chapter  5
Commercial diplomacy: preferential trade agreements and soft power projection
Pages 18

During the last decade of the previous century and the fi rst of the current one, global perceptions of China’s rise in the international system shifted, with a greater emphasis placed on China’s growing economic power along with its potential to become a greater political and military force both in the Asia-Pacifi c region and on a global scale. China’s economic strengths, despite the ongoing processes within the country of alleviating poverty and developing a reformed welfare state, have been further illustrated by their seemingly “shock-proof” nature. The post-2008 fi nancial crisis and subsequent global recession, and China’s ability to escape the worst of the economic contagion and maintain respectable high gross domestic product growth rates even during the darkest months of the meltdown, added much to the debate over Beijing’s potential status as a world economic power. The announcement in August 2010 that China had superseded Japan to become the world’s second-largest economy, after the United States ( Renmin Ribao 2010: August 2), further contributed to the speculation that Beijing remains on track to becoming a great economic as well as political power, and the main question was how the West, and especially Washington, would react to China’s rapid jump to the upper tiers of the global economic hierarchy .