Stephen Green: The Changing Face of China

Stephen Green (Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint) was Group Chairman of the HSBC Group from 2006-2010. He was subsequently until December 2013 a Minister of State for Trade and Investment in both the Department for Business, Investment and Skills and also the FCO. He is also an ordained priest in the Church of England. This is an edited version of the speech he gave at the RSAA Biennial Dinner on 20 May 2015.

My starting point has become familiar to us all: the extraordinary rise of China and the way it is changing the world. The transformation has been under way for roughly a generation now.

We now recognise that a historic convergence is under way. In 1820 the size of an economy relative to the world total output was roughly equal to that country’s share of world population. Then as now, China had the largest population, and its economy was the largest in the world. We all know what happened thereafter. The industrial revolution meant that for the first time in human history, some economies were able to produce consistently above subsistence level, thus creating a gap between the two ratios (Malthus was wrong – at least once industrialisation and urbanisation had begun to destroy older social structures). First the Europeans, then the Americans, and later the Japanese, thus achieved enormous increases in world market share. At the peak of their relative outperformance, these developed countries represented less than a fifth of the world’s population, but created around three quarters of world GDP. China was left behind.

The gap is now closing again, as China – and also country after country in Asia (and elsewhere in the emerging world) – starts to catch up with the standards of living which Europeans have come to take for granted. By 2020, on present trends, China will probably be the world’s largest economy again. China is already the largest exporter, the largest builder, largest consumer of steel, the largest emitter of carbon. This much we are familiar with.

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China, Hong Kong

China and Hong Kong in Asian Affairs March 2015: Comment

Kenneth C. Walker, an academic and former diplomat who sits on the Editorial Board of the Asian Affairs Journal, takes issue with articles on Hong Kong and China in the March 2015 issue of Asian Affairs. He puts a different point of view here, and Dr Stephan Ortmann, author of the article on the Democracy Movement in Hong Hong, makes a reply below.

Ken Walker:

I was surprised by some points in two articles in the March 2015 issue of Asian Affairs.

In Stephan Ortmann’s article on Hong Kong I wondered how he could have formed the view that the Chinese “were able to dictate most of the conditions” in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. China’s decision to “resume the exercise of sovereignty” in 1997 and the main principles of its policy on Hong Kong were stated in the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs of the Declaration. But Annexes which are integral to the Declaration set out in detail measures to protect Hong Kong’s system and the freedoms enjoyed by its citizens. It was well-known at the time that these measures resulted from intensive negotiations in which the input of the senior British diplomats representing Hong Kong’s interests was crucial. Moreover, it is obvious from the amount of detail that the wording could only be the result of intricate negotiations to protect Hong Kong’s interests. Hence my surprise at Dr Ortmann’s view.

Dr Ortmann rightly says that the Joint Declaration did not provide for “full democracy”. Clearly, there was no chance of achieving that.  Continue reading

China, Kyrgyzstan

The silent hand: China in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

James Willsher was until recently co-publisher of the Times of Central Asia, and has lived in Bishkek.

I become an acquaintance of an Uighur student in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, a decade ago; he pronounces his ethnic nomenclature as Oi-ghur, not Weegerr, as news reports do at the time of Uighur riots taking place in western China around the time of the Beijing Olympics.

Eight years later and I am a guest in a restaurant owned by someone who can be described only as an Uighur Alan Sugar, in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. I am in the process of ruining my tie and shirt with spicy noodles and an array of exotic dishes from his ancestral homeland over the border with China.

The restaurant is the cornerstone of his Uighur business centre premises in the Kyrgyz capital, providing countless jobs and a focus for trade and culture. The world empties its pockets for Chinese herbal remedies, so why not traditional Uighur herbal remedies? A new business venture. The enormous, intricately-decorated tea urn outside is exquisitely alien and resembles nothing I have seen previously, nor since. Continue reading