Reporter Journal / Chen Weihua

A positive view of China as responsible world stakeholder

By Chen Weihua (China Daily USA) Updated: 2017-10-30 09:44

I must have missed many interesting talks and papers in Washington while being away for several weeks in China, but was nevertheless glad to find a recent article by Colin Grabow, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute, just days upon returning to DC.

The title, Responsible Stakeholders: Why the United States Should Welcome China's Economic Leadership, came as a shock, or a pleasant surprise, to be precise. In this political town, such a headline is often deemed politically incorrect and, therefore, politicians and even think tank experts would tend to shy away from it.

Having covered the eight years of the Obama presidency, I am well aware of the knee-jerk reaction to all things China, such as when the Obama administration lobbied US allies in early 2015 not to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) initiated by China.

So I contacted Cato and met Grabow in person on Friday to seek his "unconventional" wisdom on the issue.

Grabow, who had worked at a Japan-based trade and investment company before joining Cato just recently, dismissed the common concern in the US that China's economic initiatives will come at US expense.

In the article, he argued that rather than sound the alarm over China's moves, US policymakers should be open to the possibility that Beijing is finally becoming the responsible stakeholder that many have long urged it to be.

Grabow said the US should congratulate China and thank it when it plays the role of a responsible stakeholder. He warned the US of becoming automatically suspicious of everything China says and does.

He found it encouraging that Chinese President Xi Jinping advocated free trade in a talk at Davos, Switzerland, earlier this year. He also believed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a key steppingstone toward the eventual realization of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific.

While many in the US often mistakenly portray RCEP as China-led and China's efforts to rewrite trade rules, Grabow said RCEP represented forward progress for free trade in the region even if the current RCEP standards were left unchanged. US allies Japan, Australia and South Korea are all in RCEP talks.

"Are these countries going to sign on to a trade deal that is terrible?" he asked, in a rebuke to those who have tried to degrade RCEP.

Grabow believes that China's backing of both AIIB and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) holds the possibility of much-needed improvements in infrastructure and connectivity that could bolster regional and global trade.

"With none of its own resources or prestige at stake, the United States stands to benefit considerably, and at little cost, from China's efforts in this regard," he said.

In his view, zero-sum fears that China's increasing prosperity and commensurate growth in its regional influence come at the US' expense should be balanced against the dangers presented by the alternative - a country that is isolated and economically failing.

"Rather than reflexively viewing China's economic initiatives as an affront to US interests, the Trump administration should attempt to harness China's emerging taste for global economic leadership," he said.

He believes that instead of focusing so intently on the trade disputes that divide China and the US, the Trump administration should seek to conclude Bilateral Investment Treaty negotiations and consider the merits of initiating negotiations for a bilateral free trade agreement with China.

"Through such cooperation, the United States and China could become successful partners in the promotion of trade and prosperity in the increasingly vital Asia-Pacific region," he wrote in the paper.

I applaud Grabow's insight and more importantly, his courage, to voice such a view that is not very popular in this political town, known for its highly divided partisan politics for many years. I hope more people in the Capital Beltway will come to sense and see his wisdom.

Contact the writer at

Most Popular
Hot Topics
The Week in Photos