China’s Quest for Global Economic Governance Reform

  • James F. ParadiseEmail author
Research Article


This paper attempts to characterize China’s approach to global economic governance during the Xi Jinping era, and to provide details on how it is playing out. One finding is that China has moved away from the period of “hiding one’s strength and biding one’s time” and is now acting in a more norm-making and agenda-setting role in which it is seeking largely incremental change. Another finding is that China is doing these things through a variety of global governance forms such as inter-governmental organizations with a fairly highly degree of formality, looser international organizations that have weaker implementation capacity and unilateral initiatives which put China very much in a leadership position. Findings are based on an examination of major activities of the Xi period, including hosting the G20 leaders’ summit in Hangzhou, China, joint creation of new multilateral development banks, and the Belt and Road Initiative. The paper also touches on motives for China’s activities, including hedging against adverse developments in the international system, greater wealth, and a global power vacuum that has arisen with the rise of nativist and populist movements in the West, and possible constraints to the realization of China’s objectives such as slowing domestic economic growth and a backlash against China’s globalization, which could intensify.


Global economic governance China G20 Multilateral development banks Belt and road initiative 



The author would like to thank Gregory J. Moore and anonymous reviewers for the Journal of Chinese Political Science for their comments.


  1. 1.
    Acharya, A. 2014. The end of American world order. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. n.d. Members of the bank.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. 2015. Articles of agreement.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. 2016. Environmental and social framework.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bin, G. 2016. AIIB and changing standards in China. The Straits Times, July 28. Accessed June 1, 2018.
  6. 6.
    Blanchard, B. 2016. G20 a success for China, but hard issues kicked down the road. Reuters, September 6. Accessed 6 Sept 2016.
  7. 7.
    Bremmer, I. 2012. Every nation for itself: what happens when no one leads the world. New York: Portfolio/Penguin.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Cai, P. 2017. Understanding China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Lowy Institute for International Policy, March.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Chan, G., P.K. Lee, and Lai-Ha Chan. 2012. China engages global governance: A new world order in the making? London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Chan, S., W. Hu and K. He. Discerning states’ revisionist and status-quo orientations: Comparing China and the US. European Journal of International Relations. Online 2018.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Chin, G. 2010. China’s rising institutional influence. In Rising states, rising institutions: challenges for global governance, eds. Alan S. Alexandroff and Andrew F. Cooper, 83–104. Waterloo: The Centre for International Governance Innovation and Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    China Daily. 2015. ‘Belt and Road’ plan ‘set to spur FTA talks’. People’s Daily Online, April 28. Accessed 30 April 2015.
  13. 13.
    China Daily. 2016. Six firsts at this year’s G20 Summit. September 6. China Daily. Accessed 9 Sept 2016.
  14. 14. 2016. China issues first big data report on B&R Initiative. People’s Daily Online, October 28. Accessed November 11, 2016.
  15. 15.
    Christensen, C.M. Disruptive innovation. In The encyclopedia of human-computer interaction, 2nd Ed. Interaction Design Foundation.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Christensen, C.M., M.E. Raynor and R. McDonald. 2015. What is disruptive innovation? Harvard Business Review, December issue.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Confucius Institute at the University of Nottingham. 2016. China’s One Belt One Road Initiative: Past, present and future. Hanban, November 17.–11/17/content_664940.htm. Accessed February 16, 2017.
  18. 18.
    Deng, X. 1974. Speech by Chairman of the Delegation of the People’s Republic of China, Deng Xiaoping, At the Special Session of the U.N. General Assembly, Deng Xiaoping Internet Archive ( 2003.
  19. 19.
    Dian, M, and S. Menegazzi. 2018. New regional initiatives in China’s foreign policy: The incoming pluralism of global governance. Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Editors, East Asia Forum. 2016. Making the Hangzhou G20 summit relevant. East Asia Forum, August 29. Accessed August 29, 2016.
  21. 21.
    Fitch Ratings. 2017. Fitch: China’s One Belt One Road initiative brings risks. January 25.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Frankel, J. 2015. The trouble with international policy coordination. Project Syndicate, November 24.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Gao, C. 2015. Correcting misconceptions about the Silk Road initiatives., March 10. Accessed March 10, 2015.
  24. 24.
    Gao, H. 2018. Broken promises set a bad example for China in the WTO. East Asia Forum, March 9. Accessed March 14, 2018.
  25. 25.
    Gilpin, R. 1981. War and change in world politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Global Times. 2015 ‘Belt and Road’ initiative to drive engineering, construction sectors: Forum. Global Times, October 26. Accessed October 26, 2015.
  27. 27.
    G20. 2016. Hangzhou action plan. G20 2016 China. September 8. Accessed September 9, 2016.
  28. 28.
    G20. 2018. Frequently asked questions. G20 Argentina 2018. Accessed June 7, 2018.
  29. 29.
    Haass, R. 2017. A world in disarray: American foreign policy and the crisis of the old order. New York: Penguin Press.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Harpaz, M.D. 2016. China’s coherence in international economic governance. Journal of Chinese Political Science 21: 123–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    He, A. 2016. The dragon’s footprints: China in the global economic governance system under the G20 framework. Waterloo: Centre for International Governance Innovation.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    He, N. 2016. Think tank to support Belt and Road Initiative. China Daily USA, February 24. Accessed May 22, 2016.
  33. 33.
    Hu, J. 2012. Full text: Report of Hu Jintao to the 18th CPC National Congress., November 16. Accessed October 1, 2016.
  34. 34.
    Humphrey, C. 2015. Developmental revolution or Bretton woods revisited? Overseas Development Institute, Working Paper 418.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Ikenberry, G.J. 2011. Liberal leviathan: The origins, crisis, and transformation of the American world order. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Ikenberry, G.J., and D.J. Lim. 2017. China’s emerging institutional statecraft: The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the prospects for counter-hegemony. Washington, D.C.: Brookings.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Jacques, M. 2016. China could offer a new globalization model at G20. Global Times, September 2. Accessed September 2, 2016.
  38. 38.
    Jiang, Z. 2001. Full text of Jiang Zemin’s speech at fortune forum. China Daily.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Jorgensen, H., and D. Strube. 2014. China, the G20 and global economic governance. Sydney: Lowy Institute for International Studies.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Kastner, S.L., M.M. Pearson, and C. Rector. 2016. Invest, hold up, or accept? China in multilateral governance. Security Studies 25 (1): 142–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Kennedy, S., ed. 2018. Global governance and China: The dragon’s learning curve. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Kennedy, S. 2018. Introduction: Learning to be insiders. In Global governance and China: The dragon’s learning curve, ed. Scott Kennedy, 1–17. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Kozul-Wright, R. and D. Poon. 2015. Development finance with Chinese characteristics. Project Syndicate, May 20.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Kupchan, C.A. 2012. No one’s world: The west, the rising rest, and the coming global turn. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Lipscy, P.Y. 2017. Renegotiating the world order: International change in international relations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Liu, J. 2017. Belt, Road new approach to improve global economy, trade. Global Times, March 27. Accessed March 27, 2017.
  47. 47.
    Ma, D. 2016. ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative important contribution to the global governance. People’s Daily Online, July 26. Accessed August 5, 2016.
  48. 48.
    Maçães, B. 2016. China’s belt and road: Destination Europe. Carnegie Europe, November 9.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Malone, D.M. 2016. G-7: Talk or meaningful action? The Japan Times, May 24. Accessed August 29, 2016.
  50. 50.
    Morse, J.C., and R.O. Keohane. 2014. Contested multilateralism. The Review of International Organizations 9 (4): 385–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    National Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China, with State Council Authorization. 2015. Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road.Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    New Development Bank. 2014. Agreement on the New Development Bank.Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    New Development Bank. 2016. Environment and social framework, V4, Revision Date: March 2016.Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    O’Brien, K.J., and L. Li. 2006. Rightful resistance in rural China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. 55.
    Olson, S. and C. Prestowitz. 2011. The evolving role of China in international institutions. Prepared for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, January.Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    Pang, Z. 2016. G20 set to become a global concert of powers. China Daily, August 24. Accessed August 25, 2016.
  57. 57.
    People’s Daily Online. 2015. Chinese equipment – globalization accelerates. April 30. Accessed April 30, 2015.
  58. 58.
    People’s Daily Online. 2015. ‘One Belt, One Road’ is nobody’s geopolitical tool: Chinese Ambassador to Britain. People’s Daily Online, May 27. Accessed May 28, 2015.
  59. 59.
    People’s Daily Online. 2015. ‘Belt and Road’ helps China’s agriculture go abroad. People’s Daily Online, June 10. Accessed June 10, 2015.
  60. 60.
    People’s Daily Online. 2015. Chinese president Xi: AIIB has made two breakthroughs on governance. People’s Daily Online, October 20. Accessed October 20, 2015.
  61. 61.
    People’s Daily Online. 2016. 10 key achievements of G20 Hangzhou summit. September 7. Accessed September 8, 2016.
  62. 62.
    People’s Daily Online. 2016. First MOU signed between China and an international organization on promoting the Belt and Road. People’s Daily Online, September 20. Accessed 27 Sept 2016.
  63. 63.
    Perlez, J. and Y. Huang. 2016. China, eager to host elite club, primps for G-20 meeting. The New York Times, August 30. Accessed August 31, 2016.
  64. 64.
    Pu, X. 2012. Socialisation as a two-way process: Emerging powers and the diffusion of international norms. The Chinese Journal of International Politics 5 (4): 341–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. 65.
    Qin, Y. 2011. Rule, rules, and relations: Towards a synthetic approach to governance. The Chinese Journal of International Politics 4: 117–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. 66.
    Qin, Y. 2014. Continuity through change: Background knowledge and China’s international strategy. The Chinese Journal of International Politics 7 (3): 285–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. 67.
    Qin, Y. 2016. A relational theory of world politics. International Studies Review 18: 33–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. 68.
    Rafferty, K. 2014. Little bang for the G20 buck. The Japan Times, November 18. Accessed November 20, 2014.
  69. 69.
    Richter, Frank-Jürgen. 2016. Mindset for action at the G20 summit will be determined by Chinese presidency. Global Times, September 5. Accessed September 8, 2015.
  70. 70.
    Rodrik, D. 2016. The false economic promise of global governance. Project Syndicate, August 11.Google Scholar
  71. 71.
    Sainsbury, T. 2016. Hangzhou G20 summit: Big on spectacle, low on substance. The Interpreter, September 6. Accessed October 2, 2016.
  72. 72.
    Schultz, Kai. 2017. Sri Lanka, struggling with debt, hands a major port to China. The New York Times, December 12. Accessed December 12, 2017.
  73. 73.
    Schweller, R.L., and X. Pu. 2011. After unipolarity: China’s visions of international order in an era of U.S. decline. International Security 36 (1): 41–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. 74.
    Shi, J. 2016. President Xi sends congratulatory message to 2016 Media Cooperation Forum on Belt and Road. People’s Daily Online, July 26. Accessed August 5, 2016.
  75. 75.
    Sixth BRICS Summit – Fortaleza Declaration. 2014. Press Information Bureau, Government of India, Prime Minister’s Office.Google Scholar
  76. 76.
    Stanford News Service. 2017. Stanford scholar examines international institutions, July 20. Accessed September 29, 2017.
  77. 77.
    Stuenkel, O. 2016. Post-Western world: How emerging powers are remaking global order. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  78. 78.
    Swaine, M.D. 2016. Chinese views on global governance since 2008–9: Not much new. China Leadership Monitor, No. 49.Google Scholar
  79. 79.
    The Economist Intelligence Unit. 2016. China’s AIIB: A surprisingly normal bank. October 28. Accessed October 31, 2016.
  80. 80.
    The Japan Times. 2015. Keeping the G-7 relevant. June 11. Accessed 31 Aug 2016.
  81. 81.
    The Wall Street Journal. 2015. Full transcript: Interview with Chinese president Xi Jinping. The Wall Street Journal, September 22.Google Scholar
  82. 82.
    Wang, Y. 2016. Mission Global Governance off to a good start. China Daily, September 7. Accessed September 9, 2016.
  83. 83.
    Wilson, J.D. 2017. The evolution of China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank: From a revisionist to status-seeking agenda. International Relations of the Asia-Pacific. September 25.Google Scholar
  84. 84.
    Xi, J. 2014. Work hand in hand for common development (March 27, 2013). In Xi Jinping: The governance of China. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press.Google Scholar
  85. 85.
    Xi, J. 2014. Jointly maintain and develop an open world economy (September 5, 2013). In Xi Jinping: The governance of China. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press.Google Scholar
  86. 86.
    Xi, J. 2015. Towards a community of common destiny and a new future for Asia, Keynote Speech by H.E. Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, At the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2015, Xinhua, March 28.Google Scholar
  87. 87.
    Xi, J. 2015. Building partnership together toward a bright future. Remarks by H.E. Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China At the Seventh BRICS Summit. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the People’s Republic of China, July 9.Google Scholar
  88. 88.
    Xi, J. 2015. Working together to forge a new partnership of win-win cooperation and create a community of shared future for mankind. Statement by H.E. Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, at the general debate of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly, September 28.Google Scholar
  89. 89.
    Xi, J. 2016. Full text of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s address at AIIB inauguration ceremony. Xinhuanet, January 16. Accessed January 29, 2017.
  90. 90.
    Xi, J. 2016. A new starting point for China’s development. A new blueprint for global growth. Keynote Speech by H.E. Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, at the Opening Ceremony of the B20 Summit, People’s Daily.Google Scholar
  91. 91.
    Xi, J. 2016. Remarks by H.E. Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, At the Closing Ceremony of the G20 Hangzhou Summit, People’s Daily, September 5.Google Scholar
  92. 92.
    Xi, J. 2017. Secure a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and strive for the great success of socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era. Delivered at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, October 18, 2017.Google Scholar
  93. 93.
    Xinhua. 2015. Xi raises three-point proposal on carrying forward Bandung spirit. Xinhuanet, April 22. Accessed October 1, 2016.
  94. 94.
    Xinhua. 2015. Xi stresses urgency to reform global governance. October 13. Accessed August 29, 2016.
  95. 95.
    Xinhua. 2015. China’s Xi advocates new int’l economic, financial rules. Xinhuanet, October 13.Google Scholar
  96. 96.
    Xinhua. 2016. G20 summit a chance to show China’s view on global development: Russian expert. China Daily, August 6. Accessed August 7, 2016.
  97. 97.
    Xinhua. 2016. China’s role in G20 summit vital to global growth: Italian expert. China Daily, August 9. Accessed 9 Aug 2016.
  98. 98.
    Xinhua. 2016. G20 summit in China a new launchpad for global economy. China Daily, August 23. Accessed 23 Aug 2016.
  99. 99.
    Xinhua. 2016. G20 summit concludes with historic consensus on world growth. People’s Daily Online, September 5. Accessed September 9, 2016.
  100. 100.
    Xinhua. 2017. B&R not to shatter world, but to fix it. People’s Daily Online, May 13. Accessed May 13, 2017.
  101. 101.
    Xinhua. 2018. AIIB approves two new applicants, expands membership to 86. People’s Daily Online, May 2. Accessed May 2, 2018.
  102. 102.
    Xinhua. 2018. China’s forex reserves continue to drop in may. China Daily, June 7. Accessed 7 June 2018.
  103. 103.
    Yang, X. and Parker, D.A. 2015. Buckling down: how Beijing is implementing its ‘One Belt, One Road’ vision. Center for Strategic & International Studies. May 7.Google Scholar
  104. 104.
    Zeng, K. and W. Liang. 2013. China and global trade governance: China’s first decade in the World Trade Organization. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  105. 105.
    Zhang, J. 2016. What’s driving China’s one belt, one road initiative? East Asia Forum, September 2.
  106. 106.
    Zhao, X. 2015. President’s initiatives spur plan for new scholarship. The State Council of the People’s Republic of China, March 25.Google Scholar
  107. 107.
    Zheng, X. 2014. Not a new Marshall Plan. China Daily, November 18. Accessed November 19, 2014.

Copyright information

© Journal of Chinese Political Science/Association of Chinese Political Studies 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Yonsei UniversityWonjuRepublic of Korea

Personalised recommendations