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Opinion: How China challenges America's world leadership

2018-10-11 09:33:57       source:NPR

October 10, 2018

Chinese President Xi Jinping is ready for a change — specifically the transformation of the international system and China's role within it. In a 2016 speech before government ministers and provincial leaders, Xi provided an early signal of his intent: "China has become a major factor in changing the world political and economic landscapes. ... We need to work harder to turn our economic strength into international institutional authority."

To date, however, Xi has avoided taking the United States head-on in competition for global leadership. There is little evidence that he desires the responsibility such leadership entails; the world has yet to hear, for example, a Chinese proposal to meet the challenge of global terrorism, the refugee crisis or even climate change. Xi's approach instead has been to work to erode the foundational pillars of U.S. leadership — its alliances, the values and norms upheld by international institutions and its development model — and supplant them with ones more supportive of Chinese interests. In this context, the U.S.-China trade conflict might be understood as merely one battle in a protracted ground war over values, principles and global leadership.

In the current global balance of power — sustained by both the relative distribution of global wealth and the system of U.S.-led alliances — the United States remains the dominant player (although less so than at any time in the recent past).

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