China and the Existing Global Institutions: Alternative Logics

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Just the way in which the United States, the leading power of the liberal western order, responds to the meteoric rise of China matters to the future of global politics, the manner in which China perceives the existing world order and the strategies decision makers in Beijing adopt vis-à-vis the existing global institutions will indicate whether the years ahead will portend stability and chaos in great power relations. This short essay is a modest attempt at deciphering alternative Chinese strategies as to how China might relate itself to the existing US-led international institutions. The goal is not to offer an analysis of how China deals with each and every global institution in detail, such as the World Bank, International Monetary Foundation or the United Nations. Rather, the goal is simply to categorize alternative conceptual lenses through which analysts can make sense of how Chinese decision makers situate their country in the evolving global situation.


Conceptually speaking, Chinese decision makers can adopt three alternative strategies vis-à-vis the existing global institutions, which came into being in the aftermath of the Second World War under the stewardship of the United States. These strategies are spoiling, co-optation and transformative balancing.


According to the spoiling strategy, China, along with other rising powers in the non-western world, will try its best to make sure that established Western powers are unable to utilize existing international institutions for their own benefits. Not only would China not contribute to the public goodwill provided by the established international institutions or hegemons, but also it would do what it can to spoil the policies of the Western powers. From this perspective, China will consider the existing western-led global institutions as potential avenues through which western powers are able to stymie China’s rise in global politics. Once China adopts a zero-sum mentality as regards its relationship with western powers, all international platforms (that were initially established by western powers) would be considered as potential stumbling blocks on the way to China’s one hundred years-long march to global eminence. Because such institutions were midwifed by the victorious powers of the western world with the sole purpose of helping perpetuate and legitimize western primacy in global politics, there can be no way for them to accommodate the rising China.


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