Will China flex its muscles?

In response to Zoellick’s “I’m leaving” announcement, China reminded the US of its growing power and desire to use it. Foreign ministry spokesman, Liu Weimin, said pointedly: “China hopes that the next president of the World Bank will be selected based on the principle of merit in an open and fair competition”.
They said this last year during the scandal-ridden IMF selection process, of course, and in the end backed the European candidate. But to be fair, they had very little time to build the pan-developing country alliance that would be necessary to take on the old powers. And we shouldn’t forget that China got a number two position at the Fund in return.
The current World Bank economist, Chinese national, Justin Lin’s been gently prodding at  the Bank’s ideological biases, but his position provides a platform; there’s little real power behind it. And with the three number two positions (confusingly called ‘Managing Directors’) all fairly recently appointed, there doesn’t seem to be much that the US could try to offer the Chinese to buy their support. Except of course by backing the “open and fair competition” they called for…

4 thoughts on “Will China flex its muscles?

  1. Maybe the Chinese are aiming for some of the open posts in the UN. Or maybe they are playing the long game?

    All expectations are that Obama himself will make the choice on the US side. Would love to know who in China will be the decision maker. What’s the chance vice premier Xi Jinping raised the topic with the US administration last week?

  2. China always plays the long game, and got #2 at the IMF last year as part of the deal to approve Christine Lagarde as the IMF’s Managing Director. Recall that the US signalled its support for her only after China had. This perhaps hints at a tripartite agreement last June to maintain the status quo: the IMF and World Bank executive heads remain with Europe and the United States this time around, in return for China getting a strong role at the Fund now. China will not back a candidate at the IMF who will not win, and if the US puts up a good candidate by March 23, after a credible process–that need not be public, but might be discussed with key Board allies–an American will be chosen. Fortunately, there is no shortage of well-qualified US candidates, from public and private life.

    • Yes China liikes to play the long game – but how will they do it? Without a clear, open #2 post to take at the Bank (maybe a US nominee will create one??), that would leave China waiting years for their payback. Obama and his cronies may be out by the end of the year.

      The Americans and Europeans had enough trust for the gentleman’s agreement to last 68 (and counting) years. But might be harder for the Chinese to play the long game with the Americans over the Bank presidency. The Chinese have a very good system of ensuring party continuity, that doesnt work in the US. Using game theory, succesive rounds of playing prisoners’ dilemna teaches the prisoners to collude. But how can you collude if the US administration may change 1 or 2 times between each round of the game?

  3. Pingback: What are the odds? And where are the Chinese? | World Bank President

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