Shifts in Global Power
Speakers: WENRAN JIANG, Associate Professor and Mactaggart Research Chair of the China Institute, University of Alberta; ANDY KNIGHT, Professor of International Relations, in the Department of Political Science at the University of Alberta and editor of Global Governance Journal (bio); NEIL K. SHENAI, PhD Candidate, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (bio)
Moderator: MOHAMED AWAD, Chair, Youth Affairs, CIPA
Summary by Waeza S. Afzal, CIPA Youth Scholarship Recipient
Professor Wenran Jiang
Professor Jiang’s talk addressed three main questions about China’s re-emergence as a dominant world power. One, what is the nature of China’s rise? Two, how do we assess China’s impact as an re-emerging power? Three, what is the Chinese position in the G20? Four, how should other powers approach China’s emergence?
In his answer to the first question – the nature of China’s rise – Professor Jiang contrasts two viewpoints: is the nature of China’s rise characterized by a challenge to the international order and U.S. predominance, as that of the Soviet challenge to the U.S. in the past, or, is China’s emergence to be viewed in a systematic manner more analogous to the U.S. ascension of power in face of Britain’s decline? Professor Jiang supports the second view. He suggests that China has worked within the current framework of the international economic system and in cooperation with other world powers to attain its current status as the second largest economy in the world. While China would like to be recognized as a great world power, as a nation it also recognizes the weaknesses of it’s primarily export-based economy, and is aware of its interdependence. Further, he suggests that China is more accurately understood as a re-emerging world power as opposed to a newly emerging power. He points to the fact that for a period of time beginning in the sixteenth century, China held nearly 20% of the worlds GDP.
Criticisms and assessments of China’s progress must be understood in the context of China’s economic relationships with other nations and under a comparative framework. For example, when we calculate China’s energy consumption levels, it is important to consider that the bulk of China’s energy consumption is attributed to its manufacturing sector, which in turn feeds Western consumption demands. In other words, countries that import from China are essentially dependent on China’s consumption of energy. Impacts can no longer be measured on a simplistic state-to-state basis, but in the context of interdependence. Comparatively speaking, Professor Jiang notes that on a per capita basis China’s consumption levels are much lower than in the United States.
In terms of the Chinese position in the G20 and how best to understand its re-emergence, professor Jiang notes that China is currently in the process of thinking strategically about which states in the international arena are allies, middle players and are threats to China. Attempts to exert power and interfere in China’s domestic affairs are unproductive; rather, other powers should recognize that the Chinese through their own struggles will change themselves, and instead attempt to understand China through closely observing its internal developments.
Professor Andy Knight
Professor Knight began his talk with a general overview of the developments that led to the financial crisis. He suggests that the main causes of the financial meltdown were the failure to manage risks, and a crisis in global governance.
While crises have led to the development of new international standards and institutions, he notes that for over the past thirty years international financial standards have failed to prevent or mitigate a financial crisis. As examples he uses the creation of the G20 in light of the Asian financial crisis, and the formation of the Basel committee.
Professor Knight attributes the lack of change in preventing future crises to a disregard for financial standards at a national and global level. At this stage he suggests that it is necessary to shift our thinking to the development of proactive rather than reactive measures that will allow us to be crisis resistant.
A second and related concern that Professor Knight discusses is the inclusion of other nations into the G20. He notes that the G20 is under represented as it excludes 150 other states that contribute to around 35% of the worlds GDP, some of which are Iran, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Ukraine. He stresses the need for a stronger, forceful and more inclusive process as a method to dealing with the economic crisis. Alternative voices ought to be heard because they come from a significant marginalized group.
Professor Shenai argues against the view that America’s power will decline significantly in light of the rise of China and India. He outlines three factors that have been overlooked in beliefs about the decline of the United States.
First, he stresses that emerging powers such as India and China have been functioning within a U.S. power structure. The growth that these nations have experienced cannot be separated from the context of a U.S. power structure. He states that uni-polar versus multi-polar notions of understanding the current changes in the global power structure, are overly simplistic and fail to capture the multi-dimensional character of American power; the rise of India and China is not a shift from a uni-polar system in which the United States once dominated to a multi-polar system in which several nations dominate.
Second, Professor Shenai points to the United States’ position as the leading innovative economy as another reason for the continuance of American power. He notes that historically crises have had the effect of encouraging the American entrepreneurial spirit to create newer and better systems.
Third, Professor Shenai suggests that America’s role as the “most just hegemony” relative to the activities of other great power, its hard military power, and its natural appeal to institutions will ensure the maintenance of American power.
Professor Shenai criticizes the debt culture of the United States and suggests that this is the one area that must be changed. It is necessary for the United States to change its internal structures, which encourage borrowing and uphold the debt culture.
1. Question about G20 expansive and inclusion
Paul Martin: believes that it is hard to expand. You pick the people who have the most clout. Essentially, the G20 was chosen on the basis of economic power. Agrees that Africa is under-represented. When 20 countries were brought together that’s when you can have an exchange of views.
2. Markets don’t kill people; people kill people. A system of rights and duties. Islamic banking – the question is what transcends borders, not what banking system is particular to a region. And Islamic banking does transcend borders so it has been incorporated into the G20 through countries such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
3. What specific role do you believe China has?
Martin: China will play a very important role. China an incredible supporter of the G20.
Jiang: What is working for Canada is a non-partisan approach. Canada gradually engaging more with China, and comfortable with the idea of a strategic partnership with China.
4. Question pertaining to Africa being under-represented
Martin: Africa clearly under-represented. Two countries did not make the list, Nigeria and Indonesia. Indonesia made the list later, Nigeria because unstable government was in office. The question arises about who will be the African representative? Egypt? Algeria?
Jiang: China will not take over at all, despite the relative decline of the U.S. You cannot view the rise of China like the Soviet rise. China’s rise is more systemic. The iPod made and assembled in China, but the innovators are in the U.S. so they work in tandem. The U.S. and Chinese are so interdependent now that you cannot isolate each and compare strengths.
5. Question: when will America’s interference and propping of dictators and turmoil in the developing world end.
Shenai: The America we have today is far more restrained because of its power to adapt.
6. Where do the Aboriginal community and First Nations communities fit into the whole G20?
Martin: Treatment of aboriginal peoples is unspeakable around the world. It is the not the misuse of corporate power, but by the entire dominate group. The refusal to accept that the dominate group of people are indigenous. This is denial. The first question is who are indigenous people.
Knight: Unless we deal with aboriginal issues internally, a stain on our record, we are hypocrically a “moral” voice for the world.
7. Jiang: on the water and food security issue. The original modernization paradigm of pollute now to develop and clean up later is not working.
8. Martin: food sovereignty: every country should have its own food supply. It is a formula for disaster if countries buy farm property elsewhere that leads to production/supply disparities locally.