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Take Chinese Ideas Seriously

Washington may not welcome the conversation, but it’s better to engage and note the practical difficulties and drawbacks as opposed to dismissing it out of hand.

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When China chooses to float a proposal that could benefit the world community, whatever else its motives, U.S. officials at all levels should welcome the effort and attempt to shape its content, not ignore or reject it. The U.S. government needn’t agree with specifics, but serious proposals should be treated seriously, even if they don’t follow the Washington script of timing, interagency vetting, or substance. For example, the idea China raised of a global reserve currency is gaining traction in many developing nations.

Washington may not welcome the conversation, but it’s better to engage and note the practical difficulties and drawbacks as opposed to dismissing it out of hand. Similarly, Washington ought to engage and shape the debate about a treaty controlling weapons in space. On climate, when the Chinese called a high-level conference in 2008 on technology transfer, chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao, “the world was slow to pay attention to their plans,” says Deborah Seligsohn of the World Resources Institute.

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