President Hu Jintao's visit to Evian in France for talks on the fringes of the G8 summit represents a considerable opportunity at a crucial moment. He makes his first foreign mission since taking office in March across a diplomatic sphere still disturbed by the recent Iraq conflict and the war on terrorism. Previous assumptions about the old order lie in tatters; even in Central Asia, a region China has been seeking to drive relations through its Shanghai Co-operation Organisation that also includes Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, US interests must now be considered. At a glance, it would appear a natural progression for China to make the most of any overture for it to become a regular member of what would become the Group of Eight plus one - a loose-knit collective of the world's largest economic powers. Not only do the post-Iraq divisions demand attention, but it seems a neat fit with China's emerging role as a key global player. With each year, China's diplomacy grows in stature and complexity. Building on its traditional policies of being friends with all but close to no one, China's views have grown in value to match its economic potential - and engagement. While respecting the old fraternal ties from a more ideological era, China has worked to build relations with regional neighbours large and small, as well as the west. It has joined the World Trade Organisation and offered unprecedented co-operation with endeavours it would have once shunned, from the war on terrorism to International Monetary Fund bail-outs and efforts to monitor democratic elections in the world's trouble spots. But as logical as G8 membership may seem, it has never been a goal of Beijing's. For years, it has derided the grouping as a rich capitalist's club - an informal talk-shop that meets to co-ordinate economic responses as international events dictate. Such suspicions represent many fears. Not long ago, it would have been inconceivable for China to join. The grouping does represent real clout and from the outside there is a lot to be suspicious of from the view of the developing world. It has always projected a quiet power, rather than the bloated pageantry of other more self-important groupings such as Apec. Certainly, China would be something of an outsider in a grouping that represents the apex of economic power. But those arguments suggest the very reasons China should actively court membership. The grouping needs a strong-minded voice from the developing world. The world has been changing so fast that China cannot afford to avoid some opportunities for top-level dialogue. Russia, for example, has not appeared out of place. China's growing stature demands membership. It is time for it to take its seat at the table.