Present at the creation? China in the international economic order, 1944-1955

Presented by: Dr Amy King, Strategic & Defence Studies Centre, ANU

It is commonly argued that China is rising within an international economic order not of its own creation. Yet, Nationalist China played an influential role in the development of the ‘Bretton Woods’ institutions – the International Monetary Fund, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade – created in the dying days of World War II. Similarly, the People’s Republic of China played a major role in international economic talks at the 1955 Asia-Africa Conference in Bandung. While Bretton Woods set up the dominant postwar economic order, Bandung was catalytic in establishing the post-colonial critique of that order. Drawing on new Chinese archives, newspapers and periodicals, this paper examines: (1) how Chinese officials and economists understood the transition from an imperial economic order to a more intrusive, multilateral form of global economic ordering; (2) the extent to which Chinese interests and values were reflected in this new order; and (3) how global inequalities in power shaped the content and reception of Chinese economic ideas between 1944 and 1955. The paper sheds light on a critical juncture in the creation of international economic order, and the role played by a leading, non-Western state in shaping that order.

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