Orville Schell: China Reluctant to Lead

For Yale Global, Orville Schell writes about China’s role in a global solution to the current economic meltdown:

As US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphasized during her first trip overseas, the US has great expectations for China’s leadership and help on fixing the economy, and reducing climate change. Following the model of Richard Nixon in the 1970s, who sought to make common cause against the Soviet threat, Clinton emphasized common challenges for the two nations, playing down any differences over trade and human rights. Not so long ago, US and Chinese leaders insisted the other bears a greater share of responsibility for climate change and therefore should be the first to make sacrifice. Now, the Obama-Clinton team acknowledges that the US, as a developed country, contributed to high levels of emissions throughout history and seeks a partnership with China, currently the biggest emitter of green house gases. Orville Schell, director for US-China relations at the Asia Society, points out that, despite China’s tremendous success in overcoming poverty and pursuing development over the last two decades, the country still lags in self-confidence. “The truth is that old psychological mindsets and ways of relating to the world have changed far slower than the urban landscape might suggest, leaving China’s self-confidence lagging behind its actual achievements,” explains Schell, adding that some of China’s reluctance to take leadership may be part of a strategy aimed at not alarming neighboring countries. Solutions to major global problems require thoughtful ideas from all nations, as well as the ability to listen and collaborate on all levels. Compromise can be the first step on the leadership path. However, if China continues to shirk its global responsibility, the US will be left to act alone.