China’s impressive economic growth over the last three decades and increasing political influence and military capabilities have caused people around the world to wonder or worry about how China will use its new-found power. More specifically, they wonder whether, and how, China might attempt to transform the international system that has enabled it to become the world’s second largest economy and potential contender for global leadership.
Thomas Fingar, the Oksenberg-Rohlen Distinguished Fellow at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, addressed these and related questions during the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center’s annual Oksenberg Lecture on May 22.
After describing how China has benefitted from participation in the liberal order led and maintained by the United States, Fingar argued that China has neither the will nor the ability to lead or transform the existing system, and that its continued “rise” will increase its stake in the system and make it even less willing to seek changes that could jeopardize its own success. He also suggested that other nations benefitting from the existing order would constrain China from attempting radical change even if it wanted to.
Following Fingar’s remarks, Jia Qingguo, associate dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University, said it is important to recognize that China is in the midst of a major transition. It is both a developed and a developing country, he said.
Thomas Christensen, director of Princeton University’s China and the World Program, added that due to China’s weight in the world, it will be called on more and more to collaborate on critical global issues, such as climate change and disease.
Fingar’s keynote remarks drew on “China's Vision of World Order,” a chapter published in Strategic Asia 2012–13: China's Military Challenge (National Bureau for Asian Research), as well as Shorenstein APARC’s research initiative on China’s interactions with its neighbors.
Since 2002, Shorenstein APARC has held the Oksenberg Lecture Series as a tribute to the legacy of Michel Oksenberg, a pioneer in the field of Chinese politics and an important force in shaping American attitudes toward China.
An audio podcast of the May 22 event is available on the Shorenstein APARC website.