China Takes on More Responsibility as Political Landscapes Shift

Chinese President Xi Jinping advocated for continued but reevaluated globalization as he gave the keynote speech at the World Economic Forum in January. With strong nationalist rhetoric and inward looking policies growing dangerously popular within the U.S. and EU, China prepares to take the helm on a host of issues such as global trade, investment, and climate change. Wang Tao, from the Carnegie Center For Global Policy analyzes what this means for China, and the rest of the world.

One aspect of the Obama administration’s legacy was the global cooperation that was fostered in regard to combating climate change, most notably with China during the Paris Agreement in 2015. With the Trump administration having starkly different views on climate change than their predecessors, the multilateral achievements made under the previous administration could now be in serious danger. China itself faces many critics of climate change, many who represent the declining coal industry. The political shift in the west could exacerbate the existing tension in favor of those who would wish to do away with the regulations imposed on industry. This situation puts President Xi Jinping in a difficult position depending on which direction the Trump administration decides to pursue.  If the Trump administration abandons the fight against climate change, the world will be left to look toward China and how it determines which way climate change will be combated.

If President Trump follows through on the isolationist, “America first” type policies in regard to trade, China could feel the ramifications more than most countries in the global arena. One of the pillars of Chinese economic success has been through global trade and membership in the World Trade Organization. The US is the top destination for Chinese companies to do business in, especially following the shale boom in 2010. If Chinese investors are faced with an inward-looking EU and US, they will be forced to find alternative avenues. This is a pivotal moment for China.

Although populism in the west may initially hinder Chinese economic expansion, it will also create a new vacuum in the world order that they have been seeking to fill for nearly 4 decades. As the US and EU look inward, China is preparing to step up and take a bigger role. China now also has the opportunity to take on the responsibility of leading the world in environmental regulation with the US apparently bowing out for the next 4 years. The rise of China has been one of inevitability, but the political decisions taking place in the US and Europe may prove to be the precursors of China’s final step to ascendance.

-Andrew Salafia, World Affairs Council Intern

Photo Credit: BBC