A ‘Temperature-Taking’ on Global Summitry Health and Well-Being


[Editors Note:  This post is somewhat long – too long –  my apologies, as I am attempting to describe the meaning of ‘Global Summitry’.  The explanation follows.]

It was the receipt of a very informative piece by Mexico’s Minister of It was the receipt of a very informative piece by Mexico’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Patricia Espinosa-Cantellano that got me thinking about success and effectiveness in global governance.  We are closing in on another G20 Leaders Summit – this Los Cabos in June – hosted by our Mexican colleagues.  This will be the seventh Leaders Summit since its inauguration with the global financial crisis in November 2008 in Washington.  As one of the Editors of the soon to be launched ejournal – Global Summitry – look for it! I am fortunate to be in possession of an upcoming article from the Mexican Foreign Minister.  I am not about to ‘spill the beans’ here – but stay tuned for its appearance and also possibility of further examination of the role of Mexico as the host of the G20 summit.  But receiving that first article got me to thinking about the progress of the G20 specifically and in fact more generally global summitry.

This original impulse to examine the progress of global summitry was further encouraged by several upcoming conferences in Chicago – the first organized by the Chicago Council of Global Affairs – I’ve already commented on the New York Workshop in the recent post “Strange Members“.  It will be held on May 8th. The next conference – commencing on May 10th is organized by the Stanley Foundation, happily a frequent partner with us at the Munk School of Global Affairs and additionally in this case the Roberta Buffet Center for International and Comparative Studies at Northwestern.  In the “shadow” of the G8 Leaders Summit – though the President very inconveniently switched the venue to Camp David  – and the Leaders NATO meeting, the partners organized a Conference entitled “The Apex of Influence – How Summit Meetings Build Multilateral Cooperation”.  By the way you will be able to livestream the proceedings of this conference – if you are so inclined at fora.tv.  Join us virtually if you cannot be with us in Chicago.  The topic directly raises the question of global summitry health. And a quick read of the conference agenda will identify as an early panelist – our colleague Dan Drezner from the Fletcher School at Tufts University.  You need not wonder any further why Dan raised the question of summitry success/failure in his recent post at Foreignpolicy.com.

So I propose to do two things here.  First, I wanted to examine the scope of what we at the Munk School refer to as ‘global summitry’.  Is it different/the same as global governance – the now accepted term – I think – for what the international relations types generally referred to in the past as  ‘multilateralism’? And does the addition of ‘global’ alter significantly the scope of inquiry?  And then what I want to do – as the title suggest is do a bit of ‘temperature taking’ on the matter.

My effort to describe the scope of global summitry and distinguish it from global governance is enmeshed today in a strong and loud debate over the changing power distribution among the leading states of the international system and indeed in the overall shape of the international architecture as a result of that changing power equation.  A ‘hot’ and continuing debate rages over whether the United States is in decline and whether it is fading as the hegemonic leader in global politics.  Linked to this decline debate is the ‘Rise of the Rest’ and the consequence for governance of both US decline and the rise of the emerging market countries, especially China but also Brazil and India and occasionally throwing in Russia and South Africa.  At the one end is Charlie Kupchan at Georgetown who in his recent book, No One’s World: The West, The Rising Rest, and the Coming Global Turn determines the west is declining including, possibly especially, the United States and that the Rise of the Rest will end the current liberal internationalism order as those rising powers will be unwilling to adopt the norms and rules that US hegemony created and shaped after World War II.  The outcome of such a change will be that there will not be a single power there to replace the leadership of the United States, nor will there be defined ‘rules of the game’ for states in the global order. By implication disorder will reign.

Now firmly in the debate over decline, rise and transformation is Princeton’s John Ikenberry. John acknowledges the decline of the United States (see his Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis, and Transformation of the American World Order) but believes that Rise of the Rest will remain attracted to, or committed to, the current order – capitalism, open markets, rule of law, etc., Liberal internationalism will continue to frame the political order in some significant fashion.  As the title implies there may be a crisis but if there is, it is a crisis of US leadership not of liberal internationalism.  And of course there is Robert Kagan of Brookings, at the other end – his recent book, The World America Made – who suggests that the declinism thesis is well, overdrawn and that the United States will remain the continuing leader, or it better for the sake of order.

Now Dan Drezner in a broad-ranging review of Kupchan – not to mention some of the variants authored by others in the May/June issue of National Interest – places the variants of the current global order debate before us this way:

  • Power is diffusing from the United States to developing countries;
  • Power is diffusing from states to non-state actors; and
  • As a result of the bullet points above, global governance is going to be horrible for quite some time

In the opening of the recent special issue of The National Interest on crisis of the old order titled, “Crisis of the Old Order” Brent Scowcroft the former national-security adviser to President Ford and then to George H.W. Bush suggests this sharp picture of the changing international political order:

We are struggling with institutions and practices of an Old World when the Old World is fading.

How then do we best describe the current architecture of the international political order?  How does it operate? And who are the principal actors and what are the drivers that describe its operation – and ultimately its success or failure?  There is little question that the old order is changing – but how?

The concept of global governance really took off with the end of the Cold War.  This sudden revolution in the international political order is the exclamation point in the evolution of the geopolitical landscape of the international system.  There were, and are, both analytic and practical, or real-world reasons for the emergence of global governance discourse.  On the analytic side the demise of the Soviet Union completely altered the shape of the international political order.  As Michael Barnet and Raymond Duvall wrote in their edited volume Power in Global Governance in 2005:

The Cold War was not only a description of a bipolar system; it also represented a mode of organizing the analysis and practice of international politics.  With the end of the Cold War, the issue became what would and should take its place.  For many, global governance represented a way of organizing international politics in a more inclusive and consensual manner.  … Alongside the eclipse of the Cold War was the emergence of globalization.  Although globalization had various dimensions, a unifying claim was that intensifying transnational and interstate connections requires regulatory mechanisms – governance, although not a government  – at a global level.

That last comment by the authors is telling.  Global governance language initially evoked concern among many international relations experts that the in a post Cold War world the political order that was being described by analysts was moving to global government.  US scholars in particular stuck rather overlong to “multilateralism”.  But slowly the language of global governance assumed something of primacy in international relations discourse.  As Margaret Karns and Karen Mingst in their text International Organizations: The Politics and Processes of Global Governance in 2010 suggested:

Thus global government is not global government; it is not a single world order; it is not a top-down, hierarchical structure of authority.  It is the multilevel collection of governance-related activities, rules and mechanisms, formal and formal, public and private, existing in the world today.

Many who have come to examine global governance have focused particularly on its non-hierarchical dimensions and on the informal structures that have emerged.  They have emphasized non-state actors in many varieties including individuals.  While global summitry acknowledges – embraces even – the flattening of authority structures, the state and institutions of the state remain at the heart of global summitry.  But as Princeton’s Anne-Marie Slaughter suggests in her examination of governmental organizations and networks, the state does not disappear but it does often find itself “disaggregating into its component institutions.”

Thus global summitry remains focused on state institutions and its numerous variations.  It consciously eschews, however, a focus on just traditional formal treaty-based institutions.  Global summitry is tuned to leaders summits for sure but it acknowledges and  focuses on the many organizations – governmental, and non-governmental, formal and informal – that constitute the galaxy of global summitry.  This examination adopts the “Iceberg Theory of Global Governance”.  Below the leaders, lie the growing system of meetings and work of ministers, and their ministries, international institutions but also transgovernmental organizations and regulatory networks with formal and informal regulatory actors.  These actors are all part of global summitry.  As Klaus Dingwerth and Philipp Patterberg described in their article in Global Governance in 2006 “Global Governance as a Perspective on World Politics”:

In essence global governance implies a multiactor perspective on world politics. … the term global governance conceives of world politics as a multilevel system in which local, national, regional, and global political processes are inseparably linked.

Global summitry accepts this far more complex political order where the sharp boundaries of international, regional and national policy have been partially erased but where the leaders and governments remain at the heart of international politics.  International institutions have also not disappeared but traditional institutions, the UN and Bretton Woods systems are now in many instances displaced or supplemented by informal organizations.  And the world of traditional diplomacy conducted by foreign ministers and their officials have been remade with the appearance of many meetings of their mainline ministers and their officials – finance, and trade, central bankers, etc., and the numerous meetings of regulatory officials both public and self regulatory of many varieties.  Again Princeton’s Anne –Marie Slaughter, a strong proponent of international networks since the turn of the century suggests:

From a theoretical perspective, government networks straddle and ultimately erase the domestic/international divide.

Global summitry examines all these actors in the organization and execution of global politics and policy.  The focus is then theoretic but more centrally, empirical and policy-attentive.  It is alert to the repositioning of global politics and policy premised on changing dynamics and dimensions of international relations.  Besides the redistribution of power among states there are other changing dimensions that are very much a part of global summitry and impact this redistribution as well.  The international system has seen a marked shift, some of which I have talked about earlier: from ‘hard’ law to ‘soft’ law; from formal institutions – often hierarchical – to informal ‘flattened’ or horizontal institutions; from national sovereignty to globalization.  The last dimension marks a continuing struggle of states and their leaders with many both offensively and defensively asserting national sovereignty. The rhetoric remains fixed on national autonomy yet reality is often matched against the reality of globalization and the impact of tight and possibly ever-tighter interdependence.

Finally a word on the term ‘global’ in global summitry.  A perspective could well be that global is exactly that – universal such as the UN – especially given the focus on states.   The term should not be taken as that.  Even in the UN the critical UN Security Council is not universal – far from it.  And so many institutions – often described as regional – seem perfectly a part of global summitry especially those that are not particularly geographically narrow in scope but generate policy that impacts the global order.

Global summitry remains focused on state actors but in many new arrangements and again examines all these actors in the organization and execution of global politics and policy.  And because it focuses not so much theoretically but more analytically and empirically on policy and policy impacts, it is sensible to assess the success/failure of the actors and their global governance policies.

But we’ve gone on far too long already.  So, that’s for another day.







Forward – Not Forward – Success and Failure at the G20!



The G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bankers met this past weekend at the Spring Meetings of the IMF and the World Bank. The news story was the success of the IMF’s Managing Director Christine Lagarde to raise approximately a $430 billion fund  to strengthen – the firewall – against Eurozone default – currently Spain as the key target of market concern.  A declared victory for the G20 Leaders?

Well, not so obviously.  Indeed my colleague Dan Drezner at his blog at foreignpolicy.com has suggested – quite rightly – that there appear to be two camps of thoughtful expert types – hey, I have to say this since Dan included me in the “success” camp of global governance decision-making – along with colleagues John Ikenberry from Princeton, Brooking’s Senior Fellow, Robert Kagan and finally my good colleague from NYU Bruce Jones – certainly not bad company.

So where are we in achieving progress in the main tasks for the G20 – IMF reform, or economic rebalancing or achieving Strong Sustainable and Balanced Growth (SSBG)?  I understand from his blog that Dan himself will – something like Houdini – reveal himself , or at least his position as he says, “in the coming months” on the functioning of global governance.

Well, while I along with you wait with anticipation for Dan’s announcement – I can’t wait totally.  Now in arriving at a judgement on progress, there are two elements that many commentators are quick to ignore when trying to assess success for the G20 Leaders Summit, or any other global summitry aspect of global governance.  First, global summitry is not just about Summit leaders gathering together – the so-called photo-op appearance.  As I have argued frequently in the past (“The Iceberg Theory” of Global Governance – Seeing it Work“) global summitry sweeps in the tasking  by leaders of  ministers and ministries, transgovernmental regulatory networks (TRNs) and even private bodies – what I’ve referred to as the “Iceberg Theory” of global governance architecture.

Second, most collective decision-making reached at a global summit such as the G20 seldom gets implemented there. Many, if not most, of the agreements are only implemented at the national level.  Without national implementation – executive or legislative – or both – there cannot be successful decision-making.  The global summitry world has not been capable of – what international law colleagues like to call “delocalization” – global governance generally still requires national action.

So to progress.  First let’s look at the Communique issued by Foreign Ministers and Central Bankers on April 20th.  Even a cursory glance will reveal a series of critical reports being prepared and/or being being forwarded to the Leaders:

  • work by the Financial Stability Board (FSB)  and the The Basel Committee on Banking and Supervision (BCBS) on modalities for extending the SIFI Framework to domestic systemically important banks (D-SIBs) and the completion of their work by November 2012;
  • a progress report from the FSB on strengthening the oversight and regulation of the shadow banking system with final recommendations in June 2012;
  • work coordinated by the FSB to provide safeguards supportive of a global framework for central counterparties (CCPs)  – on the road to an agreed over the counter (OTC)  derivatives reforms – looking to standards and requirements of CCPs by the end of 2012;
  • work by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) and the Financial Accounting Standards BOard (FASB) to achieve convergence – a single set of high quality international standards –  and to complete their study by mid-2013;
  • work by the FSB to establish a global legal entity identifier (LEI) with a report by June 2012;
  • work to be completed by June 2012 on an agreed internationally consistent standard on margining for non-centrally cleared OTC derivates;
  • an Interim Report for the Los Cabos G20 Summit from the OECD on a new set of reviews and on necessary steps to improve comprehensive information exchange in the Mutual Assessment Process (MAP);
  • the Ministers taking forward the financial inclusion agenda to present to Leaders in Los Cabos the G20 Set of Financial Inclusion Indicators thus assisting countries on measuring and tracking progress on access to financial services globally;
  • on financial education an OECD/International Network on Financial Education (INFE ) and the World Bank presentation of a Report on the High Level Principles on National Strategies for Financial Education;
  • on inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, a report of progress on the phasing out in the medium term of these subsidies;
  • a progress report for the Finance Ministers and Central Bankers in November 2012 from the International  Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) on the implementation of  the Principles for the Regulation and Supervision of Commodities and Derivatives Markets;
  • a report by the World Bank and the OECD with support from the UN to be provided to G20 Leaders at Los Cabos compiling country experiences with Disaster Risk Management (DRM); and
  • a report to Finance Ministers in November to facilitate the assessment of risk and financial strategies towards implementing DRM.

While some initiatives are more meaningful as opposed to others, it is evident that much is being tasked and reported on at the global summitry level.  Be sure that little if any of this will ever be reported by the global financial media – far too complicated and messy.

So while there is progress, let’s look at the other side of the ledger.  One of the major reforms proposed and accepted at the 2010 G20 Seoul Leaders Summit was IMF reform that would enhance the role of the large emerging market powers such as India, Brazil and especially China (see Edwin Truman at the Peterson Institute for International Economics for a detailed review of the progress of the reforms “The G-20 is Failing” posted originally at at Foreign Policy )in the IMF .  Several steps were agreed to by G20 Leaders in Seoul including:

  • doubling of the IMF quota subscriptions – the resources the IMF uses to lend to other IMF members;
  • amendment to the IMF Charter that would redistribute seats on the IMF’s Executive Board away from the overrepresented Europeans; and
  • a revision by January 2013 of the formula used to adjust the IMF quota shares.  The formula revision would be followed  by a substantial increase in the IMF quota subscriptions and resources by January 2014.

The problem: it ain’t happening!  With respect to item one countries are required in many instances to obtain legislative change to gain approval.  Though the IMF requires that 60 percent of IMF member countries – holding 85 percent of the of total IMF votes approve the change, key members have failed to enact legislation.  And who are these key members.  The key holdout is the United States and given congressional deadlock it is unlikely the United States will be in any position to achieve legislative approval – especially with an election looming in November 2012.  In addition other significant countries including traditional economic powers Canada and Germany and emerging market powers  – Argentina – the badboy of the G20 – Indonesia, Mexico – the host for the G20, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey – have all failed to pass the necessary legislation.

And with respect to item two – the amendment of the IMF Charter – and the anticipated power sharing agreement –  the action is “Europe’s Court”.  It is expected that Europe will reduce its representation by two seats – it has 8 seats currently, three possibly  if you include the Swiss seat.  These seats will then be farmed out to the large emerging market powers.  Well so far there is no agreement with respect to the two seats – which of Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy and Denmark will give up their seat on the Executive Board – and it would appear that Switzerland is prepared only to rotate its seat with Poland.  So there we have it.  Promises to reform the IMF to enable a transfer of power to the new large emerging market states – and no forward action to date.

So it is hardly surprising that so many commentators and folks from media argue that the G20 is failing.

Strange Members



This narrative is not about odd appendages – although possibly metaphorically – it is.  It is about who is – and who is not – strange members in some of the ‘Informals’ – in this case the BRICS and the G20 Leaders Summit.

Now I am not one to spend my days worrying about representation and membership in global summitry.  Membership in most of these Informals is self identified.  Nobody is running  for ‘Class President’.  Having said that frequently debates have broken out among the experts and the critics over the failure to include one country or another.

There was for years a drumbeat of criticism over the membership of the G7/8 – the so-called ‘Club of the Rich’. There were frequent charges advanced over the lack of legitimacy of these original 7 and demands that the Club expand to include the newly emerging large market counties – and others as well.

When the G20 Leaders Summit was born out of the global financial crisis and brought together for the first time the traditional economic powers with the newly rising economic powers including China, Brazil and India, the legitimacy debate quieted briefly but reemerged over the lack of representation for one region or another. The representation and legitimacy debates really are a discussion without resolution. But experts and commentators can’t leave it alone.

Earlier in the week I was fortunate enough to join friends and colleagues in New York City at the Asia Society for a conference on the “Rising Powers and a New Emerging Order” .  This Conference had been called together by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the principal interlocutor on this Project – Richard “Rich” Williamson. Williamson is the senior fellow at the Chicago Council for multilateral institutions.  Rich has had a varied career serving various Republican Presidents in various foreign policy posts and has served also as the Chair of the Illinois Republican Party.    Today he is a senior advisor to the presumptive Republican presidential candidate – Mitt Romney. Rich is deeply interested and involved in evaluating the adequacy of global governance institutions.  This current project is designed to understand the new power dynamics of the international system and to evaluate the adequacy of the current international institutions in the face of major transition and evolution.  Besides assessing the adequacy of the current leadership of the United States, Rich is keen to understand the impact of the rise of the large emerging market countries on international institutions.  To do so Rich and his colleagues from the Chicago Council have brought together some of the “talking heads” in global governance to look closely at the operation of these international institutions.  In the context of the rising powers – of course – the group was soon into examining the BRICS – though there was frequent reference to the potentially unique role of China.  It is not unreasonable in the context of  current global summitry to examine the BRICS – but any close inspection immediately raises questions over whether there is any there – there.  And for the moment I don’t think there is.  I mean the group couldn’t even agree to support a single candidate for the position of president of the World Bank.  While this may represent for some politicians and commentators – the revenge and return of the Group of 77 – it is not.  And as the group was able to tease out, China has a laser-like policy that focuses on its own national interest  – and avoids distractions unrelated to these interests.  The BRICS remain the invention of Jim O’Neill at Goldman Sachs – and not a terribly vital instrument of these key powers.  I hope to comment more on the impact of the rising powers – as seen from this workshop – but let me turn to yet another strange member.

And to do that I am led back to the G20.  I was met yesterday morning with a smiling picture – and a lead story in one of the global financial papers on the seizure by Argentina of Spain’s Repsol’s majority stake in Argentina’s largest oil company – YPF. Argentina has also announced that it will not pay fair market value for the seizure of Repsol’s majority stake.  The quote accompanying a smiling President – you can find it in the “pink paper” is: “I am a head of state and not a hoodlum” evokes for most of us aging North Americans the words of a US President. “I am not a crook.”  But I think the President Christina Fernandez de Kirchner reveals exactly what she is and and what kind of government she leads – a “hoodlum gang”.

Argentina’s bad economic behavior has over the last few years become all too apparent. In the near past the Argentinian government has seized private pension funds. It has been ordered to pay many millions of dollars in damages by international arbitration tribunals and insistently refused to do so – even abandoning the World Bank facility on international investment.

And yes Argentina is a member of the G20.  How can this be?  By now we are all familiar with the story that led to Argentina’s inclusion.  While details differ the fact is that those putting together the membership of the G20 in 1998 – then finance ministers – were partial to the then Argentinian finance minister – and so magically Argentina became a member of the G20.

But seriously folks – how can Argentina continue to be included in the High Table of Global Summitry?  This apex of global leadership is dedicated to maintaining the vitality of the global economy including no trade protectionism, open borders and the global health of the international economy.  It has to be embarrassing to G20 Leaders to be faced with a member country so destructive of the rule of law in the global economy.  It really is time to do something.  But don’t worry – they won’t.

Image Credit:  Wikipedia – Barack Obama and Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in 2009

A Focus on Dialogue in the Face of “Strategic Distrust”


A significant document on China-US relations was released by the John L. Thorton China Center at Brookings to coincide with the visit to the United States of China’s likely next leader Xi Jinping last month.  The document, “Addressing US-China Strategic Distrust” was authored by two well-known academics – on the US side Kenneth Lieberthal and on the Chinese side Wang Jisi. A key feature of this document was the wise decision to allow each to express the perspective from their respective countries – without any effort to revise or emend the views expressed by the other over the concerns each leadership has.  Only after this singular analysis do the two authors join together to write a follow-on analysis with joint recommendations.

Writing the American view, as pointed out above, is Kenneth Lieberthal a well known American China-hand, a former professor at the University of Michgan and a special assistant to the President – Clinton in this case – for National Security Affairs.  Today Lieberthal holds the Director’s chair at the John L Thorton China Center at Brookings.

Wang Jisi is a key academic and advisor to the Party in China.  These latter appointments are often ignored in the West.  He is currently the Dean of the School of International Studies at Peiking University as well as the Director of the Institute of International and Strategic Studies at the Party School of the Central Committee. He was previously the Head of the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and a key advisor to the Party.  Wang Jisi is central figure in the current US-China dialogue because he is able to cross the academic/party divide and his a voice is heard both in Zhongnanhai and in the West.  So he is an important transmitter of thinking to the US and Chinese political communities alike.

Both perspectives are more than interesting.  The two experts align on the key perspective – “strategic distrust”.  Both authors focus  on  the issue of mutual distrust of long-term intentions termed in this article as “strategic distrust”— and declare that strategic distrust has become a central concern in US-China relations.  As they define it:

“Strategic distrust” therefore means a perception that the other side will seek to achieve its key long term goals at concerted cost to your own side’s core prospects and interests.

And while both agree that they focus here is not on military capabilities and intentions the definition certainly resonates with the idea of the strategic dilemma – that the more secure one country purports to achieve, the more insecure others perceive their position.

Lieberthal’s US analysis is compelling including his opening line that for US leaders:

Strategic distrust of China is not the current dominant view of national decision makers in the U.S. government, who believe it is feasible and desirable to develop a basically constructive long-term relationship with a rising China. But U.S. decision makers also see China’s future as very undetermined …

While this perspective makes sense, this a classic US view that enables more conservative perspectives in Washington circles to urge a “hedging strategy” that encourages US leadership to adopt exactly the view that the hedging strategy is designed to guard against.

But I’ll stop here for the moment and turn to the Chinese leadership perspective as described by Wang Jisi.

One thing is clear in reading his views of the Chinese leadership there is in Wang’s narrative and analysis more than a hint of pessimism.  It may well be that this tone reflects an effort by Wang Jisi to fully describe what he believes is the current leadership’s distrust of US policies.  My sensitivity to this pessimism is in part a reaction to a relatively recent piece Wang Jisi wrote in Foreign Affairs (April/May 2011) – “China’s Search for a Grand Strategy”. While there is certainly some tough thinking in this piece, the grand strategy is not dramatically aggressive.  In particular his effort to conceptualize China’s core interests in non-territorial terms – with the exception of Taiwan – but to see instead China’s core interests as – sovereignty, security and development – lead Wang Jisi to declare:

If an organizing principle must be established to guide China’s grand strategy, it should be an improvement of the Chinese people’s living standards, welfare, and happiness through social justice.

Such a grand strategy, were it to be adopted, would cause China’s leadership to focus heavily on global stability and contributing to a “peaceful international environment”.

This more benign perspective is largely missing in this recent piece.  Wang Jisi in fact pulls no punches.  As he suggests:

Meanwhile, in Beijing’s view, it is U.S. policies, attitude, and misperceptions that cause the lack of mutual trust between the two countries.

Yet it is also clear that the Chinese leadership has altered its view of global circumstances arising out of the 2008 global financial crisis.  This global economic crisis and its aftermath has led China’s leaders to conclude that China has ascend to the status of a “first-class global power,” and that the US is “heading for decline.”  Moreover the leadership apparently believes that the BRICS are “increasingly challenging Western dominance” and that China’s “development model” offers an alternative to Western democracy.  Finally, and more ominously, Chinese leadership believes that the US will seek to maintain its global hegemony  and as a result “America will seek to constrain or upset China’s rise.”

So it would appear that the Chinese leadership has  – to some degree – bought the revivified “declinist thesis”.  It is hard to grasp fully what the Chinese leadership understand to be a fist-class  global power.  If they mean in other words – and I doubt it – a superpower in some manner on par with the United States, it makes little sense but then I am at a loss as to the Chinese leadership’s  perspective on the architecture of the global powers and what the consequences of that status might be for the US and China.  It might of course explain the period of “assertiveness” that appeared in 2010 and centered on Chinese push back in East Asia and the South China Seas.  As for the economic place of the US, while the political dysfunction are all too apparent, one would be foolhardy to ignore US economic resilience.  But it leaves one rather unsettled.  And maybe that’s the point.

As for ameliorative steps the experts call for enhanced dialogue and economic integration.  While simply illustrative the experts call for greater Chinese foreign direct investment in the US and the improvement Chinese transparency with respect to political decision-making.  The experts call for improved trilateral dialogues where China and the US engage with both Japan and India and work to prepare standards and rules for cyber operations for each government.  Finally, and probably most importantly, the experts call for “deep dialogue to discuss” how each should operate in the key Asia-Pacific  region.  This dialogue of necessity should involve the militaries of both sides.  Of course this crucial dialogue has been on the US agenda for some time but it has always been sacrificed to the tactical needs of China to signal its opposition especially to Taiwan and the US continuation of arms provision to the Taiwanese military.  Still in the context of enhanced dialogue there can be no greater effort by both sides.

But the two experts also worry “that at a time of far reaching change, each side is increasingly uncertain about the other side’s real perceptions and long-term intentions in this relationship.”  It is a troubling narrative to those who look to long term collaboration between the US and China. But it is hard to discount and the two experts have provided a bilateral future that we’d do well to take heed of  if only to avoid.

Image Credit:  John L. Thorton China Center at Brookings