Time for a Strategic Reset

Elizabeth Economy, the Director for Asian Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, writes that China needs to radically rethink its foreign policy to successfully deal with new challenges:

The Chinese people now openly voice their opinions, placing pressure on a traditionally opaque policy process. And when the world looks at China, it no longer sees a developing country; it sees the world’s largest exporting nation, the second largest economy and the largest population.

Commodity markets rise and fall on Chinese demand. The country’s trade and investment practices shape the way business is done throughout the world. Global climate change hinges in good measure on the future trajectory of Chinese energy policies. And no international regime—from protecting intellectual property rights, to controlling cyber warfare, to preventing nuclear proliferation—can thrive without full Chinese commitment.

For the international community, it is no longer enough for Chinese leaders to claim that China can “best help the world by helping itself.” China needs to consider how its policies contribute (or not) to the overall health and stability of the rest of the world.

Chinese foreign policy, however, has not kept pace with this rapid proliferation of demands. It neither meets its own challenges nor successfully addresses the growing demands of the international community. Instead, it is trapped by outdated foreign policy principles, ambition without accountability and, above all, by a political model that undermines the country’s potential for real leadership. China needs a strategic foreign policy reset.

Also watch an accompanying video interview with Economy. Read more about China’s foreign policy via CDT.

January 31, 2012 2:11 PM
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