China Uses Global Crisis to Assert Its Influence

The Washington Post reports on China’s new relationship with Jamaica after China came to the small nation’s rescue following an economic crisis:

When contracts for loan packages totaling $138 million were signed between the two countries in March, China became Jamaica’s biggest financial partner. Headlines in Jamaica’s leading newspapers, which only a year ago were filled with concern about China’s growing influence in the region, gushed about its generosity.

“The loan couldn’t have come more in time and on more preferred terms,” E. Courtenay Rattray, Jamaica’s ambassador to China, said in an interview. While the island nation continues to value its close relationships with Western powers, he added, in some respects Jamaica has more in common with China. “Those are developed countries. They don’t have such an in-depth understanding of the development aspirations of Jamaica as does China,” he said.

Overseas aid and loans are just one way China is asserting itself in its new role as a world financial leader. While polishing China’s own image, Premier Wen Jiabao and other top leaders have blamed the West for the global economic crisis. Chinese officials increasingly are challenging the primacy of the dollar, warning other countries about the danger of keeping reserves in just one or two currencies, such as dollars and euros. And as the global economic crisis has eroded faith in U.S.-style capitalism, there’s growing talk that a new “” will replace the long-dominant Washington Consensus on how developing countries should manage their economies.

Read more about the so-called Beijing Consensus in an opinion piece on the Guardian’s site:

As the US backtracks on its liberal standards, it is flirting with what can be called the “Beijing Consensus”, which makes economic development a country’s paramount goal and prescribes that states should actively steer growth in a way that suits national stability. What matters in this worldview is not the nature of any country’s political system, but the extent to which it improves its people’s wellbeing. At the diplomatic level, this implies that national interests, not universal norms, should drive cooperation.

This diplomatic and economic realism is more than a reversal of the neo-conservative muscle-flexing of the George W Bush years. It is an attempt by a declining power to use its constrained capabilities in a more economical way.

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