【英语中国】中国为何甘居第二? Opinion: the giant Chinese panda tries to hide

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所属分类:双语中国

2014-5-13 06:51

小艾摘要: It’s a common trick to make yourself look bigger than you are to win a fight. Rather rarer is for one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing economies frantically and consistently to try to hide ...
Opinion: the giant Chinese panda tries to hide
It’s a common trick to make yourself look bigger than you are to win a fight. Rather rarer is for one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing economies frantically and consistently to try to hide its size. China, the 500kg panda in the global economic room, is trying an increasingly unconvincing tactic of squeezing itself into a corner and hoping no-one notices it is there.

Whether China’s GDP really is now surpassing America’s, as the International Comparison Program reported last week, is a matter for statistical debate – intense but inevitably inconclusive, given the uncertainties involved. What is clear is that China would prefer to take silver rather than gold in this particular event, an outcome for which Beijing lobbied hard during the assessment.

China has repeatedly refrained from accepting that it is a leading power in the world economy with responsibilities to match. Yet a close examination of Beijing’s actions in a variety of different arenas shows not that China wishes to punch below its weight all the way down the fight card, but that it is choosing its bouts with great precision.

China’s manoeuvre during the GDP assessment is a close repeat of events in the International Monetary Fund a few years ago, when the fund’s members revised the “quota” contributions which determine each country’s voting share on the IMF board. While joining in the general clamour for more representation for emerging markets, China nonetheless lobbied quietly and successfully for its own quota to remain fractionally below Japan’s. Accepting it was the pre-eminent economic power in Asia was clearly more conspicuity than it was prepared to countenance.

A slightly higher quota would have been largely ceremonial: it would have given China a marginally larger share of power in a board where most votes are unanimous, and it would not have removed the de facto US veto over particularly important decisions. But that, in a way, was the point. A symbolic increase in power was not sufficient reward for China to accept a larger proportion of blame when the fund is accused of imposing harsh conditions on its borrower countries.

In other international fora, too, China has steadfastly ignored efforts by others to increase its prominence. Before the elevation of the G20 as a policy forum as a result of the global financial crisis, a characteristic call of the global governance commentariat was for China to be invited to join the G8. The reality was that Beijing had already rejected numerous membership feelers put out by the existing constituents. It had no wish to be the odd emerging market out (plus Russia) and thus give the US a new and highly visible arena to expand its inexhaustible campaign of battering away at the Chinese government to allow its currency to rise.

Similarly, China resisted entreaties from Washington to play a greater role in the Doha round of trade talks, choosing instead to leave the representation of the developing world largely to Brazil and India. Having already caused great economic dislocation and aroused widespread resentment with its astonishing export performance in the real world, Beijing wisely saw no point in compounding its PR problem by throwing its increasing weight around in the negotiating room as well. China did suddenly spring into action at the fateful ministerial meeting in 2008 when the Doha round in effect died, backing the other emerging markets in their defiance of the US and EU. But the round was already on its knees and slumping towards the canvas before Beijing helped administer the knock-out punch.

It would be wrong simply to conclude that China is a self-effacing diplomatic recluse. When its own interests as an industrialising export-oriented economy are directly threatened, Beijing moves ruthlessly to advance them, particularly when it can act under the political cover of a coalition.

Even though it argued to restrain its voting weight in the IMF, for example, China fought even more ferociously to prevent the IMF publishing any official conclusion that the renminbi was “fundamentally misaligned”. The issue so alarmed the fund’s then managing director, Dominique-Strauss Kahn, that he prevented formal discussion of China’s economy in the executive board for more than three years, concerned about the dispute that might ensue.

When the G20 rose to prominence, and China was surrounded by a cadre of like-minded emerging markets (and, on this occasion, the export powerhouse of Germany), it successfully fought off a variant on the undervalued currency campaign – this time a proposal by the US for governments to set binding targets for current account surpluses.

And at the Copenhagen climate talks in 2009, China corralled other emerging markets into blocking the setting of targets for carbon emissions, including squashing opposition from small island nations who felt that the rising sea levels threatening their very extinction were probably more important than bashing the US.

China is neither an instinctive isolationist nor an instinctive multilateralist. It was, after all, an observer and supporter, if not actually a member, of the Non-Aligned Movement of countries during the Cold War which sought to maintain independence from the influence of both Moscow and Washington. Rather than relying on existing multilateral fora, it has begun to create institutions which it can dominate, such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, but they are in their early stages.

Through actions like the GDP campaign, Beijing does not seek to withdraw itself entirely from global economic policy-making. It does, however, want to be able to choose exactly when and where to engage. China optimises its risk-reward ratio by selecting issues that will have both a direct impact on its economy and in which it can gather allies. Accepting that it is the largest global economy, and thus volunteering for the title of undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, would severely circumscribe its ability to pick its fights.

The half-tonne Chinese panda cannot indefinitely manage to pretend to be asleep and escape notice. But its insistence that it is not, in fact, the largest animal in the room suggests strongly that it will be a long time before it comes out of the corner and starts running the circus.

让自己看起来比实际更高大,是为在打架中获胜而采取的一种常用伎俩。而全球规模最大、增长最快的经济体之一则一直热衷于隐藏自己的块头,这种招数无疑较为罕见。中国,这只身处全球经济房间里的体重500公斤的大熊猫,正试图将自己蜷缩进一个角落,希望这样就没有人会注意到它在那里,不过这一招正变得越来越缺乏说服力。

目前中国的国内生产总值(GDP)是否真的像国际比较计划(International Comparison Program,以下简称ICP)近期指出的那样已经超过了美国,是一个统计意义上的讨论——鉴于其中牵扯到的不确定因素,讨论虽然非常热烈,但不可避免的缺乏定论。不过有一件事是明确的,中国在这个特定事件当中,更喜欢全球第二的位置,中国政府为了得到这一结果在评估过程中展开了大力游说。

中国一直不愿接受自己已是国际经济舞台上的一支领导力量,并承担起与之相应的国际责任。但仔细考察中国政府在一系列不同竞技场上的举动可以看出,中国并不是希望在拳击比赛中一直参加低于自身量级的比赛,而是高度精准地选择自己的比赛。

中国在GDP评估项目中采用的手段与几年前在国际货币基金组织(IMF)发生的情况高度一致,当时该组织的各成员国修订了出资“配额”,这一配额决定了各国在IMF董事会中的投票权比重。中国虽然加入了要求赋予新兴经济体更多代表的普遍呼吁,但同时又悄悄地展开了游说活动,并成功地使自身配额保持在略低于日本的水平。承认自己已经成为亚洲首屈一指的经济力量,这种风头显然超出了中国准备承受的范围。

配额略微上调大体而言只有象征意义:在投票意见高度一致的IMF董事会中,这只会使中国的权力略微增大,并且不会解除美国对于极其重要决策的实际否决权。但这在某种意义上,正是关键所在。权力的象征性扩大作为回报并不足够,不足以让中国在IMF因要求借款国履行严苛的条款而受到指责时,愿意承担比例更高的责难。

在其他的国际组织中,中国同样一直坚定地无视其他国家为提升中国地位所做的努力。在20国集团(G20)因为国际金融危机而被升级为政策论坛之前,全球治理评论界的一种代表性呼声是,中国应被邀请加入八国集团(G8)。而实际情况是,中国此前已经多次拒绝过现有成员国发出的入会邀请。中国无意成为这一组织当中孤零零的新兴市场经济体代表(加上俄罗斯),并送给美国一个受到高度关注的新平台,来扩大其对中国政府没完没了的抨击运动,以促使中国允许人民币升值。

中国还拒绝了华盛顿的恳求,不愿在多哈(Doha)回合贸易谈判中扮演更重要的角色,而是选择将代表发展中国家的任务主要留给巴西和印度。鉴于中国在实体世界中的惊人出口表现已经导致了严重的经济混乱并引发了广泛的反感情绪,中国政府很明智地认为,没有必要通过在谈判室中四处炫耀自身日渐扩大的体量,来加剧自身的公共关系问题。在2008年具有决定意义的部长级会议上——此次会议标志着多哈回合谈判在事实上的死亡——中国确实突然行动起来,支持其他新兴市场经济体对抗美国和欧盟。但在北京方面帮助挥出猛力一击之前,多哈回合谈判已经双膝跪地,倒向了拳台。

如果就此简单得出中国是个不爱出风头的外交隐士的结论,那你就错了。当中国自身作为一个处于工业化进程中的出口导向型经济体的利益受到直接威胁时,中国毫不客气地主张自身利益,特别是当中国能在多国联盟的政治掩护下采取行动时。

例如,中国曾因不愿过高提升自身在IMF的投票权重而奋力争辩,但中国为阻止IMF发布任何有关人民币汇率存在“根本性偏差”的官方结论而进行的抗争则更加激烈。这一问题让时任IMF总裁的多米尼克?斯特劳斯-卡恩(Dominique Strauss-Kahn)感到如此紧张,以至于他在超过三年的时间里禁止执行董事会就中国经济问题展开正式讨论,担心由此可能引发争端。

当20国集团的影响力显著上升,中国被一群意见相近的新兴市场国家(以及德国这一出口大国)所环绕时,中国成功击退了抨击人民币币值低估运动的一个变体——这次美国提出了一个提议,要求各国政府为本国的经常账户盈余设定有约束力的目标。

在2009年的哥本哈根气候谈判中,中国拉拢了其他新兴市场国家,阻止设定碳减排目标,其中也压制了小型岛国的反对意见。对那些岛国而言,海平面上升对它们生存的威胁,比“痛打”美国紧要得多。

中国既不是天生的孤立主义国家,也不是天生的多边主义国家。毕竟,中国在冷战中曾是“不结盟运动”(Non-Aligned Movement)的观察员国和支持者,即便不是真正的成员国。该运动旨在抵制苏联和美国的影响,维持国家独立。如今,中国不再依靠现有多边论坛,而是开始创建自己能占主导地位的机构——比如亚洲基础设施投资银行(Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank)——但这类机构才刚刚起步。

北京方面在GDP规模之争中的这类做法,不是为了从全球经济政策制定中完全抽身。然而,中国的确希望有能力精确选择参与的时间和场合。中国只选择那些将对自身经济产生直接影响并且能在其中找到同盟的问题,以此优化风险/回报率。承认自己是全球最大经济体,并因此自愿接受无可争议的世界重量级冠军头衔,将会严重限制中国选择参加哪些战斗的能力。

半吨重的中国“大熊猫”不能一直装睡下去而不引起他人注意。不过,中国坚称自己并非屋内实际上块头最大的“动物”,这清楚意味着,要过很长时间之后,它才会从角落里走出来,开始掌管“马戏团”。

译者/何黎

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