The US still has not learned that China does not move in a linear, predictable, pattern. As the US and its allies gain geopolitical ground in the Pacific and power balancing shapes a semi-circle in China’s East, China projects its influence out West. Critics may call it reverse imperialism.
This is not just a “backdoor” strategy where China is scavenging around for whatever it can, which was the thinking for a time. In the ancient Chinese game of “Go” (Chinese: weiqi, “encircle [the] piece”) the idea is to surround your opponent’s pieces where possible and maximise territorial gain indirectly.
Beijing’s adaptable fallback strategy is second nature to senior political and military leaders. They plan to trade the Pacific theatre for Western US territories – at least until such time as the US can be weakened in the Pacific and confused in many of the other regions it is critically invested into presently.
Specifically, China seeks out territorial advantages and strategic vulnerabilities of its greatest rivals. They have exponentially increased penetration deeper into the West, both as a natural course and as an overarching strategy.
In total, China is projecting soft national power through Central Asia, Europe, Africa and Latin America; maximising all political-economic methods, replacing US strongholds in political dealings; creating new commercial partnerships with their own bilateral global power swaps and newly formed influential bases of operation.
What should be expected, anticipated and circumvented by US planners, appears to pass by as ignored, lagging or remaining largely unconscionable. The battle for the Pacific has stalled for now, so this offers in-theatre commanders the feeling of a victory – but it is at best a strategic illusion as temporary gains by China are taking place elsewhere.
China really went on the offensive in 2010, where it purchased for the first time, more from the US than the US from China. The huge trade imbalance has allowed them this advantage. Nevertheless, China’s efforts to expand off its Eastern shores were denied by Washington’s “pivot” to Asia. The US increased naval and military personnel to PACOM (Pacific Command) last summer and continue to ally and arm the surrounding states.
Phase two is pushing the Transpacific Partnership (TPP). China argues that the US intentionally isolates them with high entry barriers. The prospect is an exclusive Pacific free trade area on top of an already exclusive security bloc against China.
Out of necessity, China must either expand or die. This was the case before the US planned its redeployment of 60 percent of its navy to Asia. US interference in one area and absence in another is certainly a factor to be played by China.
Beijing requires the same basic things to operate as other growing states: resources. Without them it cannot sell, profit, grow; the people riot, the CCP falls apart. It needs to expand at a pace equal or above the threshold of political-economic collapse. It has set this level of growth at 7.5 percent and appears to be holding it steady for the moment. This is really a race of survival for the CCP. During this race, the superior US challenger and allies must not be directly confronted.
US takes Pacific, China stealthily takes Europe
To expand, they need to infiltrate and influence. To acquire entrance and influence, they must make an offering to others in order to solicit and forge better partnerships. After influence is secured, they expand their projective power-base. This upsets the US, throws them off balance, erodes their target goals, and stealthily captures their territories or partnerships of value.
While China infiltrates further into the West it has established beachheads not just through corporations and corporate takeovers but through diaspora communities and the establishment of whole cities.
Just recently, Bloomberg reported that China plans to build an entire city in Belarus for the price of $5 billion (USD). The author, Aliaksandr Kudrytski, noted that the Belarusian President laid out an area next to the capital that is over 40 percent larger than Manhattan that would give them the manufacturing capacity in a European country that they have desired for a long time, as well as a strategically sound march into Eastern Europe.
In 2011, Europe was the number one target of Chinese investment. Beijing is also the EU’s second most valuable trading partner, after the US. The EU trade deficit with China was something close to 200 billion Euros. This means that the EU is paying China 200 billion more Euros in cash to China every year for their imports than China is paying them, according to Eurostat.
Unlike Washington, the EU is not as close to Chinese investment of its larger infrastructure; especially during the financial crisis in the Eurozone, clumsy recovery, and staggering unemployment levels. But there is much grumbling.
Former Premier Wen Jiabao said: “China is the EU’s trusted friend” in 2012, highlighting the fact. But this “friendship” could all change if Beijing becomes too entrenched there or if they overstay their welcome.
The two civilisations have little in common culturally, politically or strategically. The partnership is unfortunately based on mutual need and not a mutual understanding or respect. China needs an outlet for growth and wants eventually more influence into European affairs. Europe needs money.
China’s insistence of a “mutual respect” means that it expects to dodge European human rights intrusions and liberal reforms so rampant in the 1990s from European advocates with something akin to bribery of silence from the financially wounded player.
Nor is China playing by European rules. In the Wall Street Journal: “European executives and officials say the Chinese government retaliates against companies that bring trade complaints, either by imposing tariffs on their imports or taking action against their investments in China.”
Michael Schuman, of Time Business, says “China’s SOEs are potentially poised to alter the rules of global economic competition.”
It is not the strict amount of China’s purchases into its West that are of concern, but rather it is the overall objectives: technology acquisition, key sector investments, political bargaining, etc. Among other problems, such as censorship of European journalists and restrictions of European charitable organisations working in China, there is also a clear lack of transparency in Chinese business practices. Hence, the “mutual respect” that is being solicited is a one-sided advantage in Beijing’s fortuitous international political future.
Wen Jiabao met with 16 Central and Eastern European countries last April. Of note is that these are all former Communist countries. Of particular interest is the Chinese pursuit of Poland. “Chinese companies are being urged to invest more in Poland,” states People’s Daily Online. Warsaw is a critical access point into the West and such a move is a factor of pressures in the West and vulnerabilities within it.
In eight months, Vice Foreign Minister Song Tao travelled to Europe ten times just last year. He said as of October 2012: “China-EU trade has quadrupled, and we have also maintained close consultation on climate change and other global issues.”
And that is not all: “We contributed $43 billion to the IMF, and provided assistance to Europe through purchasing European treasury bonds and increasing imports,” said Vice Minister Tao of that same year.
Mr. Tao is not shy in calling Sino-European relations a “strategic-partnership” while the Sino-American relations remain that of “strategic competitors.”
In article in the East Asia Forum, Hinrich Voss and Jeremy Clegg argue that Chinese investment in Europe is overall a good thing. And this is true within the context of economic benefits to a struggling Europe, but it is not necessarily the case if one considers the growing political impact of Chinese willpower on Europe in the long term or the battle for hegemony scenario of a world faced with China versus the US.
What about the US interest at stake in the EU or the long-term or the larger ramifications and intentions of China penetrating Europe? What is the threshold of purchases and power?
Thus, what is good for China and the EU is unsurprisingly not be as good for the US and the EU partnership. In this case, the “Asia Pivot” strategy is in many ways a last attempt to secure economic interests and security in the Pacific, but at the cost of China flooding into Europe.
US partners with Abe, China partners with Africa
Beyond the Pacific, Africa is a lesser point of China-Western contention, but African adventures between the two are getting closer. It may be that the two powers will avoid head-on collision in Africa altogether: America’s strategy of dilatory ignorance against China’s strategy of patient subterfuge.
Africa is visited by a growing number of Chinatowns. President Xi Jinping has already made an historic opening salvo in visiting African states of interest. Such visits themselves should be considered areas beyond basic resource extraction.
South African-China relations are on the rise and hence China’s access and influence in the African Union are expected to rise. Xi offers Africa more than just exploitation – Beijing must show that it is competing with traditional Western approaches. The acts of charity, promising pledges of up to 10 percent ($20 billion) of its annual trade, now over $200 billion are in no way innovative, but it does offer a more benign way forward.
To be sure, there are still many problems, but this copy-cat approach to gain access and influence in developing countries may eventually transition to lucrative value if China earns a more popular image than the US or Europe among those populations. Further humanitarian assistance and military aid may also not be too far off. China’s recent decision to send 500-600 troops to the high risk UN mission in Mali is a case in point.
Ultimately, the Beijing faces many of the same hurdles entering developing countries as other modern nation states, in terms of scandals, neglect and abuses. Oil and natural gas extraction is the main most critical need here, but infrastructure projects like railroads, hydro-electric dams, airports, and manufacturing are also important Chinese projects throughout the continent. Further, they provide an outlet for China’s staggering unemployment capital.
The African challenge has been well placed on the radar by Western analysts and strategists as a potential political battleground region for resources between the US and China. The East-West race in Africa is intensified further as China’s Eastern Seas become highly restrictive to their sole extraction of critical energy demands.
US in Taiwan, South Korea and Japan; China in Cuba, Venezuela and Panama
China is the new dance in Latin America. According to China Daily, it is China’s second largest “overseas investment destination.”
In 1997 Panama granted a subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. a 25 year concession to operate the canal’s Atlantic and Pacific entrances at Balboa and Cristobal, according to a Forbes article in 1999 titled, “Panama, the Canal, and China.”
Why would the Chinese do this? Gaining access to strategic points is primarily undergone for political, economic and security reasons. The Hong Kong based company Hutchinson Whampoa is a key asset in China’s political economy arsenal with ties to the Chinese government and the People’s Liberation Army.
But there is another reason why the Chinese are interested in this subtle but aggressive move at the dawning of the 21st century. The US, especially at that time, was heavily involved in arming Taiwan. As the US has effective control of China’s East, it makes sense that China would venture out and influence, disrupt or interfere with America’s to the West.
“While the US gets into China’s backyard, China does the same to the US,” Ding Gang, a senior editor with the People’s Daily wrote in the Global Times.
“Red Panama,” as it was coined by those concerned under the Clinton Administration, is not the only Chinese strategic port operation. The company Hutchinson Whampoa is involved with some 52 ports and the Nile River is a new key destination to secure their energy interests and Eurasian bridge.
Chris Zambelis, of the Jamestown Foundation, follows this link: “Beijing has pursued a series of agreements that enhance China’s direct access over Egyptian port facilities along the Suez Canal through Hong Kong’s Hutchison Whampoa…”
As the US docks on the shores near the Taiwan Straits and the Malacca Straits, China grabs the docks and ports of Panama and Egypt.
There are other similarities in regional checks. Just as the US uses Taiwan and South Korea, so China reverses this as Cuba becomes America’s Taiwan and Mexico becomes America’s South Korea. Really, they are ironically similar situations but China is far less ostentatious and also lacking the position of power that the US yields at this time.
In Brazil, China overtook the US as their number one trading partner in 2010, at $56 billion worth of trade, according to BBC.
Reuters reports that China will invest $2 billion in the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB). About $500 million will be devoted to governments and the rest to private sector industries related to development projects. This is no doubt to counter their tarred image as a neo-imperialist that mine their lands and takes over their companies, contributing little or nothing to the impoverished classes.
But as China becomes less a manufacturer of commodities and more an importer, Latin America becomes more than just minerals, oil and natural gas. China, believe it or not, increasingly needs food and clothing.
More worrisome are the oil for arms deals in Venezuela or Brazil. China’s former President Hu Jintao travelled to Cuba in 2004 and 2008.
President Xi Jinping not only had an African tour, but will soon have an American one as well. He is fixed to visit Mexico and the Caribbean this next week before a stop in California.
Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Kunsheng mentioned that China is Mexico’s second-largest trading partner and Mexico is China’s second-largest trading partner South of the US. When Zhang says, “China has the possibility of trying to create a different pattern of relations,” he means that they will increasingly penetrate America’s once “off-limits” Southwestern hemisphere and forge stronger relations there.
Again, as in Europe, China’s introduction of money into Latin America is a good thing as far as Latin American growth is concerned, but for the US geopolitical influence, it is a further loss of control.Author: Brett Daniel Shehadey Source: EurasiaNews – West Contains China’s East, China Moves West – Analysis Related articles:
- While Belarus borrows, China makes money (chinadailymail.com)
- West Contains China’s East, China Moves West – Analysis (albanytribune.com)
- China, Switzerland sign MoU on concluding FTA talks (chinadailymail.com)
China’s Economic Empire (nytimes.com)
- European companies complain about China’s regulatory discrimination (chinadailymail.com)
- When the dragon comes calling (thehindu.com)
- European companies complain about Chinese regulatory dicrimination (chinadailymail.com)
- China Builds EU Beachhead With $5 Billion City in Belarus Forest (bloomberg.com)
- News Analysis: Chinese premier’s Germany tour to enhance bilateral partnership, China-EU ties (news.xinhuanet.com)
- EU slaps levies on Chinese solar panel imports (miamiherald.com)
Categories: Politics & Law