Is China challenging U.S. leadership?

2018-01-23 Editor: Zhang Shiyu ECNS App Download

Editor's note: While a Gallup poll result on Thursday showed global support for China's leadership was higher than that of the United States in 2017, a Chinese scholar sparked controversy by declaring China has surpassed the U.S. in all major aspects. Three experts share their views on the issue. Excerpts follow:

Important to view poll result objectively

The Gallup survey result reflects China's development as well as the U.S.' waning reputation. But that does not necessarily mean China has surpassed the U.S. in real power.

China has gained in national strength and has been playing a greater global leadership role over the past five years, promoting globalization and free trade.

But it should not be ignored that the support for China's leadership in the survey was only 1 percentage point more than that of the U.S., which dropped a record 18 percentage points. Besides, one survey result cannot be taken as gospel truth, although it was based on interviews with about 1,000 people aged 15 or above in 134 countries and regions.

Global confidence in U.S. leadership may have declined, but there is still a gap between China and the U.S. when it comes to comprehensive power. The U.S. still has profound worldwide influence, and it still leads in fields such as high-tech and trade.

However, China should see the survey result as a sign of gaining greater support for its international role. And it should strengthen multilateral cooperation in fields such as emission reduction and produce more public goods.

Yang Mian, a professor at the Institute of International Relations, Communication University of China

Cooperation will yield mutual benefit

The changes in U.S. policies, particularly in finance and trade, have affected the world at different levels. The global financial crisis that spread from the U.S. has had a huge negative impact on the U.S.' global leadership role. The support for the U.S. dropped to a record low during the first year of Donald Trump's presidency, because he has failed to realize even part of his promise to make "America great again", with the 69-hour government shutdown adding to the U.S. administration's woes.

Washington has resorted to protectionist policies to safeguard its domestic enterprises and reduce its global responsibilities. Moreover, Trump's plan to build a wall along the Mexican border and order more military actions overseas have created tensions between the U.S. and many countries.

The lesson China must learn from the poll result is that cooperation is vital to mutual benefit. China's proposals, including building a community of shared future for all humankind, the Belt and Road Initiative, and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, are win-win in nature.

Sino-U.S. ties, however, should be stable in the long run. In the short term, bilateral conflicts will increase because Trump needs to show "achievements", such reducing the trade deficit with China and consolidating its world leadership role, to win the mid-term elections.

Wang Honggang, head of World Politics Institute, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations

Make more efforts for self-development

The survey result does not mean Beijing has replaced Washington as the global leader. Instead, it means Beijing's influence in the world has expanded. An important reason for China's rising influence is its promotion of globalization, in sharp contrast to the U.S.' protectionist policies and withdrawal from multilateral mechanisms such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and the 2015 Paris climate accord.

China must deepen its cooperation with other countries to improve global governance, and make more efforts to transform its economic structure, upgrade its technologies and build a more educated workforce, as the more advanced an economy is the more it can contribute to the development of the world.

China should also explore better multilateral cooperation platforms and mechanisms that allow innovation to play a greater role. For example, it can use its high-speed railway technology to deepen cooperation with other countries.

Also, China must make more efforts to remove the ideological bias that many countries still have — of viewing the rise of a non-Western power with suspicion — by convincing the international community that it has no intention of seeking hegemony.

By Wang Fan, vice-president of China Foreign Affairs University


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