BEIJING -- Enhanced transnationalism in international systems is creating new sources of comparative advantage for nations, with the strategic value of connectedness being a particularly noteworthy example. But in an age where horizontal global network connections are proliferating, the world's fastest-rising power, China, maintains a rigidly vertical, Communist Party-led hierarchy of information. This exceptionalism, increasingly apparent throughout China's domestic and foreign policy, is emerging as one of the most fundamental obstacles to the country's continued international rise.
Chinese exceptionalism in formal foreign and economic policy is by no means a new phenomenon, but China, to a greater degree than any other major economic power, has resisted informal convergences of international systems. China's integration into the socio-cultural components of the global market, such as the World Wide Web and other emerging transnational social networks, is limited, and this disconnectedness is becoming more pronounced as the country continues its rapid economic rise.
This is not to deny the substantial internationalization of the Chinese economy since 1978 or the rapid emergence of new constellations of foreign relations, such as Chinese engagement with Africa and Latin America. But China is struggling to engage fully in the global exchange of ideas, and aloofness in a host of emerging transnational systems and communities is a critical feature of this dynamic.