Shifting sands of power

By Jin Liqun
0 CommentsPrint E-mail China Daily, August 31, 2010
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Some of these countries are nowhere near reaching their UN Millennium Development Goals in 2015, while the countdown is fast running to zero. Do not try to take comfort from the demographics dividend. Unless massive investment is made in human resources through improved programs for education and health, no such dividend will pay off.

Obviously, for developing countries as a whole, challenges are legion. The catch-up with major economies is ferociously tough along a steep curve. A sobering mind is all that is needed.

True, the US has been greatly weakened by the subprime mortgage crisis and its contagion effect. The sovereign debt crisis has deeply divided Europe's politicians and presents a dismal scenario of the euro's fate. But there is no ground to believe that the catastrophe has sapped the resilience of these mature economies.

Tough regulatory reform and strengthened macroeconomic policies will be forcefully implemented to ensure that the pith of their economic structure does not wither on the vine. Not surprisingly, a number of emerging markets have suffered greater volatility than meets the eye, partly because the media has nailed down the major economies in distress in the glaring limelight.

Understandably, major economies, accustomed to ruling the roost, find it hard to take it in their stride when they watch their power hopelessly lost to new entrants. But some people's mind is hardwired for the logic that shifting wealth leads to shifting economic power, which leads to shifting political and military power and renders the new triumphantly powerful able to dominate the world and dictate the destiny of those who have to succumb to it. This logic does not apply in all cases.

In the 21st century, no country can be considered a power without achieving breakthroughs in critical areas. The all-inclusive term is innovation. This could cover areas such as high technology for a low-carbon economy, energy efficiency, new materials, advanced IT and biotechnology. Manufacturing makes sense only when it is more energy efficient, environmentally friendly, and capable of recycling depletive resources and less dependent on extraction industries.

If the term "power" in its economic sense means anything in today's world, it is not just the seat a country takes at multilateral forums, but more importantly its voice in effectuating the new architecture for global governance.

The constructive role that the emerging markets can play should not stop at how many legitimate rights they can claim for themselves, but more importantly how much they can do to promote global public good and interests. That should probably be the major difference in the code of conduct between the contemporary economic powers and the traditional ones.

The author is chairman of the Supervisory Board, China Investment Corporation.


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