China needs to develop its own view of how to use its influence. In doing so, it will have to start from a definition of its national interests and objectives. China’s overwhelming interest lies, I suggest, in a stable, peaceful and co-operative global political and economic environment. Only in such a world can China hope to sustain rapid development.
How should China achieve its aim? Broadly, it would be best achieved via further development of the rules-governed, institutionally based global system. The obvious alternative would be a hierarchical arrangement, with China at the apex. But such an approach would, I fear, lead to unmanageable conflicts with the other great powers. With this idea in mind, let us consider trade, payments, finance and resources.
As the world’s rising trading power, China is the natural successor of the US as guardian of the open trading system. It is important, for this reason, that China abide by all the rules and principles of the system and play an important part in developing it further. China should play a role in bringing the interminable Doha round to some sort of conclusion. It has a rising interest in protecting its own intellectual property and, for this reason, a matching interest in ensuring its own adherence to these rules. China also has a strong interest in protecting its growing direct investments abroad. For this reason, it should promote rules on protection of foreign direct investment. Finally, as a global trader, China has a strong interest in ensuring that the regional trade arrangements it creates, or joins, are compatible with the global rules.