The IMF and the World Bank would like China to use its foreign exchange reserves to help restore confidence in the world’s financial system. Beijing is willing to help if it receives a bigger decisionmaking role in these institutions.
This demand is justified – the IMF and the World Bank reflect the principles and world order of another era – but if China wants more of a say, it must first demonstrate that it can participate in an active and responsible manner.
Beijing’s decision to contribute to UN peacekeeping efforts is a positive step, particularly given its official policy of non-interference in other nations’ domestic affairs. However, China also demands non-interference in its domestic affairs by others, as demonstrated by statements in front of the UN Human Rights Council in February. Stonewalling will not help Beijing to get its point across or gain the trust of developed countries. Only being open to discussion and comments by third parties will do that.
One area of success in recent years has been in mentoring other developing nations. Beijing shares its infrastructure expertise in exchange for diplomatic concessions, support at the UN General Assembly and access to natural resources.
This has bought the country soft power and influence on the world stage, but is it wielding that power in a fair way?
The Democratic Republic of Congo is one example. China and Congo recently signed a deal in which a consortium of state-owned Chinese companies agreed to build roads, railways, hospitals and universities in return for the right to develop a copper and cobalt mine – a project valued at approximately US$9 billion.
The deal has aroused criticism in the West, where the terms are seen as being slanted in China’s favor. It stipulates that Beijing will receive unprecedented state financial guarantees on its investments. Should global commodity prices fall and Congo fail to meet the necessary revenue targets set by China, the country could be pushed even deeper into debt.
China should provide infrastructure projects at a rate favorable to Congo’s present circumstances. Acts like this, performed in the interests of others rather than itself, would make it easier for Beijing to win wider international trust.