China Puts the World off Balance
Pei, Minxin, Newsweek
Byline: Minxin Pei
One of the greatest challenges the West now faces is how to get China, a habitual free rider, to pull its weight on international issues. Ever since the country reemerged as a great power in the last decade, the United States and Europe have courted it, hoping that if China's leaders felt they held a stake in the existing world order, they would work to sustain it.
But things haven't worked out that way. The recent Chinese hacker attack on Google, which underscored Beijing's efforts to suppress information, was only the latest example of China's rejection of global norms. Consider: At the Copenhagen climate conference in December, the country's opposition to mandatory carbon cuts helped eviscerate an agreement. Economically, China's refusal to strengthen its currency is threatening the global recovery. On Iran, Beijing has repeatedly rebuffed the West's call for tougher measures, putting its own interests (Tehran is one of its key energy suppliers) above nonproliferation.
In its defense, Beijing likes to argue that China is too poor do more, with a per capita income of less than $3,500 in 2009. Yet a government that spent more than $45 billion to host the Olympics can hardly plead poverty. …