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Saturday, Aug. 2, 2008

Group of Three or G-13?

The Toyako, Hokkaido, summit witnessed moves to expand the Group of Eight forum of leading industrial nations through the addition of China, India and other new members.

In a sense, of course, the G8 has already expanded, as seen in the meetings with African leaders and the gathering of major greenhouse gas emitters, including China and India, held alongside the summit. Whether the issue is CO・emissions, Africa or international finance, there is a growing chorus of voices insisting that no effective measures can be taken to address global issues unless international action includes China and India, as well as the countries of Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. Some have called for the G8 to be turned into a G-13.

Among some American intellectuals, meanwhile, there have recently been murmurings about a "G3." This concept envisages the United States and China teaming up with the European Union to build a new global trade and economic order. It is based on the thinking that, as China will eventually become the world's largest economy, we must encourage it to develop into a nation that takes more responsibility for the formation of and respect for a global economic order.

This thinking contains the implication that if, conversely, China is left to its own devices, or if we do not form a sufficiently solid partnership with China, it will rebel against both today's world order and the order that we hope to forge in the future, becoming a cause of confusion. Advocates of this line hold that, first, the world's two largest trading nations, the U.S. and China, should form a partnership and that Europe should join them, thus "incorporating" China into the world order.

At first glance, this would seem to be a perfectly valid line of reasoning. The formation of a partnership among China, the U.S. and Europe would, in itself, be no bad thing. But the vision of these three powers exercising control over the future world order contains some serious flaws.

To begin with, real partnership between nations must be accompanied by shared political goals. Should the U.S. and China attempt to form a partnership, the biggest hurdle will be whether they can truly share such common values as market principles and democracy.

It can be argued, of course, that the U.S. and China should form a partnership for the very purpose of sharing these common values. Attempting to form a partnership to build the future economic order without truly sharing common values, however, would likely result in a clash of basic ideals, preventing the partnership from being effective. In short, while it may be possible to form a partnership in the sense of alleviating hostility between the countries, teaming up in a more proactive manner is a much harder proposition.

Another major obstacle is China's continued insistence that it remains a developing country. This claim is not based solely on the economic grounds of the country's low per capita gross national product. It also encompasses a kind of international class theory stating that rich capitalist countries have a heavy responsibility toward poor countries, and that conflict between these two groups has a political significance resembling that of a class struggle.

It will be difficult to form a truly meaningful partnership with China without resolving this fundamental issue of how to regard its status as a developing country.

There is an even bigger problem, however — namely, the question of whether the U.S. is capable of forming a true partnership with up-and-coming countries like China and India. As a society built on modernization, market principles, and democracy, the U.S. may still remain, in some senses, a model for many poor countries. When it comes to the big issues that human society will face in the future, however, such as environmental problems and social welfare provision, can the U.S. be a model for other nations to follow?

Many people, I suspect, would answer in the negative. Few countries in the world today aspire to emulate U.S. society. The issue, therefore, is not whether the U.S. and China should form a partnership to build a world economic order but what kind of social model today's developed countries can propose for the future.

It is conceivable that China, India and other emerging nations may propose a new model for human society differing from that offered by today's developed countries, particularly the U.S.

In this scenario, the new world order might be created not under the leadership of the U.S., but by countries set to rise to prominence in the years to come and by the citizens of the world who support them.

The proposal to build a world economic order by means of a U.S.-China partnership is, in any case, rooted in the rather outdated notion that the world order is shaped by policy decisions spearheaded by the major powers. This kind of thinking actually risks fomenting U.S. self-righteousness and Chinese nationalism, and is likely to be regarded by many other, less powerful countries, as tantamount to "monopoly" by the world's two biggest powers.

What the international community needs is a more democratic policymaking formula that involves various nations, citizens and nongovernmental organizations, rather than one led by the major powers. It is surely more important to build a partnership among numerous countries and their citizens than one consisting solely of the two or three largest powers.

Kazuo Ogoura, a political science professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, is president of the Japan Foundation. He has served as Japanese ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Vietnam (1994-95), South Korea (1997-99) and France (1999-2002).

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