When the unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft located and latched onto the prototype space lab Tiangong-1 Thursday morning, successfully fulfilling the historic mission—the country's first space docking, President Hu Jintao arrived at the French resort of Cannes to attend the sixth G-20 Summit, Nov. 3-4.
Currently, there seems to be an interesting bit of symbolism, as heads of state and finance chiefs from the 20 leading economies want to use the two-day meeting to send a message that China, as the world's second largest economy and the largest emerging economy, would be pinned upon tremendous hope to throw the euro zone a lifeline.
The Cannes summit is, therefore, deemed as a reflection that a shift is to occur toward the Asian Century and China is to hold sway at a playground once dominated by the rich at such a time, when the latest Greek Crisis overshadows the agenda for a summit of world leaders, France and Germany clash over who should shoulder the bloc's losses and Washington disagrees with emerging powers over how to bolster the International Monetary Fund, and when many fear the world is teetering on the edge of another recession.
French President Nicolas Sakozy's overtures to China might well act as an example showing how much Europe is currently in want of the Chinese hand, when he announced late last week that he intended to call Chinese President Hu Jintao to discuss the possibility of China supporting the European Financial Stability Facility, although not a few Europeans are reluctant to turn to China and shy of showing they are weak.
But a more thought-provoking question now is seemingly not how much Europe intends to count on China's assistance, but how much of a role China wants to play.
A Xinhua report published last week suggested that there’s little appetite in Beijing for significant intervention in the ongoing frustration at European dithering over its debt crisis.
"Amid such an unprecedented crisis in Europe, China can neither take up the role as a savior to the Europeans, nor provide a "cure" for the European malaise," Xinhua argued. "Obviously, it is up to the European countries themselves to tackle their financial problems. But China can do within its capacity to help as a friend."
Nonetheless, there are still clamors suggesting the Chinese assistance would possibly come with strings attached---China could secure some diplomatic leverage on, say, arms sales restrictions and currency negotiations.
Also, some Western media failed to fully understand China's intention, assuming that the world's second largest economy would take advantage of the European crisis for its own agenda. Some even went further to drum up trade protectionism.
Actually, when saying so, they failed to understand the reality that today's economies are closely linked, and a prosperous and stable Europe is no harm to China's stability and development. The world economies will have to huddle together to survive the severe winter. China alone cannot drive the tailspin back to normalcy and balance, even if China will definitely do what it is capable of and shoulder the due responsibility as a G-20 member and an emerging world power.
If the Cannes summit will inevitably be used as an opportunity that European leaders look to China for help to tackle the ongoing crisis in the Eurozone, it showcases at least one fact that stagnant growth and huge debts have left the rich world economically dependent on emerging nations.
Thus, the meeting in sunny and luxurious Cannes is perhaps not merely something of a PR hiccup for global leaders, but yet another diplomatic tug-of-war with subtle outcomes.