China Power

Managing a Stroppy Dragon

How should Western leaders manage Chinese sulking? Trying carrying on without it.

It’s hardly controversial to note a growing disenchantment in Western capitals with China. The country has gone from bending over backwards to appear like a willing good global citizen leading up to the Beijing Olympics, to being the country of ‘no’ — ‘No we won’t help on Iran’, ‘No you shouldn’t meet the Dalai Lama’, ‘No we won’t work with other countries on a climate deal.’

So how should Washington, among others, respond? Andrew Small of the German Marshall Fund has posted an interesting piece on exactly how Western capitals could. As he rightly notes, it’s always Beijing that’s cancelling bi-lateral meetings after perceived slights. So why not stop pandering to its tantrums?

He suggests a number of policy options, including:

‘Rather than making a bilateral beeline for Beijing, more effort could be employed in coordinating China policy with other like-minded countries. The United States has plenty of room to deepen its cooperation with its treaty allies in Europe and Asia has considerable scope. But more diplomatic energy could be focused on other potential members of a progressive coalition – India, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa. Expanded economic, technological, security, and trade advantages can be offered to those countries that are willing to act as system-strengtheners rather than spoilers.’