The rise of China has created doubts about America's status in the world. A survey by the Pew Research Center last year revealed that 15 out of 22 nations believed China either would replace, or had already supplanted, the U.S. as the world's leading superpower.
With the IMF predicting that China's economy will surpass the US by 2016, questions remain on how well the world is coming to terms with China's rise.
In this interview, Oxford Professor Garton Ash talks about China's increased economic and political strengths, as well as its internal preoccupations and lack of soft power. He outlines the challenges China faces in managing its new role in the world, and discusses the potential rise of a super league of geopolitics in the China, US and EU triumvirate.
Caixin: Hello, Professor Garton Ash. Thanks for giving us an opportunity of talking with you. Let's start with the concept of "Renaissance of Asia." What, really, does the concept mean?
Garton Ash: A few years ago, I argued in a book that's now appeared in Chinese under the title "Free World," that the great story of our time is what I called the "Renaissance of Asia." Five hundred years ago, China and India, Asia, was richer and, in many ways, more modern than the West. And after a brief interlude of just about 500 years, we're seeing the renaissance, the rebirth, of Asia, particularly of China and India. That is the defining story of our times.
Well, do you think the West is ready to adapt to the renaissance of Asia?
I think the West is adapting at amazing speed. The general recognition and acceptance that China is an emerging superpower, that the challenge of the next 20 years is to adapt to the great power shift, which is not China replacing America. It's not the American century and then the Chinese century. It's more complicated than that, but certainly China being a superpower alongside the United States and, in some ways, the European Union. And I believe managing that power shift, which is always a dangerous moment, is the great challenge of our time.
How soon do you think the power shift can happen?
Now. It's happening. It's happening with amazing speed. China has emerged not just as an economic but as a political power faster than people expected. The financial crisis of 2008 and its consequences, which is a crisis above all capitalism in the West, has catalyzed, has speeded up that development. I believe the IMF is now saying that in purchasing power parity, already in five years' time, in 2016, China will be the world's largest economy. So, it's there already.