Thursday, 28 May 2009


China says 'no thanks' to G-2

By Jian Junbo
Asia Times Online

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

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

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

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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