Will China Play By Global Rules? Maybe Not….

For years, western leaders have been trying to figure out how to integrate China into the international system. It turns out that the Western debate has paralleled one inside China itself.

By Minxin Pei

In 2005, when the West first started asking China to abide by international rules in Africa, take a lead in climate-change talks, contribute more to international security and abandon its mercantilist trade policy, Beijing didn’t respond well. Who could blame it? Until recently, Chinese leaders had been obsessed with domestic priorities and rarely considered the foreign ramifications. When they did, they figured their greatest international contribution would be to feed and house 1.3 billion Chinese.

A conspiracy-minded minority in Beijing still views the West’s requests with suspicion. This group is best represented by Jiang Yong, director of the Center of Economic Security at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (an affiliate of the Ministry of State Security). Writing in mid-2007, Jiang warned that Washington’s calls for China to accept more international responsibility were really just a way to frustrate China’s rise. Because the existing global economic order and its rules were established by the West, Jiang argued, they serve the West’s interests, not China’s. Were China to comply with the WTO’s intellectual-property protections, for example, it would trap China in its role as a low-tech, low-cost manufacturer. Rules on environmental protection and resource conservation, similarly, would hurt Chinese economic development. To Jiang, it all amounted to a subtle strategy of keeping China down.

Few prominent thinkers publicly embrace such theories. That said, none believe Beijing does things purely on the West’s terms, either. The furthest moderates are ready to go is to accept China’s new obligations as a reality and argue that China should honor them the best it can.

As Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Beijing’s Renmin University, wrote in a People’s Daily online forum at the end of 2007, while China need not dance to the West’s tune, it risks alienating other countries—even in the developing world—if it keeps refusing to become a “responsible stakeholder.”

Read the rest:

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