China should listen to Kissinger: You're on top now, start leading
China has surpassed the US as the world's largest creditor. Beijing must now take on the accompanying leadership role. Instead of a 'Marshall Plan,' why not a 'Hu Jintao plan' that recycles some of China's surplus to benefit the whole global system?
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The challenge is whether global governance can be established without one dominant power or set of interests calling the shots. One path forward has been suggested by Zheng Bijian, the former vice chair of the Central Party School, author of China’s “peaceful rise” doctrine and confidant of the country’s leaders. China can only reach its goals of “qualitatively improving the life of the ordinary Chinese” and moving up the middle-income ladder “in the context of interdependence,” Mr. Zheng says.Skip to next paragraph
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Thus, Zheng says, China must move beyond the “peaceful rise” idea to “expand and deepen a convergence of interests with others globally. When there is an accumulation of converging interests, there will be a solid foundation for common interests.”
Global interests need China's leadership
Those “convergent interests” amount to the global public goods of the 21st century. Zheng specifically mentions fighting climate change, and joint initiatives on low-carbon growth, especially with the United States.
There are others that the G-20 must take up, such as global financial stability, the phasing in of a multi-currency global reserve basket (including the RMB) to replace the dollar, a new governance structure for the International Monetary Fund that reflects the power of the emerging economies, and a revived or reconfigured Doha trade round.
One area where China, as the world’s largest creditor, could play a critical role is in helping to stabilize the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) through economic development – something in the interest of the whole world, not least for energy security. After all, China is already playing a significant role in Europe through buying the bonds of the most troubled countries.
In the wake of the Arab revolutions, there was much talk of a “Marshall Plan” for the MENA countries. At the G-8 meeting in Deauville recently, French President Nicolas Sarkozy managed to raise a pledge of $20 billion for this purpose. That seems a largely hollow commitment since the advanced economies are drowning in deficits and mired in a sovereign debt crisis.
Instead of a “Marshall Plan,” why not a “Hu Jintao plan” sponsored by the G-20 in which China recycles some of its massive reserve surplus, along with the Gulf states, in a way that benefits the whole global system?
As Kissinger suggested, just as the Marshall Plan merged a rising America’s obligations and self-interest in shaping the world order of the last half of the 20th century, might now be the right time for China to take up its new role in such a way? The Americans were right to listen to Ernest Bevin. The Chinese would be right to listen to Henry Kissinger.
Nathan Gardels is editor-in-chief of the Global Viewpoint Network/Tribune Media and NPQ. He is also a senior advisor to the Berggruen Institute.