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The G7 and China in the Management of the International Financial System

Professor John Kirton
Department of Political Science
Centre for International Studies
University of Toronto

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For several years, scholars, practitioners and analysts in "think tanks" have conducted an ever more vigorous debate about China's proper relationship with the G7 and now G8 club of major industrial democracies, as this forum increasingly emerges as an effective centre of global governance for the international financial system of the 21st century. During its quarter century in operation thus far, the G7/8 system has substantially transformed its relationship with China, moving during the 1990's from its initial Tienanmen engendered focus on China as an adversary and object of collective G7 admonition to the current emphasis on China as a supportive player and potential associate of the G7/8 in managing the many economic and political challenges a rapidly globalizing, post European Cold war system have brought. This progression has hastened recently with the responsible and helpful role China played, in its own interest, in supporting the G7's efforts to combat the Asian-turned-global financial crisis of 1997-9 and to construct a new international financial architecture more appropriate to the conditions of the twenty first century. This new role for China has led to its inclusion in recently created forums such as the G22 and G20, with the G7 at the core, to manage and modernize the international financial system. Its approach to these bodies and the issues at the centre of their agenda, together with the assets and vulnerabilities China brings, suggest that it is time to develop options for further associating China with the G8 itself, as the July 2000 Okinawa summit approaches.

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