Will China Lead?

NEW YORK – China’s willingness to join negotiations on potential sanctions against Iran and to send President Hu Jintao to a nuclear security summit in Washington this month are important preliminary steps towards taking more responsibility in managing international affairs. But merely joining conversations or showing up for meetings is not enough. Given its growing profile, China must do far more to demonstrate its bona fides as a responsible global leader or risk undermining the system that has enabled its own miraculous rise.

China has emerged as a world power far more quickly than most observers – and China’s own leaders – might have predicted as little as a decade ago. China’s rapid economic growth, juxtaposed against America’s problems in Iraq and Afghanistan, monumental debt, and role in sparking the global financial crisis, have changed global power realities – and global perceptions of those realities even more. China’s current international influence likely outstrips its desire or capacity.