Opinion

Making space for China

When the United Kingdom announced earlier this month that it had agreed to become a founding member of the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), most of the headlines focused not on the news itself, but on the friction the decision had caused between the UK and the United States. The White House issued a statement urging the British […]

By: Date: March 17, 2015 Topic: Global Economics & Governance

When the United Kingdom announced earlier this month that it had agreed to become a founding member of the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), most of the headlines focused not on the news itself, but on the friction the decision had caused between the UK and the United States.

The White House issued a statement urging the British government to “use its voice to push for adoption of high standards." And one senior US administration official was quoted accusing the UK of “constant accommodation of China, which is not the best way to engage a rising power." In fact, it is the US that is advocating the wrong approach.

In the UK, the diplomatic spat served as an occasion for the British press to air criticism from those who believe that the government should adopt a stronger stance on China. For example, they say that the government should have spoken out more forcefully in support of last year’s pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, and that it should not have distanced itself from the Dalai Lama (as it seems to have done) during Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit to China in 2013.

The UK does need to stand up for itself, but there is no reason for it to become confrontational about internal Chinese matters

The UK does need to stand up for itself, but there is no reason for it to become confrontational about internal Chinese matters – especially in the case of Hong Kong, where it lost its standing when it agreed to return the city to Chinese control in 1997.

The US, too, would be wise to stop resisting the fact that the world is changing. The US Congress has yet to ratify a 2010 agreement providing China and other large emerging economies greater voting power in the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. In the meantime, the agreement has become obsolete; China’s economy has nearly doubled in size since the deal was struck.

America’s reluctance – and that of France, Germany, and Italy – to give the emerging powers an appropriate voice in the established international financial institutions is counterproductive. It drives the creation of new parallel institutions such as the AIIB and the New Development Bank, founded in 2014 by the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa).

In the coming days, I will be visiting China in my role as Chair of the British government’s Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, and also as a participant in the Boao Forum for Asia, an event similar to the annual gathering of the World Economic Forum in Davos. I hope to encourage Chinese policymakers to make the fight against antimicrobial resistance a priority when China chairs the G-20 in 2016. And though I am not the British ambassador, I will be happy to state my belief that the UK government was wise to join the AIIB, and that the US administration, in voicing its opposition, was not.

China’s $10 trillion economy is bigger than those of France, Germany, and Italy combined.

China’s $10 trillion economy is bigger than those of France, Germany, and Italy combined. Even if its annual output growth slows to 7%, the country will add some $700 billion to global GDP this year. Japan would have to grow at something like 14% to have that type of impact on the world.

For anyone who wants to engage in global trade, it is thus vital to identify what China wants. In the case of the UK, this obviously includes finance (as well as sports, music, fashion, and perhaps health care). The UK is simply being smart when it promotes its own interests by cooperating with China.

One of the few positive consequences of the 2008 financial crisis was the elevation of the G-20’s global role; in principle, it is a far more representative forum for international leadership than the G-7 ever was. There is, however, a downside to the G-20’s emergence: the large number of participants can make it difficult to reach agreements and get things done.

More on the same topic: The twenty-first century needs a better G20 and a new G7+

A new G-7 needs to be created within the G-20, thereby providing China with a degree of influence that reflects its economic weight and requires it to assume a commensurate proportion of global responsibility. Space at the table for China could be obtained if the eurozone countries, signaling their commitment to the common currency, agreed to surrender their individual seats in exchange for one representing the entire monetary union. The US, too, would finally have to accept China’s heightened global role.

Later this year, the IMF will recalibrate the weights in its unit of account, the so-called Special Drawing Rights, which comprises a basket of currencies that currently includes the US dollar, the euro, the British pound, and the Japanese yen. According to almost every economic and financial criterion, the SDR basket should now include China’s renminbi. The US would be wise to not oppose such a move. Otherwise, it would risk accelerating the decline of the established international financial institutions.

By founding the AIIB and the New Development Bank, China and other emerging powers have signaled that they will not wait for their voices to be better heard.

Similarly, the US Congress should ratify the agreed changes to the governance of the IMF and the World Bank. By founding the AIIB and the New Development Bank, China and other emerging powers have signaled that they will not wait for their voices to be better heard. And decisions like that of the UK – and France, Germany, and Italy – show that they are not alone.

This was reprinted with permission from Project Syndicate. To secure the rights to this commentary, please contact Project Syndicate here.

This was reprinted with permission from Project Syndicate. To secure the rights to this commentary, please contact Project Syndicate here.


Republishing and referencing

Bruegel considers itself a public good and takes no institutional standpoint.

Due to copyright agreements we ask that you kindly email request to republish opinions that have appeared in print to communication@bruegel.org.

View comments
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

The 4th industrial revolution: opportunities and challenges for Europe and China

What is the current status of EU-China relations concerning innovation, and what might their future look like?

Speakers: Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Chen Dongxiao, Patrick Child, Eric Cornuel, Maria Demertzis, Ding Yuan, Luigi Gambardella, Jiang Jianqing, Frank Kirchner, Pascal Lamy, Li Mingjun, Gwenn Sonck, Gerard Van Schaik, Reinhilde Veugelers, Wang Hongjian, Guntram B. Wolff, Xu Bin, Zhang Hongjun and Zhou Snow Topic: Global Economics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: July 12, 2019
Read article More on this topic

Opinion

What bond markets tell about China’s economy

Macro data doesn’t provide a comprehensive picture to investors, but bond issuance data can fill in some gaps.

By: Alicia García-Herrero and Gary Ng Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: July 10, 2019
Read about event

Upcoming Event

Sep
9
08:30

China-EU investment relations: Exploring competition and industrial policies

What parts of Sino-European cooperation are most essential for European leaders? What is the future of an EU-China partnership, and which areas are most important?

Speakers: Alicia García-Herrero Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation, Global Economics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

China’s investment in Africa: consequences for Europe

How is Chinese investment impacting Africa, and what could be the consequences for Europe?

Speakers: Solange Chatelard, Maria Demertzis, Alicia García-Herrero, Abraham Liu and Estelle Youssouffa Topic: Global Economics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: June 24, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Podcast

Podcast

Deep Focus: Making a success of EU cohesion policy

Bruegel senior fellow Zsolt Darvas talks to Sean Gibson in this Deep Focus podcast about how the EU can improve its cohesion policy, citing the best examples of its implementation and stressing the methodological difficulties in measuring its effectiveness.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: June 20, 2019
Read article Download PDF More on this topic

Working Paper

China and the world trade organisation: towards a better fit

China’s participation in the WTO has been anything but smooth, as its self-proclaimed socialist market economy system has alienated its trading partners. The WTO needs to translate some of its implicit legal understanding into explicit treaty language, in order to retain its principles while accommodating China.

By: Petros C. Mavroidis and André Sapir Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: June 13, 2019
Read article Download PDF More on this topic

External Publication

Effectiveness of cohesion policy: learning from the project characteristics that produce the best results

This study by Zsolt Darvas, Antoine Mathieu Collin, Jan Mazza, and Catarina Midões analyses the characteristics of cohesion policy projects that can contribute to successful outcomes. Their analysis is based on a literature survey, an econometric analysis and interviews with stakeholders. About two dozen project characteristics are considered, and their association with economic growth is studied using a novel methodology. Based on the findings, the study concludes with recommendations for cohesion policy reform.

By: Zsolt Darvas, Antoine Mathieu Collin, Jan Mazza and Catarina Midoes Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: June 11, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

Too crowded bets on “7” for USDCNY could be dangerous

The Chinese yuan has been under pressure in recent days due to the slowing economy and, more importantly, the escalating trade war with the US. While the Peoples Bank of China has never said it will safeguard the dollar-yuan exchange rate against any particular level, many analysts have treated '7' as a magic number and heated debates have begun over whether the number is unbreakable.

By: Alicia García-Herrero Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: June 6, 2019
Read article More on this topic

Blog Post

A European atlas of economic success and failure

Economic growth was diverse across EU regions, yet it is crucial to control for region-specific factors in assessing growth performance. We find that there are rather successful regions in many EU countries, suggesting that the EU can provide a good framework for growth. Yet the worst performers are more concentrated in some countries, suggesting that country-specific factors can play a major role in regional development.

By: Zsolt Darvas, Jan Mazza and Catarina Midoes Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: June 3, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

The 'seven' ceiling: China's yuan in trade talks

Investors and the public have been looking at the renminbi with caution after the Trump administration threatened to increase duties on countries that intervene in the markets to devalue/undervalue their currency relative to the dollar. The fear is that China could weaponise its currency following the further increase in tariffs imposed by the United States in early May. What is the likelihood of this happening and what would be the consequences for the existing tensions with the United States, as well as for the global economy?

By: Inês Goncalves Raposo Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: June 3, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

Expect a U-shape for China’s current account

As the US aims to reduce it's bilateral trade deficit, China's current-account surplus is back in the headlines. However, in reality China’s current-account surplus has significantly dropped since the 2007-08 global financial crisis. In this opinion piece, Alicia García-Herrero discusses whether we should expect a structural deficit or a renewed surplus for China's current-account.

By: Alicia García-Herrero Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: May 28, 2019
Read article Download PDF More on this topic

Policy Contribution

How to improve European Union cohesion policy for the next decade

This policy contribution investigates the performance of the design, implementation and effectiveness of cohesion policy, the most evaluated EU tool for promoting economic convergence. By analysing the effects of cohesion policy on economic growth through reviewing literature, conducting empirical research by comparing regions, as well as considering attitudes and expectations collected through interviewing stakeholders, the authors provide reform recommendations.

By: Zsolt Darvas, Jan Mazza and Catarina Midoes Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: May 23, 2019
Load more posts