Gordon Brown: The rise of China provides an opportunity for Britain

From a speech by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, given at the Academy of Social Science, Beijing

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Twenty years ago, China had less than 1 per cent of world trade. Today it is 7 per cent and Asia now has 23 per cent - soon to equal the euro area. So we are seeing economic change on a continental scale - the potential for Asia to be the 21st century's equivalent of America's rise in the 20th century.

Twenty years ago, China had less than 1 per cent of world trade. Today it is 7 per cent and Asia now has 23 per cent - soon to equal the euro area. So we are seeing economic change on a continental scale - the potential for Asia to be the 21st century's equivalent of America's rise in the 20th century.

Some people in the advanced industrial economies view the rise of China and the next stage of globalisation as simply an economic threat to the advanced industrial economies. That leads to calls for protectionism against lower-cost imports and protectionist attitudes against outsourcing and off-shoring.

But let us be clear that this is not only a sterile attempt to stop the clock and resist inevitable change. This is to also misunderstand the contribution made by the rise of China and, in recent years, the emerging market economies.

China has been responsible for keeping the world economy growing as the advanced industrial economies went into a downturn. China has itself contributed more growth to the world economy in the last few years than all the G7 combined. Indeed without China, world trade growth, which slowed more than at any time in recent world downturns, would have been negative for more than one year. China's role as a major economic player stabilising the world economy should never now be discounted.

I see the rise of China and the new stage of globalisation not as a threat but as an opportunity. An opportunity because China is a huge market with huge opportunities for British companies; a dynamic market that challenges Britain to be equipped for the new world and to respond. An opportunity because China's development helps us to understand the need for change and to persuade British people to change.

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