The reluctance of the educational system - public and private - to grasp the Chinese nettle is a metaphor for a much wider problem: our ignorance about China and our failure to appreciate just how much it will change the world and transform our lives.
The great task facing the West over the next century will be to make sense of China - not in our terms but in theirs. We have to understand China as it is and as it has been, not project our own history, culture, institutions and values onto it. It will always fail that test. In truth such a mentality tells us more about our own arrogance and lack of curiosity than anything about China.
Let’s take one example. We assume that the nation-state, that long-standing and remarkably influential European invention, is more or less universal. True, China has called itself a nation-state for about a century. But 100 years is a mere pin-prick for a country that dates back over two millennia. Modern China emerged in 221. By the time of the Han dynasty - still more than 2,000 years ago - China’s borders already closely resembled those of eastern and central China today. China is very old, the longest continuously-existing polity in the world. And for more than 2,000 years, it was not a nation-state but a civilisation-state. In essence it still is."