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Pivotal Power

November 10, 2009
China steps into a new role on the world stage

Nina Hachigian with Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg. Photo: Flickr user CenterforAmericanProgress

I haven’t much posted recently because I just finished a report about China’s role in the international system.

China’s New Engagement in the International System looks at China’s engagement on four transnational threats that the Obama Administration has prioritized — global warming, the global economic crisis, nuclear proliferation and global pandemics like the swine flu.

The bottom line conclusions I reached were these: China’s transformation on the international stage has been profound, moving from a hostile, aggressive “rogue” state outside the international system to a full and active participant in global institutions.

China is deeply engaged in international institutions and initiatives. Chinese officials show up to all meetings, they are serious, and they often contribute to policy discussions in a constructive manner. This is no minor milestone.

Yet the quality of China’s engagement today on these four transnational issues leaves something to be desired from an American point of view. While China does play by the international rules to a large extent in these four areas, China does not reliably use its clout or leverage either to solve global problems or strengthen the system.

Rarely does it show proactive leadership on global problems, though the cases of North Korea’s nuclear program and pandemic flu are hopeful exceptions.

We launched the report this week at an event at the Center for American Progress with Deputy Secretary of State (and my former boss) Jim Steinberg. I asked him all questions about the framework for US-China relations and the upcoming trip. You can watch it here.

I’ll write more on this topic and the President’s upcoming trip to Asia in posts to come.

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1 comment


Sooner or later China will not allow the u.s. to bluster on and pretend that the u.s. is still the biggest superpower; u.s. pretense’s days are numbered. Of course all the smart people have already concluded that the U.S. is on the decline — morally, economically and politically.

Nina Hachigian is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and the co-author of “The Next American Century: How the U.S. Can Thrive as Other Powers Rise.” She has worked on the staff of the National Security Council in the White House and been a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation. She specializes in U.S.-China relations and great power relationships, multilateral institutions and U.S. foreign policy.

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