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UPDATED: July 9, 2010 NO. 28 JULY 15, 2010
China Aims to Reform, Not Destroy
Shaping reform of international systems

MAKING CHINA HEARD: Chinese officials hold a press conference on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Toronto, Canada, on June 26 (XINHUA)

Alongside China's sustained economic growth its status in the international community has risen dramatically. This is evidenced by its extensive participation in the Group of 20 as well as discussions of international affairs related to tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the Iranian nuclear issue and climate change.

How does China view its newfound global influence? Will it challenge the current world system? How will it conduct itself as a responsible global player? Qian Wenrong, a research fellow with the Xinhua News Agency's Center for World Affairs Studies addressed these questions in a recent article in the China Comment magazine. Edited excerpts follow:

The current system of international relations, which was devised by Western countries, must be reformed. There is mounting evidence showing the system has severe defects and is not fair or just. The global financial crisis, for instance, has exposed flaws in the international financial system formulated by the United States and other Western nations. Climate change is also a telling reminder of the downside of the Western lifestyle.

China, of course, does not want to preserve the system. It will not dismantle it and introduce a new system, either. Instead, China stands for making use of the reasonable elements of the existing system, while limiting its negative effects and removing its defects.

Given its rapid economic growth, some commentators have argued China has become a global power and is no longer a developing country. Others say China should redefine itself a "responsible stakeholder" helping maintain the present international order.

These arguments are inconsistent with China's reality. For all the hype about China's rise, its per-capita GDP ranks 104th worldwide in a World Bank report, lower than that of many other developing countries. Goldman Sachs predicted China's GDP might exceed that of the United States by 2050. Its per-capita GDP, however, will be only one third that of the United States. China's influence in terms of military power, science and technology and culture lags far behind developed countries.

China will continue to align itself with other developing countries. It will also take relations with developing countries as the foundation for its own foreign policy. China will not slacken its efforts to safeguard the interests of developing countries, let alone sacrificing relations with developing countries to cozy up to developed countries.

Some Western countries, however, have been attempting to undermine China's ties with other developing countries. For instance, Western media have labeled China's cooperation with African countries as "neo-colonialism." China will not succumb to their pressure.

Countries adopt foreign policies to serve their national interests. But some developed countries often seek to maximize their own gains at the cost of other countries' interests by interfering in other countries' internal affairs or waging wars. The United States is a notable example.

Since Robert Zoellick, then U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, urged China to become a "responsible stakeholder" in the international community in 2005, the term has sparked interest among Chinese scholars. Zoellick's real purpose, however, was to persuade China to preserve the existing world system along with the United States.

As a major developing country and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China should be a responsible power. It is obligated to join the international community in safeguarding world peace and promoting common development in keeping with the UN Charter. It will be responsible for the shared interests of mankind rather than meeting the demands and standards set by the United States.

Whether China helps maintain the Western-led world system or not is not the primary yardstick to define its "responsible power" status.

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