China gets global

by on Monday, 28 June 2010 Comments

There is good news on the global front: China is more and more living up to its international responsibilities. The gradual reevaluation of the Renminbi, voting at the UN to sanction Iran and even moving cautiously on North Korea, all of this shows that China is increasingly calibrating its policies by taking into account their global impact.

China’s prompt recovery after the financial crisis had made some observers fear that China’s new assertiveness would translate into unilateral policies. The Copenhagen psychodrama heightened such concerns. Fortunately, these concerns currently prove to be exaggerated: China’s recovery is fragile, and the country knows that its sustainability depends on the health of the global economy. Friction with the US and France has been put aside. Chinese diplomats and policymakers are conscious of the danger that would represent an isolation of China, and are making their own the old American wish of seeing China behaving like a “responsible stakeholder.”

The recent move towards salary rises for Chinese workers also goes in this direction. Joined with the (still very gradual) reevaluation of the Renminbi it provides for a leveled international economic playground and the emergence of new economic players. Besides, as the World Bank has recently noted, Chinese enterprises still have huge margins of productivity to realise, which can more than compensate for the expense created by rises in labor cost. A fairer social system should go along with a more efficient economy – and a country linked to its partners through common interests that are progressively better defined and assessed.

As is the case with other countries, China’s policies depend very much on circumstances and conjuncture. Unwelcome shifts in style and orientation are still possible, especially in what looks like a new period of economic uncertainty. Still, recent developments prove that the gradual insertion of China into global governance called for during the last decade by Chinese and foreign scholars is bearing some fruits. These fruits might not be yet ripe, but signs of hope must be noted and valued: the new international order is not all about competition. Reason and cooperation can still help us to break though rivalries, misunderstandings and irrational behaviors.

Painting by B.V.

 

 

Benoit Vermander (魏明德)

Benoit Vermander lives in Shanghai. He teaches philosophy and religious anthropology at the University of Fudan.

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