China rethinks its global role in the age of Trump

David Shambaugh writes: In his short time in office, President Donald Trump has done a good job of making China great again. His isolationist rhetoric and unilateral actions — such as pulling out of the Paris climate accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership — have made it much easier for China to advance its claim to global leadership, as dismayed U.S. allies and partners proclaim that the U.S. can no longer be “completely depended on,” as German Chancellor Angela Merkel put it. In stark contrast to Trump, China has reaffirmed its commitments to free trade, globalization and the battle against climate change.

China’s case is made more plausible by its markedly increased involvement in what is known as “global governance.” China is no longer the free-rider on the Western-built global system that it had long been. President Xi Jinping has received numerous expert briefings and has convened Politburo meetings on global governance. As a result, China has substantially increased involvement in areas such as climate change, global health, international peacekeeping, anti-piracy, anti-corruption, disaster relief, economic governance, development aid, energy security and multilateralism.

In part, this reflects Xi’s own “China Dream” for his nation’s place in the world. Xi expertly staked out China’s leadership potential at the World Economic Forum in Davos in February in a speech that attracted much international attention. China’s new activism is also due to its sensitivity to foreign criticism for not acting like a true great power (it has a psychological obsession with being seen as one), as well as China’s huge financial wherewithal and the increased professionalism of Chinese bureaucracies. [Continue reading…]

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