aconfuscius1This afternoon we went to the Petit Sablon, to the Belgian Confuscius Institute which, together with the Association Belgique-Chine, was holding its annual proclamation of results for language courses. This was a proud parents moment (N° 1 child is learning Chinese) but the former DG Education and Culture official in me was very attentive to the trends that have been becoming apparent on these annual occasions. The Chinese Ambassador, for example, is a relaxed, witty and urbane man and he judged the type of speech needed perfectly (no longer, in other words, lengthy and stern addresses). Also, there was a time, not so long ago, when the Europeans would proudly announce on such occasions that they were sending scholars off to China on fellowships, but now the boot is very much on the other foot; it is the Chinese who offer us fellowships and scholarships now. It is through such occasions, as much as anything else, that I sense the balance of economic – and cultural – power changing in the world. Martin Jacques has a book out about this shift (When China Rules the World: The Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the End of the Western World) and what, in his opinion, the future promises. I am determined to read the book this summer. In the meantime, Jacques summarises his arguments here.