China as Asian Leader

The strengthening of the Sino–American relationship as a result of the crisis has very important implications for China’s role both in Asia and in the emerging world, two regions on which China’s growing appetite for natural resources and energy depends. China’s share of world oil consumption grew from 6.3 percent in 2000 to 9.5 percent in 2008.1 The country depends on Angola, Saudi Arabia, and Iran as its major oil suppliers, and on countries in Africa and Latin America for its supply of metals. China’s profile in Asia and the rest of the emerging world is critical to its security and long-term economic development.

In Asia, the crisis has raised the stakes for competition between the three pretenders to Asian leadership. We can already see clear signs of jockeying for position. How these intra-Asian tensions play out over the next decades of increasing Asian global influence is one of the most important issues to be managed, both for China and for the world. China has always been a force in Asia by virtue of its size and historic influence over the cultures of East and Central Asia, even when the country was poor and split by internal dissent. But today China’s economy has become a powerful motor for Asian growth, and China has become a credible military force. With the backing of the United States, China can claim Asian leadership, a role that the two other major powers in Asia, Japan and India, naturally think of as theirs. A stronger China and ...

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