Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, joked on Monday about donning “dream binoculars” and seeing the possibility of relocating the group’s headquarters to China.
“We might not be sitting in Washington D.C.,” Ms. Lagarde said at a Center for Global Development event here in which she envisioned what the I.M.F. might look like in 2027.
Ms. Lagarde may joke, but her comments reflect a concern that world leaders have about the changing role of the United States in global organizations. The articles of the organization say the headquarters should be the country of the member with the largest economy.
When the United States, Britain and other global powers met in Bretton Woods in 1944 near the end of World War II to stabilize the world’s economies, the United States’ overwhelming economic power was reflected in the decision to base both the I.M.F. and the World Bank in its capital. It is a decision that is sometimes questioned given the growth of economieslike India and China.
Beijing has signaled its eagerness to play a greater role in the global economy with the rise of Chinese-backed regional institutions, such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a rival to the World Bank.
And since President Trump gained the White House on an anti-globalization platform, pledging to withdraw from the Paris climate changeagreement and rewrite longstanding trade agreements, world leaders, including Ms. Lagarde, have closely observed the changing global role of the United States.
Speaking to a packed audience in the capital, Ms. Lagarde did play down the impact of the United States pursuing an agenda that diverged from that of the I.M.F.
“The world is changing, that is No. 1,” Ms. Lagarde said, pointing out that emerging and low-income countries now contribute around 60 percent of total GDP and 80 percent of global growth.