China Said to Seek Economic Summits for Bigger Global Voice

Updated on
  • Beijing wants high-profile gatherings with IMF, World Bank
  • Communist Party leaders want greater say in global economics

China is approaching global economic organizations including the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to establish an annual meeting that would offer the nation a stronger policy voice on the world economic stage, according to a person familiar with the talks.

The Ministry of Commerce and other agencies are leading discussions under the guidance of the State Council, China’s cabinet, according to the person, who asked not to be identified for lack of authorization to speak publicly. Officials also are approaching the World Trade Organization and the World Federation of Trade Unions, the person said. No decisions have been made.

An annual confab with Chinese leaders and the heads of major international groups would be a first, coming in the wake of increasing global focus on China’s policies and their ramifications abroad, and criticism in the past year for officials being less than clear about plans and intentions. Germany’s chancellor holds a similar gathering. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim also attend summits such as the Group of Seven and G-20.

Such gatherings would help officials shift focus to broader strategic vision and away from technical details, while giving other countries a better sense of policy in China, said Huang Wei, a Beijing-based researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a state-backed think tank that advises the government. "Spillover impact from China to the global economy is growing bigger, so there’s increasing demand from international organizations for better and more regular communication with policy makers," she said.

Profile Rises

China’s State Council Information Office and ministries of Commerce and Foreign Affairs didn’t respond to requests for comment faxed Thursday. IMF and World Bank spokespeople in Washington declined to comment. The Athens-based World Federation of Trade Unions didn’t respond to comment requests. The Geneva-based WTO declined to comment.

If the annual meetings go ahead, it would be a further step for China in raising an international economic profile that up to now hasn’t matched its heft in terms of global trade. This year, the IMF is set to anoint the yuan as an official reserve currency, and China is hosting the G-20 for the first time since it became a summit-level forum.

Chinese Dream

Communist Party leaders have sought greater influence in global governance, in part by setting up new international institutions, including the $100 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. President Xi Jinping’s "Chinese Dream" of national rejuvenation has also seen authorities champion Silk Road development initiatives to deepen ties across Eurasia and into Africa, and an expanding security presence in the South China Sea.

For Chinese policy makers advocating greater openness and liberalized markets, annual economic summits could offer a further focal point for building consensus around reforms. For the yuan to qualify for entry to the IMF’s unit of account, the government had to loosen some of its controls on information and use of the currency. A meeting of the G-20 finance chiefs in Shanghai in February served as a venue for Chinese officials to discuss their policies and offer reassurance after developments in China roiled global markets.

Turmoil erupted last year with a surprise devaluation of the yuan in August and a $5 trillion wipe-out in Chinese equities. Lagarde called for China to communicate more clearly during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January.

Discussions are progressing slowly as they involve coordination spanning multiple government ministries and foreign organizations, but top leaders believe they will be able to reach agreements they can announce by the end of this year, the person said.

China’s leadership has pledged to enhance the nation’s clout in global economic matters, according to the communique released after the party’s fifth plenum in October. Xi expressed as much in November during a BRICS meeting in Turkey, suggesting member nations should jointly help strengthen global economic governance.

— With assistance by Keith Zhai, and Yinan Zhao

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