A journey to China

Updated: 2011-08-30 22:59

By Jules Quartly (chinadaily.com.cn)

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Tony Blair, the former prime minister of Britain, winner of a record three consecutive elections and supporter of the unpopular Iraq invasion, is as lauded as he is derided four years after resigning his post as leader.

The 58-year-old's enlightening and at times humorous autobiography about his 10 years in power, A Journey (2010), has been translated into Chinese and Blair was in Beijing on Tuesday for the official launch.

The book has generally been well received, with critics calling it "congenial", "compellingly candid" and written with an eye on his legacy.

The Chinese version of the book has a new forward written by Blair that deals with the West's relationship with China and how it has to adapt to the new world power.

He adds in the forward there are three questions the Chinese government and people need to deal with, namely, political reform and a rising middle-class demanding more of a say in the running of the country, economic challenges, and developing a harmonious society.

For his interview with China Daily later in the day at the Grand Hyatt Beijing, Blair looked fit, toned and tanned and was in good form.

He answered questions on a range of subjects, ranging from China's rise, the need for understanding and partnership with the West, the Olympics, art, the 10th anniversary of 9/11, religion, and his relationship with former friend and prime minister Gordon Brown.

He started off by saying that he had visited China 14 times since leaving office because he was so fascinated by the country.

"There's been a big paradigm shift in the world from West to East and there's not a single global problem that can be resolved without China's help and intervention and support."

One of the themes of the conversation was understanding, and Blair was emphatic that this was a two-way process.

"The big challenge is to make the West understand China and China understand the West. Otherwise what happens is that people in the West just get frightened of this new power, and people in China end up thinking we are just being negative about China because we don't want it to do well. And actually, all of it is really about understanding each other better."

"In fact the world does understand, not just China's importance, it does want it to develop and it's in our interest. And by the way one of the reasons why we have been able to consume in the West as we have is because of the way the Chinese economy has developed."

He said the Beijing Olympics was a "spectacular to end all spectaculars" and he said the London Olympics would have to be different. "This will very much be a chance for people to see London, a modern Britain."

Asked what he hoped Chinese readers would learn from his book, Blair said: "The thing I hope will most appeal to Chinese readers is that it is an intimate account of being a leader and it doesn't matter whether you are a British leader or any sort of leader. Some people think leaders come from outer space but actually we're humans. We're Earthlings."

A full account of Tony Blair's interview will be provided in the Life section of China Daily on Thursday.