The debate about whether to engage China is over — we are now about 20 years into a common-law marriage. The debate about whether China will join the international community is also over. Beijing has been signing up for multilateral forums as if they were going out of style. The great challenge for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton when she visits Beijing next week is to influence China to play a larger role in preventing global catastrophes in these areas: the economy, nuclear proliferation, climate change and pandemic disease.
China deserves high marks for acting quickly on the global economic crisis. Beijing turned on a dime from trying to cool down its economy last summer to enacting potentially potent stimulus measures over the last months. Some measures, such as a plan to invest $123 billion in universal health insurance over the next three years, could lay the foundation for a social safety net that will help establish a broad Chinese middle class, which would support the growth of the American middle class by fostering a robust market for U.S. exports. Moreover, working with the International Monetary Fund, Beijing is helping to bail out Pakistan, whose economic stability the United States is concerned about, to put it mildly.
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