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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

China says 'no thanks' to G-2

June 1, 2009

By Jian Junbo
Asia Times
May 29, 2009

SHANGHAI -- At the Sino-European Union (EU)
summit in Prague last week, Chinese Prime
Minister Wen Jiabao rejected the concept of a
Group of Two (G-2) comprising China and the
United States, saying "it is totally ungrounded
and wrong to talk about the dominance of two
countries in international affairs".

It was the first time a Chinese leader has
publicly commented on the notion of a G-2, though
Wen and a number of Chinese officials and
think-tanks had cast doubt on the practicability
of past notions of a "Chimerica".

The idea of a G-2 was first forwarded by US
academic circles in 2006, but it was raised again
by Zbigniew Brzezinski, an influential specialist
in international relations and national security
advisor to former US president Jimmy Carter, in
Beijing in January as the two countries
celebrated the 30th anniversary of establishing formal diplomatic ties.

Similar to "Chimerica", which would put the US
and China at the forefront of international
affairs, the idea of a G-2 grouping has attracted
wide attention, especially as Brzezinski was an
advisor to President Barack Obama during the presidential elections.

In the Group of 20 (G-20) summit in London last
month, the G-2 was floated again in the Western
media and academic circles. Then after several
weeks, on the eve of this month's just-concluded
11th Sino-EU summit, British Foreign Secretary
David Miliband predicted that over the next few
decades, China would become one of the two "powers that count".

He said, "China was becoming an indispensable
power in the 21st century in the way [former US
secretary of state] Madeleine Albright said the
US was an indispensable power at the end of the
last century". He also argued it would be up to
Europe if it wanted to change the G-2 into a G-3.

While widely discussed, the concept of a G-2 has
not been clearly defined. According to
Brzezinski, G-2 described the current reality,
yet for Miliband, G-2 was a possibility in the foreseeable future.

The exact structure of the proposed G-2 is also
unclear. A G-2 would seem to imply that the group
would have the strength, capability and will to
set the agenda for international affairs. It
could be argued, as only two countries are
involved, that this would resemble world hegemony.

China has neither the capacity nor the desire to
become a member of a G-2. It is true that China
has the world's third-largest economy, is the
biggest creditor to the world's sole superpower -
the United States, and is one of the five
permanent members of the United Nations Security
council, and China indeed seems a big power.

However, with its huge population and wealth and
development gaps, China can also be seen as a
poor, underdeveloped country - its per capita GDP
was ranked 104th globally last year by the World
Bank. China is still a developing country, and by
comparison the US is far more advanced in almost
all economic sectors and in soft power and
military strength. At this stage and in the
foreseeable future, there is no match between
China and the US in terms of overall strength.

The responsibility of a G-2 member to jointly
shape the world's economy and international
affairs is too far beyond China's ability and
ambitions. It is unwise for a country, like a
person, to commit itself to something beyond its
ability. That is why when Western commentators
discuss the G-2, China is inevitably suspicious
of their intentions. Many Chinese scholars fear
that under a G-2, China could be enmeshed into a
structure built by the US, and required to make
more contributions to world economic and social development than it can afford.

A G-2 would also imply a need for China to
overhaul domestic governance. As a member of G-2,
China would need to be a leader in both foreign
and internal affairs, and this has raised fears
of Western intervention in China's domestic affairs.

The grouping also goes against core principles of
China's foreign policy such as multilateralism
and the desire for a multipolar world order. For
example, Wen stressed on at the Prague Sino-EU
summit the importance of China's relations with the EU.

Another major reason for China to reject a G-2 is
that it is would not be legitimate international
structure. If G-2 was built with the help of the
US, then the question is who can empower or
authorize the US to do that? We can imagine the
G-2 would be refused by most countries if taken
to a global referendum. No other country, except
for US, wants to see the emergence of
"pax-Chimericana". The rejection of a G-2 does
not mean China will shirk its global
responsibilities. China has welcomed the
increased role it and other big developing
countries enjoy through the G-20 framework.

Even if a G-2 became a reality, it could never
replace the power, function and authority of the
UN as the sole international organization
recognized by the majority of states in the
world. Although there are many problems that the
UN faces in regard to its effectiveness and
accountability, it is still the best platform for
the international community to peacefully deal with issues of common interest.

As the US became the target of anti-Americanism
in the world after former president George W Bush
started the Iraq war in 2003, G-2 one day could
also be the target of anti-hegemony or
anti-imperialist movements, affecting China's global image.

Another reason is related to the rise of civil
society as an increasingly important factor in
international governance, especially since the
end of the Cold War. Without the participation of
transnational non-government organizations
(NGOs), many international issues can not be
resolved successfully. Yet if G-2 was accountable
for international governance it could be a threat
to global civil society because as a hegemonic
structure it could limit the function and ability
of other actors including other countries, the UN and lots of NGOs.

It is self evident that a G-2 would not be good
for other countries and powers, especially rising
industrial stars like India, Russia and Brazil.
All of these nations have the ambition to compete
for influence and power with both US and China in
the international arena. The idea of a G-2 is
based neither upon the realities of international
politics nor on the willingness of China and the rest of the world.

Dr Jian Junbo is assistant professor of the
Institute of International Studies at Fudan University, Shanghai, China.
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