China and the IMF: from mimicry towards pragmatic international institutional pluralism

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Abstract

The International Monetary Fund was the international financial institution that was most alien to the Chinese government when it embarked upon its economic reforms at the end of the 1970s, because financial markets were neglected in China's centralized plan. Therefore, China's increasing cooperation with the IMF illuminates the extent to which China has changed through ‘socialization’ into the norms of global governance more generally. The article examines the evolution of China's involvement with the IMF and argues that in many respects it has embraced those norms. Even though its political economy still substantially diverges from western prescriptions, many features are compatible with the (original) ‘Washington Consensus’. But China remains wary of becoming too dependent on possible IMF assistance; it tries to preserve its freedom of manoeuvre. Although the IMF has attempted to acknowledge China's growing global importance by increasing its voting rights, this has failed to keep pace with change in the global economy. China is thus attracted by the possibility of additional ways of pragmatically increasing its leverage over global decisions, for instance through regional financial cooperation in Asia.

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