During my time as a student of the MAAPPS program at UBC, I am fortunate enough to have attended numerous enlightening talks, workshops and seminars by prominent scholars. Topics of these events range from political situation and economy in China, changing international order, public intellectual life, conflicts of the South China Sea, etc. I believe that that power and value of knowledge lies in sharing. In the following days, I’ll publish my notes and reflections from the talks I attended in the past year. Some of the information may be outdated but it still could act as a anchor point to better understand public policy.  

China’s response to global economic rebalancing: Perception, policy and implications to China’s participation in global governance 

Date: September 9, 2014

Speaker: Dr. Yong Wang 王勇, visiting scholar at the Institute of Asian Research

In recent years, there is a mounting discussion on “the rise of China” in the academia and international media. However, the concept of “China’s rise” is debatable in itself. The first thing that Dr. Wang’s talk struck me is that he did not mention or hint on such phrase in his presentation’s title. Instead of saying “China’s rise”, Dr. Wang phrased the issue as “rebalance” and “China’s participation”.

While scholars like Martin Jacques, Michael Beckley, David Shambaugh are eagerly finding evidence of whether China is rising as a global power and actively proposing so-called solutions to China’s development, Dr. Wang’s research presents a simple and yet important conception shared by the mainstream Chinese intellectuals, that is, China itself and many Chinese do not care whether is or will become a super power, nor do they “attempt to overthrow the existing international economy system.” This is because China, as a member of the international community, also has a high stake in the interdependent global economy.

Instead of taking over the United States’ super power role, what China wants to do after the global economic crisis is to “emphasize international cooperation and avoid confrontation”, maintain the government’s political determination to carry forward structural adjustment of Chinese economy regardless of external pressure, adjust the FDI policy in order to reduce China’s current account surplus, and urge for reformed in international economic system.

Meanwhile, Dr. Wang pointed out that the reason why China has become an easy target in the international community is not its recent development or so-called assertiveness, but that the academia and media have been “Americanized” with a Cold War mentality.

While Dr. Wang proposed a two predictions about the future of the global economy—either major economies compromise and cooperate in international platforms like G20 or they confront each other to work on keeping others down, I personally agree with the first scenario. With the process of globalization, few countries can afford to live on its own (thought North Korea might be an exception). The level of interdependence of each country is so high that most of the time they share mutual interests. Even it is for the sake of self-development, it does not make sense to block other’s development.

But at the same time, I have doubts about whether the existing international organizations can help such cooperation or not. For one thing, much as the term “global governance” is appealing, I doubt how these organizations could effectively enforce the international rules and laws and how many nations would actually follow these rules. For another thing, as Dr. Wang mentioned, the current international financial system is largely dominated by the West. If reforms are necessary to alter such imbalance, is it possible to carry them out and who should be the one that designs the future system?