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Observe developments soberly, maintain our position, face challenges calmly, hide our abilities, wait patiently, remain ambitious, never claim leadership.
Deng Xiaoping, Chinese President from 1979-97 on his country’s foreign policy strategy
Tension to the West
For many Western observers, however, it is clear that the already propagated by Deng course is only a facade. China is reviving and raising the claim to world domination. The annual military parade held on the occasion of the founding of the state was intended to demonstrate the country’s claim to power.
Although the Chinese have been fairly peaceful contemporaries in recent centuries compared to the Europeans and the US, it would be naive to believe that the Chinese will not make their claims.
I was on site on October 01, 2019 and was able to see the firearms display with 15,000 soldiers on the edge of the closed down inner city area. Also on display were the latest DF-41 intercontinental nuclear missiles and the DF-17 supersonic glider (v = mach12), which could reach the USA in no time.
Enclosed a video of the military parade in autumn 2019 for the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.
The Western media stiffened to the phrase “no power can stop China”, which Xi Jinping had expressed in his speech. What has not been mentioned, however, is that he has talked for a long time about the peaceful rise of China and about relationships based on partnership. What can one believe now?
The pictures speak in any case a less peaceful language, but are also directed to the inside. The Communist Party wants to demonstrate its power over its own people and thus legitimize their rule. Already the Chinese military strategist Sunzi, which 500 BC, recommended to impress the opponent by his own strength, so that he does not even attack.
In particular, the white house around Donald Trump sees itself increasingly threatened by the Middle Kingdom. Washington is trying to prevent the rise of China through an economic war.
The American political elite is already talking about the Thucydides trap. This term refers to a theory that the rise of a new power in the established power causes fears. This eventually leads to conflicts or even wars. The term is increasingly used to characterize relations between China and the United States.
Francis Fukuyama, professor of politics at Stanford University, is not exactly known as a Trump fan. Nevertheless, he said in a Handelsblatt interview that President Trump had initiated the end of China naivety and this is indeed a merit.
While Americans are pursuing an aggressive economic and foreign policy course, Beijing is at least officially seeking outward de-escalation. Xi Jinping finds that there are a thousand reasons to cultivate Sino-US relations and not a single one to harm them.
However, this does not prevent Beijing from asserting maritime and territorial claims in the East China Sea vis-à-vis Japan and the South China Sea against its neighboring states. The expansion of military infrastructure, which is being pursued from all sides in this region, increases the potential for conflict with the US Pacific Fleet, which in turn sees itself as the protective power of the Chinese neighbors.
The global economy has long felt the effects of the rivalry between the two states. Due to new punitive tariffs (US: 550 billion, China 185 billion), the economies hurt each other. US exports to China have fallen by 30% since the summer of 2018 and imports by 15%. Conversely, China’s exports to the US fell by almost 22% in September 2019 alone, imports plummeted by more than 15%. US exports contribute 12% to economic output, Chinese exports to the US 20%.
The Europeans are completely overwhelmed with the situation. Since the financial crisis of 2008/2009, Europe seems to be self-absorbed. Bank rescue, debt, euro and refugee crisis paralyze the already seemingly cumbersome acting European confederation.
On the one hand, the long-standing ally USA does not seem to be so much interested in working together as a partner. Americans are increasingly withdrawing from diplomatic relations and international organizations under US President Donald Trump’s America First policy and replacing them with bilateral business agreements.
On the other hand, the Chinese offer cooperation, but one does not really trust the Asians. They are accused of having a specific influence in some European countries and thus indirectly influencing decisions in Brussels in their interest. So it happens that the old continent does not seem to have a unified China strategy.
The Chinese are the laughing third. They can hardly believe their historical fortune and use the power gap to expand their influence in the world. Beijing cleverly packs its claim to power as a desire for a multipolar world order. Whether this is good or bad for the West, the future will show.
Commitment to Africa
For many African countries, however, the Chinese model has long since become an alternative to the democratic governance model of the West.
However, this is not a coincidence, but the result of a long-term Chinese Africa strategy. Already in the year 2000, the Middle Kingdom founded the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), in which representatives of 44 African countries and 17 international organizations are offered a high-level platform. The Forum is a trailblazer for many important cooperation programs and projects, including infrastructure projects and resource extraction.
I embedded a video of Xi Jinping’s opening speech at FOCAC 2018 in Beijing so you can get a picture of yourself.
The enormous energy hunger of China and the demand for rare earths for the production of electronic components lead to a high demand for raw materials from Africa.
Xi Jinping is seeking a comprehensive and cooperative partnership with Africa. The implementation of ten major cooperation plans is being pursued. These include all the essential aspects of cooperation such as industrialization, agricultural modernization, infrastructure development, financial cooperation, green development, support for trade and investment, poverty alleviation, public health, cultural and personal exchanges, and cooperation for peace and security. Sounds like a classic win-win situation.
However, many critical voices see Africa as being in a dangerous dependency. The Chinese loans are generously granted by China Development Bank and China Export and Import Bank. In Ethiopia and Kenya, China is already responsible for the largest share of foreign investment.
However, one must also ask oneself what the western development work of the last decades in Africa has had a lasting effect on. Is Chinese investment perhaps the better way for the continent? That too will only show the future.
Influence on the nuclear powers Russia, Pakistan and North Korea
Beijing already has enormous influence on world peace today. As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and even nuclear power, China has enormous international responsibility.
It maintains good relations with at least three nuclear powers, to which the West and especially the US has insufficient diplomatic access – Russia, Pakistan and North Korea.
China is the only country that can actually influence ruler Kim Yong Un. The first trip abroad led North Korea’s ruler in 2018 to Beijing. As a neighboring country of North Korea, China should have no interest in nuclear armament. In my opinion, this question is more in the hands of the United States, which in the end justifies the stationing of its troops in South Korea with the aggression of Kim Yong Un. The American soldiers, their missile defense and radar system THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) could be directed against China, deny the Americans.
Here is a video of Kim Yong Un’s first state visit to China.
The Russians also have American troops in their front yard. The stationing of the US troops including the THAAD system in Poland and the Czech Republic is in this case, however, intended to ward off threats from Iran.
However, the presence of American forces at their own borders is not the only connecting element between Russia and China. The Middle Kingdom is interested in oil, gas and electricity supplies from Russia due to its huge energy needs. In addition, Russia is the most important cooperation partner for armaments projects and partners in joint military maneuvers. The Russians, in turn, are anxious to reduce their dependency on European energy consumers. Beijing has already generously exchanged a large part of its oil imports from Saudi Arabia for the benefit of Russia.
In Pakistan, Beijing is primarily involved in energy and infrastructure development. The Sino-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is an important part of the New Silk Road. The Chinese have already invested more than $ 60 billion in the rail network, pipelines and power plants. In the east of Pakistan, a huge dam with a capacity of 750 MW was built.
National security cooperation with Pakistan is tight. In particular, the fight against fundamentalist-religiously motivated violence on the Afghan border plays an outstanding role. Since then, the number of victims of terrorist attacks has fallen by more than two-thirds. Here, of course, China has a self-interest, because in the case of ongoing conflicts, the new Silk Road project would be endangered here.
Conclusion: It remains highly exciting to observe how China’s relationship to the world community is developing and what role Beijing wants to play in it. Many countries, which feel disadvantaged in the American world order, strive for close cooperation with the Middle Kingdom.
At the same time, the US will defend its supremacy and thus inevitably create political and economic tensions.
On the one hand, Europe should not rely solely on Americans as allies in this multi-polar world order and, on the other hand, should not give naively and without strategy to the Chinese Avance.
Sources & links:
Stefan Baron, Guangyan Yin-Baron – “The Chinese – Psychogram of a World Power”
Konrad Seitz – “China – a world power returns”.
Diplomatic Magazine: Interview with Chinese Ambassador Wu Ken.
Erich Follath – “The New Great Powers”.
Handelsblatt 29./30.November – Title “China’s test”
English.China.org.cn about the Thucydides trap.
German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Germany Trade and Invest about China in Africa.