This is with reference to an interesting article by Friedrich Wu published in the RSIS Commentary on 27 Feb 17.[i] He has incisively analysed the feasibility of China stepping in as the next champion of globalisation in the backdrop of recent policy shifts in the US and Britain which indicate a move away from the phenomenon, hitherto advocated by these western powers.
In his analysis he propounds three critical pre-requisites which China must fulfil to step into this void. These are, ‘political will; expertise/experience in managing complex multilateral institutions and forging politically-sensitive international agreements; and last but not least, global trust.’
There is no doubt that China is bang on track with the first two requirements, however, it certainly has a lot of ground to cover as far as the third one is concerned. Though the author liberally cites Beijing’s excellent track record as a ‘conscientious and scrupulous rule-abider of the international economic and financial architectures forged by the West’ as also ‘its extraordinary conduct in multilateral institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB), Bank for International Settlements (BIS), World Trade Organisation (WTO), etc, ‘international trust’ is something which cannot be restricted to financial dealings and institutions. For a nation aspiring to be a Global Leader, perhaps, it relates more to a demonstrated national intent, derived from its perceived strategic culture.
On this account the stance adopted by China on important issues such as the war on terrorism (partisan attitude towards Pak sponsored terrorist organisations), proliferation of weapon and missile technology (covert and overt support to North Korea) and the general tendency to place its own national interests over internationally accepted laws (unilateral rejection of the South China Sea verdict), leave much to be desired. There are also increasing instances where the Chinese assistance initially accepted as a genuine financial bailout by smaller nations is now turning out to be a case of ‘disguised strategic equities for China’ (effects of Chinese investments on the financial health of Sri Lanka are already visiblewhile the CPEC in Pakistan is likely to follow suit).
The jury is still out and the world needs to watch this space closely!