The giant emerging economies of Asia and Latin America could stake a historic claim to global economic power if they arrive at the G20 summit in Cannes with offers of aid for hobbled Europe.
Last week's eurozone rescue deal struck depends heavily on the response of especially China but also Russia, Brazil, India and South Africa -- the so-called "BRICS" -- for contributions to a EU rescue mechanism.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy called Chinese President Hu Jintao just as the deal was set Thursday, and a day later the head of the Emergency Financial Stability Facility, Klaus Regling, was in Beijing for talks.
"If the Chinese, who have 60 percent of global reserves, decide to invest in the euro instead of the dollar, why refuse?" Sarkozy said.
Regling was in China to discuss raising hundreds of billions of euros for the EFSF, though he downplayed what he insisted was a regular visit.
Asian countries already hold 40 percent of EFSF debt, in testament to the BRICS' huge reserve stockpiles.
China holds a whopping $3.2 trillion in foreign reserves. The other four, together, have about $1.1 trillion.
How the deal would take shape remains unclear. European leaders want to boost the financing strength of the EFSF to 1.0 trillion euros ($1.4 trillion), from the current 250 billion euros.
Media reports said China was being asked for 100 billion euros.
That could mean raising more money directly for the EFSF, which could then be leveraged, or setting up a parallel special vehicle for money from the BRICS, Japan and others, for instance Middle East oil states.
The money would then be used to support the eurozone's weakest economies and stabilize markets for their debt, protecting the potential next victims of debt contagion like Spain and Italy.
Early proposals suggested the International Monetary Fund would manage and direct any additional funds from the BRICS, with the global crisis lender acknowledging its own funds for such a huge task were limited.
Instead, there is talk the IMF would oversee the operation through the EFSF, as potential lenders fear they could end up like the banks which were last week compelled to write off half the face value of their Greek bonds.
Details could be worked out at the Group of 20 meeting November 3 and 4, where implementation of the new eurozone plan will likely be the main topic.
But the simple fact of the Europeans asking for help from China, a country they once carved up into colonial outposts, marks an epochal shift of power.
If other BRICS come into the deal -- and Russia, Brazil and South Africa have signaled their interest -- it would only make the shift more momentous.
The five have already made a push for more say in the IMF, long dominated by the United States, Europe and Japan.
That has been answered by a measured plan to slowly increase their financial contributions and voting stakes. But with the US, European and Japanese economies all in difficulty, the BRICS' time could come sooner than thought.
"The limit that the IMF faces in the future is financing, and funding has to come from those capital-surplus countries," said Bessma Momani, an IMF specialist at Canada's University of Waterloo.
"The IMF will need to do some serious reform and allow a shift of power from the European countries, that are still over-represented by any measure, to emerging-market economies."
The move would confirm the success of years of strong growth rooted in the economic liberalization promoted by the West and the IMF.
It is a complete turnaround for some. In 2007 Brazil finished repaying what at the time was the largest-ever IMF loan, $26 billion granted in 2002.
And Russia, which defaulted on its debt in 1998, repaid all its IMF obligations in 2005.
Daniel Bradlow, a law professor at American University in Washington, called it "a first in modern history" that developing countries would be directly bailing out their advanced counterparts.
"Formally they don't get anything" in return, Bradlow told AFP.
"Informally I suspect there must be discussions about what the quid pro quo would be," he said, such as possibly a greater role in running the IMF.