Two American academics, writing in Newsweek, ponder the significance of the Chinese president’s recent appearance at the world economic forum in Davos. Flynt Leverett and Robert Sprinkle point to China’s resolve on climate change as a symptom of its interest in global moral leadership.

They suggest that China may become 'less a challenger to an established order, and more a champion of a common cause' and that the United States will risk being regarded as aloof and unreliable and following the election of Trump, 'even politically unstable'. Likewise, they point out, Beijing is asserting greater leadership in other areas once led by Washington. With the demise of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Washington negotiated with 11 Asian countries excluding China, Beijing is promoting its own Pacific trade-and-investment framework excluding the United States.

'Even more grandly', they write, 'Xi is articulating an alternative vision for global economic growth. The model focuses on physical investment, especially in transportation and IT infrastructure. In this, it is linked to the new Silk Road project, through which China is expanding linkages across Eurasia by integrating railways, ports and information networks into transnational corridors'.

Ceding global moral authority to China, say the authors, would be 'a high price for America to pay for the pleasures of political posturing. Yet a China leading by example would have a greater stake in its own reputation, and the greater that stake becomes the more engaged China becomes. Such a China, we believe, could profoundly benefit the world'.

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