Forget the G2

Yale’s Jeffrey Garten thinks America needs to face up to a key fact: it doesn’t have the leverage to deal with China on its own. So, he says, it needs to partner up with others:

It doesn’t take a genius to see that America needs more help in dealing with China. That’s why we must shift from what is primarily a bilateral and at times unilateral, pound-the-chest approach to one involving more support from other key countries, many of whom are also having big problems with China, including the European Union and India.

This enhanced multilateralism must be based on at least two premises that are hard to discern in U.S. policy today. The first is that China is not just bursting on the global stage, but rather is changing the world as it does so. Put another way, we can forget about trying to force China into conforming to Western rules and institutions without allowing the country a big voice in reshaping those arrangements to serve its own needs. Secondly, the U.S. and its partners are better off compromising with China on these arrangements so long as they have rules and enforcement mechanisms. The key goal must be to encourage China to obey laws and regulations that are agreed upon.

Not sure I’m wholly convinced that Van Rompuy and his travelling circus are the missing link in getting China to be a constructive world citizen – but hey, we can dream.