Anil Ambani was in ebullient mood last October when he arrived at a luxury hotel in Shanghai to sign one of the biggest business deals of the year. The Indian billionaire's Reliance Power had just agreed to purchase $10bn of power generation equipment from the state-owned Shanghai Electric.
"It is the largest order in the history of the power sector," proclaimed Mr Ambani, "and the largest single business relationship between India and China."
The size of the deal was not its only notable aspect. Shanghai Electric was offering its equipment at about 30-40 per cent below the cost of an equivalent turbine from General Electric of the US. With the generous financing deal offered by China Development Bank and a group of other Chinese banks, the discount was in fact closer to 60 per cent.
Welcome to a new era of globalisation, China-style. As the financial crisis recedes, one of the big fears is that the process of increasingly closer links among big economies worldwide will go into reverse as governments and countries look inward. The message coming from the world's second-largest economy for the past year has been clear: China wants to accelerate the integration of the global economy, but on its own terms.
Over the past few decades, China has benefited hugely by hitching itself to a process of globalisation where the rules were written in Washington and the American consumer was the buyer of last resort. China prospered by making first the socks, then the washing machines and finally the iPods sold at Walmart.Please respect FT.com's ts&cs and copyright policy which allow you to: share links; copy content for personal use; & redistribute limited extracts. Email email@example.com to buy additional rights or use this link to reference the article - http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/b852a826-2272-11e0-b6a2-00144feab49a.html#ixzz1BMgZp1XP
Coming out of the crisis, China wants to forge a new phase of globalisation where many of the roads - financial, commercial and perhaps eventually political - converge on Beijing. China is not seeking a rupture with the international economic system (although some foreign companies are fearful of a technology grab). But it is looking to mould more of the rules, institutions and economic relationships that are at the core of the global economy. It is trying to forge post-American globalisation.
In recent years, a range of important countries have found that China rather than the US is their principal trading partner, from neighbouring Japan and South Korea to commodity-rich Australia and Brazil. At times over the past year, Chinese imports of oil from Saudi Arabia have exceeded Riyadh's shipments to the US.
With the help of its considerable financial firepower, China is deepening these links. Beijing is establishing trade relationships that allow it to sell not just clothing and consumer products but more sophisticated goods such as power equipment. Its banks are helping to expand infrastructure and energy supplies in other developing countries in ways that will accelerate their growth, boost two-way trade and bind them closer to the Chinese economy. Beijing is also looking to establish a role for its currency in the international monetary system, in part at the expense of the dollar.
"China will boost its role at the centre of a growing web of economic and financial connections. These links are gradually, but inexorably, integrating east Asia," says Evan Feigenbaum, head of the Asia practice at Eurasia, a consultancy. "China will continue to seek to reshape the region's trade and investment architecture, largely on a pan-Asian basis and without the US." It is not just Asia: Africa, Latin America and the Middle East are all being touched by China's global push.
Central to a great deal of this activity is China Development Bank, which has become the financial muscle in the country's overseas drive. In the energy sector alone, CDB has awarded loans to other developing country governments or companies of more than $65bn in the past two years, according to Erica Downs at the Brookings Institution in the US. Including China's EximBank, Beijing has made more than $110bn in long-term loans to developing countries over that period, a number that exceeds the World Bank's lending