In 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry led a fleet of U.S. warships into Japan, a nation that had lived in self-imposed isolation for over two centuries. Perry's mission, backed by the technological might of his black ships, was clear: to force Japan to open its ports to international trade. Perry's arrival and the subsequent signing of the Treaty of Kanagawa in 1854 forced Japan to open its doors to the world, marking the end of its isolationist policies and the beginning of its integration into the global economy. 

Parallel to Japan's coerced opening, another Asian giant faced its reckoning with the West.

China, a venerable empire with centuries of rich history and culture, was thrust into turmoil by the Opium Wars with Britain (1839-1842 and 1856-1860). The conflict originated from Britain's desire to balance its trade deficit with China, leading to the British monarchy roganised illegal smuggling of opium and resulting in widespread addiction among the Chinese population. The Qing Dynasty's efforts to curb this trade resulted in military confrontation with Britain and, eventually, France, showcasing the devastating might of Western military technology and strategic interests.

The forced opening of Japan and China to the global economy by military force and state organised drug smuggling were ironically the first moves pushing the world towards globalisation which reached its zenith during the late 20th and early 21st centuries, a period characterised by an unprecedented push towards economic, cultural, and political integration across the globe. 

This era, notably the 1990s and early 2000s, was driven by several key factors: 1) the advancement of technology, particularly the internet, which drastically reduced the costs of communication and data exchange, fostering a more interconnected world; 2) the liberalisation of trade policies, which led to a significant increase in cross-border trade and investment flows; 3) the emergence of multinational corporations that began to establish operations in various countries, taking advantage of lower labor costs and new markets; 4) the rise of financial markets that became increasingly integrated, allowing capital to move more freely across borders; 5) the end of the Cold War, which opened up former communist countries to global markets and led to a more unipolar world dominated by the United States; and 6) the proliferation of international agreements and institutions, such as the World Trade Organization, that supported and governed the growing global economic integration. 

These forces collectively propelled the globalisation hype, setting the stage for a world economy that appeared boundless and borderless, promising prosperity through the unfettered flow of goods, services, and capital.

Both the historic forced, and the modern negotiated drive for globalisation were driven by the broader concept and force of Western expansionism, which did not expect other nations to reclaim their places on the world stage. However, both Japan and China emerged from their trials with a renewed sense of purpose and identity, leveraging their encounters with the West to eventually become major global economic powers. Japan was subdued and conquered in the second world war and stays obedient to the west, but other countries of global south have crossed the point of no return to economical independence and esteemed national identity.

This paradigm shift has now forced the West to reverse its course on globalisation. Suddenly the realisation that prosperity and technological advances of other nations would lead to a more equal  and multipolar world has made the West to hit the brakes on globalisation, dismantle trade agreements, reinstate protectionism and go even further by imposing variety of sanctions on countries threatening US and Western hegemony. Today we hare the word ”sanction” on daily basis, and not a single mention of globalisation.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. From its inception in 1949, China's transformation from a country that was once poorer than several African nations to becoming the world's leading economy by certain measures is nothing short of extraordinary. This journey reflects not only on China's internal resilience and strategy but also challenges the narratives often portrayed in Western media about China's economic peak and its implications for the global economy.

Martin Jacques, a renowned expert on China, reflects on this transformation, emphasising the unparalleled nature of China's economic growth over the last four decades. According to Jacques, what makes China's story unique is not just the speed of its development but the underlying civilisational ethos that has guided its path.

Jacques' observations are grounded in his firsthand experiences of China's evolution since his first visit in 1993. He notes the incredible pace of change, from basic transportation to advanced infrastructure, signifying a nation's leap from poverty towards modernity. However, he also poses an essential question: Is the China of today unrecognisable from its past, or does it retain a fundamental essence that has driven its success?

The discussion often circles back to the economic metrics, where, by purchasing power parity, China's GDP stands as the largest globally. It leads in various industrial sectors and technological advancements, challenging the narrative that China's economic growth has plateaued. This perspective is crucial, especially when Western media frequently speculate about the limits of China's economic expansion.

The comparison between China and the West extends beyond mere economic indicators to the philosophical underpinnings of modernisation. Jacques argues that Western modernisation, historically, has been marked by exploitation and colonisation, a narrative not applicable to China's approach. Instead, China envisions its modernisation as a model for development that benefits not only itself but also the global South, encompassing a significant majority of the world's population. This approach challenges the notion that China's growth is at its zenith and suggests that its continued rise could foster broader global economic prosperity.

BYD electric cars waiting to be loaded onto a ship are seen stacked at the international container terminal of Taicang Port in Suzhou, in China's eastern Jiangsu province on February 8, 2024. (Photo by AFP) / China Out

Moreover, China's emphasis on sustainable development, green energy, and the integration of digital technologies into the real economy indicates a forward-looking strategy. These initiatives are not just about maintaining growth rates but about redefining the quality and sustainability of economic development. 

Critics and skeptics in the West often question the sustainability of China's economic model, citing concerns about debt levels, demographic challenges, and political governance. While these issues are valid, they describe global challenges faced by every economy, even more by the Western countries.

The narrative that China's economy has reached its peak and poses a threat rather than an opportunity to the Western economy is simplistic and overlooks the interconnected nature of global markets. China's growth has become a significant driver of global economic activity, contributing to a more dynamic and multipolar world economy. This growth benefits Western economies through increased trade, investment opportunities, and cooperation in addressing global challenges like climate change and sustainable development.

In a significant shift within the global economic landscape, the collective economy of the BRICS nations—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—has surpassed that of the G7, (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States). This milestone underscores the rising economic power and influence of emerging markets on the world stage. 

Driven by robust economic growth, particularly in China and India, the BRICS bloc has showcased its potential as a major force in shaping global economic policies and dynamics. This achievement not only reflects the shifting balance of economic power from the traditional industrialised nations of the West and Japan towards newer, dynamic economies but also highlights the increasing significance of the Global South in driving future economic growth. 

Aging population, fanatical approach to preserving its hegemony by wars and sanctions, and ever decreasing quality of leadership in the west are pushing the block to a decent in both global importance and economical growth. There is no doubt that self-harming policies have had no effect in stoping the growth and progress of the global south and new powerhouses like China and India. It will soon be up to the free media and the electorate to push for a new world view and a pragmatic approach to a changing world.