China and India have flourished thanks to the existing economic and geopolitical international order, yet neither nation is fully content with the status quo. David Shambaugh of the George Washington University outlined and commented on papers by Chinese experts Wang Jisi and Zhang Yunling; Frederic Grare of the Carnegie Endowment did the same for Indian analysts C. Raja Mohan and Rajiv Kumar. Carnegie’s Ashley J. Tellis moderated the discussion and offered an American perspective on the future of the international system.

  •  Whither Westphalia? Shambaugh and Grare explained that both India and China have strong commitments to state sovereignty as the fundamental principle of the global order. Both panelists commented that the two states wrestle with ongoing border and territorial disputes that sensitize them to potential violations of sovereignty. But the two countries diverge somewhat in the details, they added. While Beijing takes an absolute stance on sovereignty, objecting to intervention on any grounds, New Delhi’s dedication to individual rights prompts it to see sovereignty in more flexible terms. Indian discomfort with interventions, Grare explained, finds its roots in practicality—not principles.

  • Decades in the Making: Tellis outlined the history of the current U.S.-backed global order, tracing its origins to the liberal institutions that emerged after the Second World War to promote open markets and an end to offensive war. All three panelists credited China and India’s rise to their active participation in the existing international economic and governance system. Shambaugh argued, however, that China does not always contribute to the existing system commensurate with its significant wealth and influence. 

  • The Balance and Power: Beijing and New Delhi acknowledge that they have benefited tremendously from this order, Shambaugh and Grare explained, but they are nonetheless dissatisfied with what they perceive as its dominance by the West at the expense of the developing world. But as Tellis pointed out, whether or not China and India truly support a more democratic global governance regime often depends on the realities of power politics. China, for instance, claims to support a more representative United Nations, but balks at the idea of a permanent Security Council seat for India.