China’s future matters. But as Xi Jinping pursues the dream of a new order at home and abroad, the West is struggling to understand the nature of what is proving to be a bigger idea with wider implications for the world.
Is China now a civilisational advance, drawing on millennia of political thought and a hundred years of trial and error? Or is it perpetuating, and now exporting, a unique civilisational error that has repeatedly collapsed its past and drove some of its greatest minds to two 20th century revolutions?
For the wider world, the questions have acquired practical importance. As China proves that innovation is not a monopoly of the West, is it going to lead the world into a new era of Taiping heavenly peace and widespread Xiaokang moderate prosperity, connected by belts, roads, polar rings and Chinese online everything? Or, as the Party-State tightens its controls, and its tech giants battle to lead an artificially intelligent world, is the idea of Truth as Practice – truth as a determined creation of the future rather than any searing revelations of the past – going to raise not only the risk of yet another dynastic collapse but of the ultimate 21st century fear, that of a human world lost to a single top down mind?
Exploring these questions through the history that led to the present-day state, Jeanne-Marie, author of Becoming China: The Story Behind the State (Bloomsbury, 2017) will suggest that we have much to discover about ourselves.
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