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Is China still “rising” or has it already “risen”?

Question submitted by Lauren Billi, from New York University, February 21, 2013

Answered by: Elizabeth C. Economy, C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies


Both are accurate. China certainly "has risen" to become a global economic power: in only three decades, it has transformed itself into the world's second largest economy, largest exporter, and largest provider of loans to the developing world. At the same time, China is rising: its economic and political system, as well as its foreign policy, is still developing. To state categorically that China "has risen" is to accept that the China of today will be substantially the same as the China of five to ten years from now, and few people in or outside China would accept such a conclusion.

A China that "is rising" also provides more leeway for cooperation with the international community to work on elements critical to China's development. Over the course of the past few decades, China has sought international input on such issues as environmental standards, trade norms, and the development of its health-care system. Critical areas for such cooperation today include cyber and maritime security and food and product safety. When China more actively seeks to establish international norms—rather than to use international norms to help shape its own system—and when China assumes leadership on resolving global concerns, such as climate change, North Korea, and Iran, it is probably safe to say China no longer "is rising" but "has risen."