“In the phrase of Council on Foreign Relations scholar Elizabeth Economy, “China is an illiberal state seeking leadership in a liberal world order.” This is an unpleasant fact for analysts and policy makers who believed for years that China’s general trajectory under “reform and opening” was towards a less statist economy and a more liberal state whose values and interests were increasingly consistent with those of the global economic system. The central question today therefore is whether, as it gains global influence, China will be generally supportive of the existing global economic system, cause that system to change in significant ways, or result in a dissolution of the present order and its replacement by something else. The answer to this question depends to a great degree on the time frame one uses to describe China’s trajectory. Here we will consider three: the 40 years since the launch of Reform and Opening in 1978, the two decades since the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, and the decade since the American financial crisis of 2008.”

From China’s Economic Transformation: A Threat to the Liberal Global Order? by Arthur R. Kroeber, nonresident Senior Fellow, Brookings-Tsinghua Center and adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

Written for the Carter Center’s symposium to commemorate President Carter’s 1979 decision to normalize relations with China. View or download the paper here.

Credit: New York University