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Power and Responsibility

Author: Yanzhong Huang, Senior Fellow for Global Health
Winter 2013/2014
World Policy Journal

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Among the newly emerging economies, China and India are often thought of as the two undisputed candidates to overtake the United States for world leadership in the foreseeable future. The rebalancing of wealth from West to East has led to growing expectations that Beijing and New Delhi will leverage their increased influence to address global governance challenges including trade, development, climate change, and transnational health problems. Indeed, China and India are more proactive in dealing with global issues. Both are steadily moving away from being recipients of foreign aid to net donors. In health, both show they are increasingly willing to take the lead. India is challenging the global intellectual property regime and redefining affordable drugs, and China is working closely with the global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria to expand development assistance in Africa.

Still, neither Beijing nor New Delhi seems to fully appreciate that with their great power comes great responsibilities. Levels of development assistance from China and India remain low compared to traditional Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development donors. Given their tremendous domestic development challenges—used by both to justify their lagging levels of development assistance—it is unrealistic that these two countries would be able to assume the responsibilities incumbent upon a global power, especially in areas not directly tied to their core interests.

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