By Jin Canrong Source: Global Times Published: 2016-12-4
With US President-elect Donald Trump`s announcement of withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and China`s active promotion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), some voices have began to emerge saying that the US is relinquishing its global leadership while China will replace the US to lead the world.
It should be known that Trump`s withdrawal announcement does not mean he wants to weaken US global leadership. Trump is a businessman and the TPP withdrawal is more from an economic perspective. The TPP will lead to job losses within the US.
In fact, many of Trump`s policies have shown his desire to change the way his country maintains leadership. For example, in security, Trump still wants to keep America`s leading position in the world, but he asks more from his allies to relieve the burden of security costs. In the area of trade, he does not refuse global trade, but calls on other countries to open their markets to the US. Therefore, Trump is not trying to give up US leadership in areas like trade and security, but wants to impel more stringent free trade schemes.
The withdrawal from the TPP, which excludes China, shows the US is giving up part of its dominance on trade liberalization. This does to some extent ease the pressure on China to abide by trade regimens not in its favor, and provides an opportunity for China to put forward its own schemes. Moreover, the TPP has high standards and requirements for its members, making it difficult to implement. In contrast, the RCEP is easier to implement.
However, whether China can seize this opportunity is subject to many factors. First of all, domestically China`s economy is facing serious downside pressure. Without good momentum in its domestic economy, China can hardly afford the cost of promoting trade liberalization.
Second, China is continuing to deepen reforms in different areas. But carrying out the reforms still faces some problems. If China cannot operate according to the trading rules envisaged by itself, it will be difficult for China to recommend global trade solutions.
In addition, the trade schemes promoted by China are also influenced by the attitudes of other members involved. For example, Japan, one of the main participating countries in the RCEP, holds a negative attitude toward the agreement, which will affect the outcomes of the RCEP.
The present voices about China replacing the US to lead the world are mostly from Western media and these exaggerated statements have been used to scare Americans. A scenario where China overtakes the US to lead the world is unlikely.
At present, China does not have the ability to lead the world. China`s overall national strength is not as competitive as the US. Even in China`s most competitive aspect, its economy, China`s GDP is only about 60 percent the US. The gap between China and the US in other aspects is even larger.
Another very important point is that China has no will to lead the world. Nowadays, China plays a more active role in the existing international order. For example, the renminbi has joined the special drawing rights basket.
In addition, China tries to promote the present international order by solving problems and offering new programs like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the "One Belt and One Road" initiative. All these efforts are for better safeguarding the interests of China and achieving common development with other countries instead of contending for global leadership with the US.
The author is the vice director of the School of International Studies at Renmin University of China.