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China should and could take leadership in global governance

By Jiang Hong | 2014-03-21 | Hits:
Chinese Social Sciences Today

photographed by Zhu Gaolei

Arthur A. Stein (left) and Alan Alexandroff (right) share views on China's role in global governance.


On January 6-7, The Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and the Kennedy School of Gov­ernment at Harvard University co-hosted the “CASS Forum: Chi­nese and American Think Tank Dialogue” in Beijing. The forum is themed by “Constructing Chinese and American New Model of Major Power Relations.” To strengthen bilateral cooperation in global governance is a key component for the new model. What are schol­ars’ take on this? CSST interviewed Stein and Alexandroff, two partici­pants to the forum.

CSST: What are the origins of global governance and how did it evolve into its current form?

ALEXANDROFF: Historically, I think global summitry is the im­portant starting place for global governance. It really emerges in the early 19th century and goes forward from that time with vari­ous institutional changes, espe­cially the UN and Bretton Woods and finally what I call “the rise of the informals”, such as the G5, G7, G8 and G20, which begins around 1975. Overall I see summitry as a large historical evolution.

STEIN: I would like to take three things as associated as global gov­ernance. One element is summitry among leaders and arrangements between them, which starts in the 19th century and has seen huge growth over time, especially in the last century. The second element is international institutions, inter­national arrangements and agree­ments. Third, non-governmental institutions and organizations clearly play a role. All three of these elements have a substantial history that goes back to more than a hun­dred years—even more in the case of summits.

CSST: How have the issues with­in the domain of global governance changed over time?

ALEXANDROFF: Global gover­nance has taken on a much wider scope. You could look at the G20. Its principal focus is economic and financial crisis, but it has grown and taken on other ideas and ele­ments. Now, for example, we are beginning to have discussions on climate financing. Some would ar­gue that the G20 needs to take on questions of the global commons, cyber security being one. There is also an evolution in thinking around issues that it has already been addressing. Things do change over time.

STEIN: I agree. On the one hand, certain issues have been around for a long time. Some issues, on the other hand, have shown up because of the changing structure and responsibilities of the state. Technological changes also create the scope for new rule-making.

CSST: So far are these mecha­nisms and institutions effective enough for global governance?

ALEXANDROFF: Most would argue “no”. Sometimes they put it nicely, saying that there is a real gap between the demand for and the supply of global governance. Most would argue that there is inadequate global governance and some would argue that interna­tional institution building is not very effective.

STEIN: It depends on what stan­dard you have for what you expect. The problem for global gover­nance is that it cannot be coercive. It has to be incentive-compatible, where states have incentives and see their interests represented and are therefore willing to sign on. Everyone recognizes we have to do something about global warming and climate change, but is global governance on that issue adequate? No. It is not adequate because you cannot create a co­ercive solution that every nation will agree to. A reality of global governance is that for many global issues, a coercive mechanism does not exist.

CSST: What effect do the emerg­ing economies have on global governance? Is their voice actually heard?

STEIN: We would probably say their voice is not heard as much. It depends on the institution. For ex­ample, the system of global trade structure is built on non-discrim­ination, most-favored nation and tariff reduction; new members are not going to rewrite the rules. In some sense emerging nations are not going to have an impact in that there is existing institutional structure and it does not get rec­reated every time someone new comes along. They are in effect joining something that has existed for a long time. Certain kinds of institutional arrangements have a fixed character that is not going to change very much. However, I think emerging societies and mar­kets will have enormous possibili­ties in global governance.

CSST: How can they make their voice heard and enhance their in­fluence in global governance?

STEIN: Countries need to think about whether they want influence or they want the consequences that come from adopting certain policies. To me, global governance is not about influence. Countries in the world have created rules for certain ways of life. If a country wants that way of life, it adopts the set of rules and experiences the consequences that come from those rules. Once a country has certain resources and certain level of wealth, it gains influence. You get influence from participation. Nations need to think about what they are trying to accomplish as a society, for themselves and in their region, and how they are going to accomplish that.

CSST: But is global governance making progress? Is the G20, with its more diverse membership, an example of such progress?

ALEXANDROFF: Global gover­nance does deal with more issues than in the past. However, if you ask me whether it is effective, that varies a lot depending on the issue. We all accept that governance is not government; clearly the model of decision-making and outcomes in international relations do not look much like anything that one would consider government. There may be some areas where we have made advances. Every­body agrees that we have made a big difference in the financial cri­sis. They often make comparison between the G20 and the London Conference that took place in the 1930s. The United States walked away because Roosevelt wanted to deal with their national problems.

STEIN: The London Conference was delayed four years after the Depression. It did not happen right away; whereas the G20 meeting happened right away.

CSST: How do you view the fu­ture of global governance?

ALEXANDROFF: As we have said, it is evolutionary; it will change over time. It is important that we try to close the gap a bit, that we make it more effective so that some of these global problems such as climate change get tackled. These problems can only be tackled in a collective way. It means govern­ments actually acting together. Some governments just figure that someone else will do it, and they will get the benefit and advantage.

CSST: As two important global powers, how can China and the U.S. contribute to global governance?

ALEXANDROFF: The more they collaborate, the better. They should look for areas where they can both work hard at developing policy and move on issues to the degree that they can find common ground. China should and could take leadership in global gover­nance.

STEIN: China is the most popu­lous and the second wealthiest country on the planet. Countries in the world want it to play a bigger role in more issues. You cannot be influential if you do not play.


The Chinese version appeared in Chinese Social Sciences Today, No. 564, Feb. 26, 2014

                                                                                                               Revised by Charles Horne

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