China’s Global Status

It’s a strancge phenomenon. China doesn’t want it but America and its western allies are too eager to confer ‘developed country’ status on China and that too immediately. Some Chinese too are not unhappy about the idea. No doubt, of late, China is playing a bigger role in global economic affairs but it is not yet prepared to give up its ‘developing country’ status. Surprisingly, even UN, otherwise the mouthpiece of US, is equally interested in seeing China proclaiming itself as a major power and developed country. As western leaders are urging China to play a ‘leadership role’ in international affairs, debate is now raging in China itself to respond to this.

In truth China is still very much a developing country and its high standing as the world's number two economy and number one trading nation is due more to its large population.

In per capita terms, China is average, being Number 90 to 100 out of 200 countries in terms of per capita income, human development index, and carbon dioxide emissions.

At the same time, in absolute terms China has become economically important and its actions significantly influence the global economy and environment. Thus, the calls for it to contribute more.

It would be best for China and for the developing world if the country remains, in identity and behaviour, firmly within the family of developing countries, while taking a leadership role in advocating the cause of these countries and their development aspirations.

Many developed country leaders and diplomats when asking China to play a greater role are asking it to give up its status as a developing country, and to take on the obligations of a developed country.

Such obligations may include slashing tariffs and helping to create new rules at the WTO and taking on similar commitments on reducing climate-related emissions as the developed countries. Agreeing to this may constrain the country's "policy space".

At the same time, China is not being offered a corresponding increase in power in global governance. For instance, China's share of quota (and voting weight) in the IMF and World Bank has risen only slightly, and not in line with its increasing weight in global GNP.

But it is asked to contribute loans to the IMF for recycling to countries in debt crisis, which in recent years have been in Europe. China has provided $100 billion.

Also, China is being called on to provide aid to other developing countries, and attach conditions similar to the aid provided by developed countries.

China is already providing massive amounts of loans and grants to many developing countries, usually without the many conditions of Western aid.

Perhaps there is a perception that China can fill in the monetary void caused by the decline in funds from cash-strapped Western countries. Maybe, this is the real reason that the West is trying to confer developed country status on China.

Vol. 47, No. 6, Aug 17 - 23, 2014