The World

China to U.S.: Who’s a “Responsible Stakeholder” Now?

US President Barack Obama (R) and Chinese President Xi Jinping chat as they take a walk at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California, on June 8, 2013. 

Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

A recent editorial from China’s state-sponsored news agency Xinhua suggests that the ongoing stalemate in Washington and the impending debt ceiling deadline make this “perhaps a good time for the befuddled world to start considering building a de-Americanized world.”

Interestingly, the piece draws a parallel that probably wouldn’t occur to most Americans, between U.S. foreign and national security policy–threatening to bomb Syria and “doing things that are as audacious as torturing prisoners of war, slaying civilians in drone attacks, and spying on world leaders”—and and the potential global disruptions caused by America’s fiscal crisis.

Here’s what the editors see as the necessary steps needed for building this post-American world:

For starters, all nations need to hew to the basic principles of the international law, including respect for sovereignty, and keeping hands off domestic affairs of others. Furthermore, the authority of the United Nations in handling global hotspot issues has to be recognized. That means no one has the right to wage any form of military action against others without a UN mandate.

Apart from that, the world’s financial system also has to embrace some substantial reforms. The developing and emerging market economies need to have more say in major international financial institutions including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, so that they could better reflect the transformations of the global economic and political landscape.

What may also be included as a key part of an effective reform is the introduction of a new international reserve currency that is to be created to replace the dominant U.S. dollar, so that the international community could permanently stay away from the spillover of the intensifying domestic political turmoil in the United States.

There’s plenty of reason to be cynical about the Chinese government’s sovereignty fetish, but the editorial should probably be seen as a bit of schadenfreude after years of U.S. officials criticizing China over its human rights and economic policies, urging it to be a “responsible stakeholder” in the global economic and political system.

In 2011, for instance, President Obama addressed Chinese leaders directly at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Hawaii:  

[China’s leaders must] understand that their role is different now than it might have been 20 years ago or 30 years ago when, if they were breaking some rules, it didn’t really matter, it didn’t have a significant impact. Now they have grown up. They are going to have to help manage this process in a responsible way.”

Xinhua turns this advice around, writing, “Of course, the purpose of promoting these changes is not to completely toss the United States aside, which is also impossible. Rather, it is to encourage Washington to play a much more constructive role in addressing global affairs.”

In other words: Hey buddy, who’s the “irresponsible” one now?