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China should listen to Kissinger: You're on top now, start leading

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In Kissinger’s view, China will be drafted into leadership at an accelerating pace because of the ongoing paralysis in the West. America, he put it politely, “is absorbed in a debate over the role of government and the sources of vitality in the United States; over how much government we should have and who should pay for it.” Europe is gripped by both “a financial and conceptual crisis, suspended between a national framework and its substitute.”

“A sense of cooperation is critical,” said Kissinger, “because we have entered a new era of complexity and are looking for an overriding framework. We have to adjust to the entry of a whole series of new players” on the global scene. For Kissinger, the “principal instrument of adjustment is the G-20,” where each country must fit its national aspirations into an international arrangement “that avoids a zero sum competition for economic growth.”

A shifting world order

Kissinger is right. In the past two centuries, Britain and then the United States were the hegemonic powers that imposed the “global public goods” of security, financial stability, a major reserve currency, and open trade. Today, the US and the G-7 advanced economies are increasingly unable to provide them. Yet, the emerging economies, led by China, are not yet able to do so.

For this reason, the G-20, which combines both the advanced and emerging economies, must collectively provide these global public goods. In a truly multi-polar world, even one in which China will be the largest economy by 2050, this will be the “new normal” for the foreseeable future.

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