In a January issue of Foreign Policy, refuting the argument by Niall Ferguson on China and the liberal international order, Aaron Friedberg wrote an article entitled “China’s understanding of global order shouldn’t be ours”. Friedberg expressed concerns that “What Xi has in mind when he sings the praises of ‘globalisation’ is not a level playing field but a situation in which China is able to persist in these practices while preserving the greatest possible access to the economies and societies of its open, liberal trading partners”.

China has not challenged the legitimacy of the IMF and the World Bank, which are the foundations of the current financial global governance. This indicates that China is a constructive reformer instead of a destroyer of the current economic order.

This very pessimistic view of China’s rising power reveals, on the one hand, a serious sense of increasing frustration and disappointment with what is happening in China, on the other, a sense of bitterness over the relative decline of the West. This strong sense of differentiating “Chinese understanding” vs. “ours” (the West’s) discloses a strong sense of non-acceptance and regret. Friedberg pointed out that “engagement with the West has enabled China to grow richer, more quickly than would otherwise have been possible.” However, whilst the ‘West’ expected China to liberalise with this increase of power, liberalisation in China has not only not happened, but has also diminished on several fronts. “It is the unintended consequences of this strategy, and ultimately its failure, that lie at the heart of the current crisis”. Therefore, the ‘West’ feels a strong sense of “betrayal” over China’s “illiberal” rise, leading to several rounds of debates, featuring the China threat, the Yellow Peril, and most recently, Graham Allison’s “Thucydides’ Trap”.

Please click here to read the full “What can a rising China do to get accepted in the global order?” article in the IAPS Dialogue, written by Griffith Asia Institute member, Dr Huiyun Feng.