Room in ‘el­e­va­tor’ for emerg­ing economies

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT - CHEN WEIHUA

Ihave heard some pun­dits in the United States, such as Ed­ward Luttwak, a mil­i­tary strate­gist, de­scrib­ing fast-grow­ing China as a fat man en­ter­ing an el­e­va­tor. They say that be­cause the man is so large he should be ul­tra-po­lite to peo­ple al­ready in the el­e­va­tor.

This de­scrip­tion not only dis­torts the re­al­ity, it sows the seeds for more mis­un­der­stand­ing and dis­trust.

China is not a fat man, but a healthy, grow­ing adolescent.

With dou­ble-digit growth for al­most three decades, China has un­doubt­edly been the most no­tice­able of the emerg­ing economies. And with 1.3 bil­lion peo­ple, about one-fifth of the global pop­u­la­tion, it would be un­fair to try and keep China a skinny boy. That is also true for In­dia, which boasts a pop­u­la­tion of 1.1 bil­lion, and other ma­jor emerg­ing na­tions such as In­done­sia and Brazil.

For a long time, th­ese na­tions have not had the chance to de­velop like they have to­day, so those folks al­ready in the el­e­va­tor should sim­ply move a bit to al­low th­ese ado­les­cents to en­ter the el­e­va­tor, in­stead of stand­ing in front of the doors block­ing the way.

Just like the on­go­ing de­bate be­tween the de­vel­op­ing and the de­vel­oped na­tions on cli­mate change, it is un­rea­son­able and un­fair to re­quire China, or In­dia, which both have pop­u­la­tions sev­eral times that of the US, to emit less green­house gases than the su­per­power. In a per capita sense, the US dis­charges much more carbon diox­ide.

On the other hand, it would ob­vi­ously ben­e­fit the world if China and In­dia could man­age to con­trol their green­house gas emis­sions amid their rapid eco­nomic growth. It would mean that they are fol­low­ing a more sus­tain­able and green path of de­vel­op­ment than the in­dus­tri­al­ized world.

But for oth­ers to ar­gue that China and In­dia should con­sume the same amount of en­ergy burned by say Canada, whose pop­u­la­tion is only 35 mil­lion, is ou­tra­geous.

The ques­tion is whether the US or other in­dus­tri­al­ized na­tions are will­ing to make room for those emerg­ing economies about to en­ter that el­e­va­tor.

I agree that th­ese new ar­rivals should be po­lite, as should ev­ery­one else. But to be ul­tra-po­lite is un­nec­es­sary and would smack of hypocrisy. Af­ter all, emerg­ing na­tions, such as China and In­dia, rightly de­serve their place in the el­e­va­tor.

To ap­ply an anal­ogy that might ap­peal to US pun­dits, in the US each state is rep­re­sented in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in pro­por­tion to its pop­u­la­tion. For ex­am­ple, the most pop­u­lous state of Cal­i­for­nia has 53 rep­re­sen­ta­tives, while seven other sparsely pop­u­lated states, such as Alaska, Delaware and Wyoming, have only one rep­re­sen­ta­tive each.

If such rules ap­ply, China and In­dia should cer­tainly have a stronger rep­re­sen­ta­tion in ev­ery as­pect of world af­fairs. It is ridicu­lous for the World Bank and In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund to be headed al­ways by Amer­i­cans and Euro­peans.

That said, I have not heard China or other emerg­ing economies are seek­ing a rev­o­lu­tion­ary change in the in­ter­na­tional sys­tem. They just call for ad­just­ments that meet the chang­ing times.

With or with­out the rise of China and other emerg­ing economies, ev­ery­thing in the world’s gov­er­nance sys­tem needs to evolve. But their fast rise means there is a more ur­gent need to adapt the cur­rent sys­tem to the new re­al­ity.

Such ad­just­ment is by no means go­ing to be easy. Yet it will be vi­tal for China and the US to build a new type of ma­jor coun­try re­la­tion­ship, and vi­tal for the de­vel­oped na­tions to rightly and po­litely face the ris­ing of the rest. The au­thor, based in Wash­ing­ton, is deputy ed­i­tor of China Daily USA. chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

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