When US President Barack Obama visited China in November 2009, he acknowledged China’s rapid rise and offered a partnership in maintaining and improving the world order, said billionaire investor George Soros in a Project Syndicate commentary.
Chinese leadership declined this offer.
The excuse is that China is still a developing country that needs to worry about the welfare of its own people instead of playing a leading role on the world stage.
We need to make long and hard efforts if we are to build a moderately prosperous society, said Chinese President Hu Jintao in a recent Q&A with the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.
Now, as Hu Jintao visits President Obama in the United States, the latter once again acknowledged China rising power.
The United States welcomes China’s rise as a strong, prosperous and successful member of the community of nations, said Obama.
With this visit we can lay the foundation for the next 30 years, he added.
Hu, for his part, acknowledge the strategic significance and global influence of China-U.S. relations.
He also said China and the United States should...work together to counter the global challenges and make a greater contribution to world peace and development.
However, he said the United States should respect China's choice of development path and core interests.
After the global financial crisis, it became clear that China is a dominant world power.
The country is now at a crossroad.
It can continue to engage the world like it has done for the last thirty years, i.e. as an opportunist that selectively exposes itself to profitable opportunities with foreign countries.
Conversely, it can actively embrace the role of maintaining and improving the world order.
Soros thinks China should change course and choose the latter approach. Indeed, it's hard to shirk that responsibility when you're the second largest economy in the world.
Hu is aware of this argument and may partially agree with it.
China’s future and destiny are increasingly tied to those of the world, he said.
About thirty years ago, China was also at another crossroad. The key question back then was whether to maintain the status quo and remain an autarky or open up to the outside world and trade.
Deng Xiaoping, China's President at that time, decided to boldly choose the latter approach and the country greatly prospered.
Now, it remains to be seen if Hu is ready to push his country for another round of historic change.
Email Hao Li at email@example.com