and too loaded, suggesting a simple positive, upward trajectory that fails to capture the complexity of what is happening within China, in its relations with the rest of the world, and also in the world outside China. It is certainly the case that in many respects China has risen and become more important in the world than it was two or three decades ago. But this passage is complex and far from holding to a single postive trajectory. Conversely, the implicit assumption that China’s rise must entail the decline of others, notably Europe, also oversimplifies.
As the title of one of China’s most famous ancient works, “The Book of Changes“, makes clear, change is fundamental to human life and the world in which it is lived. The title of this blog is not just intended as a bad pun. Chinese thought has traditionally been better able to accept the idea of constant change, and also that change can contain within it opposites, than its Western counterpart.
The ideas of change and transition better capture what is happening both in China and in the rest of the world than rise and fall. The EU faces enormous changes, which at least for the moment seem to entail almost entirely negative consequences, in contrast to China’s apparently vastly more positive prospects. Yet, neither are absolutes. The transformation of China will continue, as will that of Europe, in the economic, political, cultural and social spheres. These changes will be the subject of this blog.Author : Duncan Freeman