Timothy Garton Ash: China Arrives as a World Power Today – and We Should Welcome It

From the Guardian:

Today – 2 April 2009 – may yet be marked as the day on which, through the catalysis of a global economic crisis, China definitively emerged as a 21st-century world power. Just a few months ago, the talk in western capitals was still about graciously inviting China to join the western club of G7 plus Russia. Now G20 is widely accepted as the new top table of world politics, and China is already seen as one of the biggest players at that table. The question now is: what kind of world power will China be?

Until recently, China’s official policy was of demonstrative modesty – the dragon as gecko. Yes, it sought a “harmonious world”, no less, but China’s best service to that end, it suggested, was its own peaceful domestic development. China was outspoken only on issues that related directly to its own economic development and immediate state interests. Now it seems to be moving gingerly beyond the paradigm of developmental modesty. As, in this crisis, the world asks more of it, so it starts to ask more of the world.

The most striking example is a recent article by the country’s central bank governor, suggesting the creation of a supra-sovereign international reserve currency “that is disconnected from individual nations”. In other words, not the US dollar. The idea of extending the IMF model of special drawing rights based on a basket of currencies has been widely mooted – not least by a UN panel headed by Joseph Stiglitz, as outlined recently in these pages. But this idea does acquire a particular complexion when it is China’s central bank governor who suggests toppling the US dollar from its throne. In London yesterday, Gordon Brown and president Hu Jintao discussed giving China more voting weight in the IMF, in return for a larger financial contribution. An eminently reasonable suggestion.


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