By Andrew Moody
The man who says China is about to rule the world makes his way toward me at an exit of Wudaokou subway station. None of the Chinese people around us enjoying a sunny Saturday morning in this popular student hangout of northwestern Beijing would have any idea who this shaven-headed, slightly quirky figure was or even care.
Martin Jacques, author of When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order. [China Daily]
They might be slightly more intrigued if they knew the man coming into view. Martin Jacques has written a book about them and their future that is already attracting major interest in the West.
Jacques in his sandals may be an unlikely vanguard for 1.3 billion people but nonetheless When China Rules the World, which argues the former Middle Kingdom will take over from the United States as the world's leading power, is fuelling a huge debate.
He has already been invited by not just the Chinese Embassy in London, where he lives, but also, intriguingly, by that of America whose demise as a world power he predicts.
"I had a very serious two-hour discussion at the Chinese Embassy in London and it was very interesting. They were extremely interested in the book. It was a good meeting and a proper engagement," he says.
We are now at a nearby flat of a friend of his he is using while he is on holiday in China - where else could he possibly take a holiday? Although he is returning to the UK, he is back here later this month for the Asian launch of the English language version of the book. It will be published in Chinese next year.
Jacques, a remarkably youthful 63, serves us strong "English builders'", not Chinese, tea as his 11 year-old son Ravi practices the violin in another room.
"Even though he is on holiday he practices 6 hours a day. He is about to go and see his Chinese violin professor," he says.
The book says China will overtake the US as the world's largest economy in 2027 and become double its size by 2050.
It also argues, more controversially, as suggested by the subtitle, The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order, China will begin to dominate the world culturally and politically as well as economically.
In the past, countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and South Korea have felt a need to "Westernize" in order to become more modern.
Jacques argues that by the end of this century being modern might mean being more Chinese. Being Western might just mean stuffing a hamburger into your face.
"My central argument is very simple. Western modernity is not eternal and it is not a universal model," he says.
"It has been the universal model over the past 200 years because it has been successful but it will not be eternally successful."
The new modernity will see the RMB as the world's major currency, China with a strong political influence and the widespread adoption of Chinese as a second language around the world.
"Mandarin is going to become a very big language globally. Because China is going to be the world's biggest market and (because) you have large Chinese minorities everywhere, " he says.
Jacques argues a lot of Chinese culture and tradition such as its food (Liverpool in England having a Chinatown in the 19th century) and traditional medicine were exported well before the recent economic take-off of China.
The revenge for having US brands such as Starbucks and McDonald's inflicted upon it could be the proliferation of Chinese teahouses around the world.
"I have always thought Chinese teahouses could be an incredible success actually," he says slurping on his heavily stewed English version.
"Chinese tea could be a very big thing and you could cater for every class, from having something simple to spending a fortune on something exclusive."
Much of China's advance will be at the expense of the US which he says will "significantly decline" in importance over the next 100 years. He insists the US will not become the new Ethiopia anytime soon.
"We are talking of relative decline. The average American in 30 years will be a lot more wealthy than the average American today. America will for a long time be much richer in per capita terms than China," he says.
Jacques, who was born in Coventry, earned a first class degree at Manchester University and embarked on an academic career before becoming a journalist.
He is most famous for editing Marxism Today, which he turned into one of Britain's foremost political magazines over a period of 14 years.
It was a forum for a wide spectrum of political ideas, not just left wing ones, but folded in 1991. He was also deputy editor of The Independent newspaper in the UK in the mid-1990s.