This week China will display her military might at a parade in Beijing to mark the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic. It will be the biggest display of fighting power in modern Chinese history, including new weapons systems and 200,000 soldiers, marching in formation. The fact that even this is less than a tenth of the strength of the People’s Liberation Army underlines the scale of that power.
China’s economic power has also been in evidence during the global financial crisis. The G20, which met in Pittsburgh last week, is to become the main forum for international economic diplomacy. Its elevation over the old G8 largely reflects greater Chinese economic clout. That clout is now being used. China is speaking out on issues, such as whether the world needs a new reserve currency, on which it would previously have remained silent. Its promise of big cuts in carbon emissions stole the show at the United Nations.
China is not, however, stepping up to the plate on the thornier diplomatic issues. These include Iran, as well as its attitude to North Korea and its support for corrupt leaders in Africa, including Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. While Russia has been brought into the fold in supporting sanctions against Iran, China has not.
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