FoI 2012

Western culture could be transformed by the rise of the BRICs countries, a debate at the Festival of Ideas will hear this week.

We are so used to seeing the world through essentially Western eyes for the last 200 years, but it will not be essentially Western any more.

Martin Jacques

The West is in rapid decline and it had better wake up to a world which is no longer seen through its eyes, a leading thinker will tell this year’s Cambridge Festival of Ideas.

Martin Jacques, author of When China Rules the World, will tell a debate on the rise of the BRICs countries on Saturday that the rise of China and countries such as India and Brazil will transform the lives of people in the West.

He says China’s impact on the West is mainly economic for now. “Over time, though, it will become political, social, cultural and linguistic. It will be all enveloping.”

That includes how we work. Jacques says: “People in the West will find they have to work harder. Europeans have put their feet up for long enough. The Chinese really do work hard, although the image of people working crazy hours and never having time off is exaggerated.”

Jacques says Europe has been declining for many decades and the current economic crisis has only accelerated its decline.  He says Western assumptions that China’s power will be curbed by the undemocratic nature of the Chinese state are wrong. “They think the state is China’s Achilles heel, but the Chinese state is a remarkable institution and is extremely competent.  Its history is very old and it has a great tradition in state craft.”

Jacques, who is also delivering a talk at the Festival on his book, thinks the West is not yet ready for the changes the rise of the BRICs will bring and still doesn’t understand China because it sees it through a Western prism. “We are so used to seeing the world through essentially Western eyes for the last 200 years, but it will not be essentially Western any more,” he says. “Even the assumptions we make about nation states will be undermined.”

He describes China as a civilisation state rather than a nation state.  He says: “We are moving into a fascinating world where the 85% who have not had a voice for 200 years will have a huge voice.”

Other speakers at the How will the rise of the BRICs affect us? include Professor Jaideep Prabhu, Jawaharlal Nehru Professor of Indian Business & Enterprise at the Judge Business School, who will talk about innovation in emerging markets and how the emphasis on “frugal innovation” in emerging markets will impact the West.

Isabel Hilton, international journalist and broadcaster and Chief Executive of China Dialogue, will speak about how China and Brazil might seek to influence policy at an international level.

And Professor Michael Keith, Director of the ESRC Centre on Migration, Policy and Society at the University of Oxford will speak about the implication of the rise of the BRICs on issues like ‘brain drain’ and how the forms of intellectual traffic and social trends of the cities of India, and particularly China, may affect 21st century Europe.

The Cambridge Festival of Ideas is a 12-day celebration of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and is packed with over 170 events, most of them free, for people of all ages. They include debates, workshops and exhibitions.

*More information: How will the BRICs affect us? Takes place on 27th October in the Law Faculty Building, Sidgwick Site from 1-2.30pm. When China Rules the World takes place at the Mill Lane Lecture Rooms on 29th October, 5-6pm.



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