Lisbon China File 1 (0.2), 26 April 2009
Editor: Daniel Alvarenga

Analysis – How Jackie Chan captured China’s characteristics as an Emerging Power

The week started with the polemic revolving around Jackie Chan’s comments where he wondered whether in fact Chinese people have the need “to be controlled”. Although it is hard to sympathise with anyone’s doubts over if it is good to have freedom or not, Jackie Chan’s comments, albeit not very sophisticated or academic in nature, do shed light with its crudeness on some of China’s strengths and weaknesses as an emerging power.
It has been government’s control, bureaucratic centralization in key sectors and protective assistance to its “global champions” that have helped boost China’s growth in the last few years. These global champions is the expression used to describe China’s “dearest” top companies to whom government has provided all different incentives and measures to facilitate their expansion abroad and their rise as top global multinationals.
China’s attractiveness as a political and economic model lies precisely in its obsession for control, coordination and slow, progressive change. This is easily noticeable in the recent debates regarding the rising influence of a so-called Beijing Consensus. The Beijing Consensus contrasts with the Washington consensus when it comes to privileging the domain of public ownership as the dominant and guiding force in the political economy of a state. It also prefers steady reforms and slower change to what Cheng Enfy from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences calls “shock therapy” of more traditional neoliberal economic policy. There is one last fundamental difference between the Beijing Consensus and the Washington Consensus. Beijing believes that while countries’ cannot escape a progressive march towards an open globalized economy and easier integrated trade across nations, states should still thread carefully and attempt to be self-reliant in their economic growth strategies. This trend in the behaviour of China in its business and foreign affairs is likely to continue to be its trademark in the near future
At the same time that China and other BRIC countries are now pushing extremely hard for greater say in a revamped IMF which has come out very strong out of the G20 meeting and out of the financial crisis an extremely relevant phenomenon unfolds. Developing countries, particularly those with stronger ties to China are increasingly distancing themselves from the US dollar. Clearly further evidence of the global power shift in finance and political influence. Take the Indonesian Energy giant for example, Perusahaan Listrik Negara. In a telling example of how the dollar is slowly losing its weight and influence, the state electricity company is planning to swap its $2.36 billion in foreign currency needs into Chinese yuan this year with the objective of protecting itself from US dollar volatility and reduce foreign exchange transaction fees.

Daniel Alvarenga
Editor, Lisbon China File,


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