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China: Is it the future of world politics – or not?

Colonel Sanders is looking young - and Chinese - at the opening of a new KFC outlet in Beijing.

It’s well past time that people woke up to China’s role in the world and I don’t just mean noticing “Made in China” on the base of that thing you’ve just bought. (It’s probably from Vietnam or the Philippines these days anyway – or perhaps Madagascar if it’s clothing.) And eating Chinese doesn’t count either.

It’s crazy how tightly schools cling to European languages to the exclusion of Chinese. Sure, Spanish can be number one – it’s on the doorstep, good weather, world language, beautiful songs. But why should Chinese be relegated below French, German, Russian (!), Italian, Latin, Greek, etc?

Then again, there are some people who are in a constant tizzy about the spread of Chinese influence – soft power, economic investment, military infiltration. The panic has reached such intensity in parts of the blogosphere that it reminds me of that old cartoon (anyone know it?) that had Americans imagining that it was Vietnam bordering Texas instead of Mexico. (Though with the low intensity warfare going on in Mexico these days…)

So is China really the future? Is western democracy tired and doomed to go down with the listing economic ship? Have the Chinese actually got it right in terms of development and never mind the niceties of freedom?

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