Recently I attended a conference about East Asian Development. We had senior officials debating over how to promote regional integration as Asia poise for global domination.
Until 2003 barely anything flashed on my Bloomberg screen about Chinese markets. I remember Shanghai stock exchange was globally the worst performing market in 2005. But then it went crazy. Everything became China. China was fifth economy by then, now its second largest economy overtaking Japan as of last December. During the past 5 years it became the largest exporter, the largest consumer of most of the commodities and the second largest economy. It is claiming almost 10pct of the global economy as of today.
The question here is Can China, as a leading Asian nation, spearhead other Asians to claim global governance trophy?
Global governance now
The institute ultimatum is U.N. And its councils, namely the UN Security council. WTO, IMF, Worldbank, you name it. But the problem as raised by Mr.Kishore, the Dean of Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore, is western world including Europes and Americans are just 12% of world population yet commanding over 60% of voting ballots in aforesaid global governance institutions. Some westerner states were allegedly making policy institutions their puppets in a collusive manner. Weakening governance institutes voices whenever needed and used them in their own good. Nevertheless Asian nations led by China, India and increasingly followed by Japan, Korea and others are winning more and more voices and their says at global governance issues. Everyone is aware of that and that is the fact. But many people were concerned during the conference that although Asians are given more and more influence, it does not match their huge population demography and economic prowess. And it is also true in many extents.
The tale of boats
One of the speakers reminded that we used to live in a world where there were 100 something boats floating, colliding with each other. But now the world is in a new order. It is flattening out and we are living in a single large boat.
Can or can not?
If we debate over Chinese rivalry with U.S., it can be endless conversation. But the long story short - I think the key question lies in a simple fundamental reasoning.
We all know by fact the so called Western values.
I know from my experience that although it is EU and it is borderless, Belgians almost hate Germans (a little exaggeration here). But one thing about Western virtue and value is that if a German says yes to an American it is ultimately meaning "YES". Because their social values are the same. It is a biblical - well to be more precise continued during the last 4-5 thousand years first with Greko-Roman democracy, a little bit tweaked by Jesus Christ later on and then successfully continued thereafter for the past 2000 years. No matter you speak English, German or Dutch - it is the common value system that makes us (including Asians) comfortable with Western leadership over global affairs.
Could it be the same with Chinese? Who are those Chinese and newly emerging Asian power houses? What are their value? Will they care about you or put their interest foremost? Can you turn the Globe boat under their command?
As I contradicted with Mr.Krishna, my comment on his excellent speech to Asian leaders was "Should we hand over the boat to a bigger group of people within the boat with unknown values and virtues or Should we elect a smaller group of sea-men who already seen to quite `successfully` handle the boat?".
Hungry person cant put global affairs before his stomach!
If we look at some numbers, China's GDP per capita is only 1/10 of that of U.S. - meaning China is so wrong poor to claim global leadership. And Worldbank estimates it will take China two decades to become 1/3 of U.S. in terms of GDP per capita. In order to rival U.S. in terms of individual wealth China needs to be 4 times the size of current U.S. economy. That is the ugly truth.
There is no such thing - western values
But hang on! Is there such thing - a western value?
If we be more philosophical and look more fundamentally, why on earth westerners own and claim a supposedly universal values and virtues for humankind? Just Newton discovered the gravity does not really mean Newton possess it. He just uses it.
Virtue and value applies to mankind. It is universal.
So the right question is NOT Does China have same values as Westerners BUT How committed Chinese are to the universal virtues and values? Could they successfully exercise and implement the universal principles?, Can they maintain high morale? Can they be responsible?