Is the China Strategy working? I would like to start recording an article where I talk about the Chinese capitalist dictatorship disguised as “red”, reflections that were published in an Italian news outlet, a Web magazine where geopolitics, health, security, cybersecurity and economics are discussed. The great advantage is that it can be consulted in different languages…
China’s economy is slowing and unsteady. Its political system is becoming more fragile, and the CCP is growing less tolerant of dissent. Abroad, international opposition to Beijing’s aggression is growing.
America cannot sit back and wait for the CCP to stumble. A weakening China could be less predictable and its leaders more prone to lash out. The US must work with its allies to strengthen its position and guard against an increasingly vulnerable China.
The celebration of the XX Congress of the Communist Party of China has eclipsed, even if it was momentary, the existing overexposure on the conflict in Ukraine. And it is not for less, given the increasing role that the Asian giant is having in the international sphere.
Today, according to data from the World Bank, China has an annual growth of 8% of its GDP per capita compared to 5.5% in the United States. In addition, Beijing is increasingly influential globally, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic, and is one of the world’s leading technology hubs, as well as the third (and even second) global military power.
The United States has not stood idly by in the face of China’s growing influence. Since before the Obama Administration, the White House has focused its efforts on minimizing the growth of Beijing’s influence in the Pacific and consolidating the role of the United States as guarantor of freedom worldwide.
The strategy called “Rebalancing with Asia-Pacific” has ended in a bloody trade war between the two powers that continues to increase the existing tension, with constant shows of force on both sides. It has also given the start of a new arms and technological race that is already beginning to be seen as the background to a potential conflict in the Pacific.
One of Beijing’s greatest successes was the signing in 2020 of the RCEP, a free trade agreement for the South Pacific that encompasses 15 countries in the region. Among them are Australia, Japan, New Zealand or South Korea, which represent almost a third of GDP and world trade.
Faced with the clear Chinese expansionism in the region, the United States has redesigned its strategy in which it has invested huge amounts of money in the countries of the area with the aim of bringing them closer to its cause. In addition, it has also signed agreements such as the AUKUS, a strategic military alliance between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The current situation is, therefore, decisive for the coming years. However, before going into more detail, it is necessary to be clear about the context in which this dispute arises and the situation of the opponents.
After the end of World War II, the United States emerged as the world’s leading power. Thus began an expansionist phase that was only threatened by the Soviet Union, which was fighting to seize his position. Although the Cold War confronted these powers, the competition between the two took place mainly on dry land. With the defeat of the Japanese Empire at the end of the war, the Pacific Ocean was left in the hands of the Americans who closed the main guarantors of the security of the countries of the region, such as Australia, Korea, the Philippines or Japan.
The fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s and the end of the Cold War brought an exceptionality in history in that the surprising situation arose in which the hegemonic superpower did not have a clear rival to threaten its position. It is here where some authors began to defend the controversial theory of the End of History. They argued that the cyclical duality of world hegemony and pretenders to power had ended up leaving the United States as the hegemonic world superpower without opposition.
It is in this context that the “Rise of the Dragon” occurs. Since its opening in the 1970s to the international market, China began to attract foreign investment in abundance, seeing enormous benefits in a heavily industrialized country with very cheap labor compared to other more developed countries.
For years, Chinese industry specialized in the mass production of all kinds of low-cost consumer goods. Meanwhile, they invested the money earned in financing the training of their brightest minds in the best learning centers in the world and in buying and exactly replicating the latest Western technology.
This reverse engineering strategy laid the foundations of the Chinese technology industry, a cornerstone of the country’s development. It is from the Obama Administration that the United States begins to see the intentions of the Dragon and rotates for the first time in almost 300 years the focus of its attention to Southeast Asia. From here on, US efforts will focus on trying to hinder Chinese growth by all means.
This inter-power rivalry is poised to grow as Beijing cemented its influence in Southeast Asia, trying to oust the Americans from a region they have controlled since the end of World War II and which the Chinese now regard as within its sphere of influence.
China has traditionally been a continental power with little maritime presence. If we go to the maps, we can see how the expansion capacity of the Asian giant is very limited by its geographical position. In the Yellow Sea, on the north coast of the country, we can appreciate the shape of a gigantic bay formed by the Korean peninsula and the Shadong peninsula. Further south, in the East China Sea, Chinese activity is constrained to the east by Japan and to the south by the island of Taiwan. Both countries, like South Korea, allies of the United States.
If we go further south, in the South China Sea, we find the Philippines, also a traditional ally of the United States along with Malaysia and Indonesia and other countries that see Chinese expansionist aspirations as a threat to their territorial integrity. It is this situation that has led China to invest large amounts of money in the development of a naval fleet that allows the country to operate on the world’s main trade routes located in the South Sea
In this sense, tensions with the countries of the region have only increased, especially with the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand and, mainly, Taiwan. These countries view with concerned eyes how the Chinese army does not stop increasing its presence and power in the region. Especially worrisome is for Taiwan
In this sense, tensions with the countries of the region have only increased, especially with the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand and, mainly, Taiwan. These countries view with concerned eyes how the Chinese army does not stop increasing its presence and power in the region. Especially worrisome is for Taiwan.
We must also remember that the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, mentioned in his speech at the XX Congress of the Chinese Communist Party the intention to “continue with the process of unification with the island peacefully, but without ruling out the use of force and all the measures that were necessary”; In addition, during his speech, he also accused “foreign forces” of tensing the situation, which has set off all the alarms.
In the same way, the rise of the Dragon goes further, we simply must have on the radar that last year Argentina a Latin American country of great strategic importance, was enters China’s Silk Road, Challenging US Monroe Doctrine.
The president of Argentina, Alberto Fernández, finalized on January 28 2022, an agreement with the IMF on the restructuring of its debt for 44,500 million dollars and days later, the Argentine president obtained investments for 23,000 million dollars in his agreement with Xi Jinping for his incorporation into the Silk Road.
For this reason, it is important to emphasize that Argentina has been a non-NATO ally of the US for almost a quarter of a century. Hence, the reckless visit of Alberto Fernández in 2022 to Russia and China stands out too much, which materialized a transcendental Eurasian axis against the US and NATO in Eastern Europe and, in particular, in Ukraine, where the incorporation of Argentina into the Route of China Silk its very important.
In Russia, the Argentine president thanked Vladimir Putin for supplying the famous Russian Sputnik V vaccine and assured that his country will be a “gateway” for Russia in Latin America “in a more determined way.” Alberto Fernández stated that “Argentina is experiencing a very special situation, as a result of its indebtedness” and that “the Argentine economy depends a lot on the debt it has with the US, with the International Monetary Fund, and the influence that the US has in the IMF”.
The Argentine president went so far as to ask the Russian president to revive the 2008 strategic association with Russia, which was elevated in 2015 to the rank of comprehensive strategic association by then-president Cristina Fernández y Putin through technology transfer and Russian investment in the industry railway and energy sector.
Later, in an unusual way, Alberto Fernández traveled with Vladimir Putin to the Winter Olympics.
Already in Beijing, one day after having attended the official inauguration, Argentina officially joined the Silk Road of China on February 6, 2022.
The succulent Chinese investments, in addition to cooperation in hydroelectric plants and railways, will cover 10 areas where green development, the digital economy, space, the BeiDou navigation satellite system, technological innovation and agriculture stand out.
The BeiDou system and the technological innovation that call into question the alleged US veto on the adoption of Chinese 5G by Argentina are powerfully striking, which would mean, if not a defeat, at least a challenge to the US technological hegemony in Argentina, in particular, and in Latin America, in general, since Washington does not practice technology transfer with its Latin American trading partners, unlike China and Russia.
The expansive penetration of China in Latin America and somewhat in Central America is also going very fast and from the geoeconomic point of view, the Monroe Docrine is being eroded by China and Russia, also opting to develop their military collaboration with Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
That is why it is interesting to reflect on the historic 9-day odyssey of President Alberto Fernández; from the signing of the agreement with the IMF on January 28, 2022, through his visit to the Kremlin on February 3, 2022, until February 6, 2022 in Beijing, the date of its incorporation into the Silk Road and in his first official act of return to Buenos Aires the tension between Ukraine and Russia explodes into an armed conflict, putting the multipolar diplomacy of the South American country in trouble.
And as if the above were not enough, the unofficial spokesman for the Chinese Communist Party declares that “China firmly supports Argentina’s legitimate claim to its sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands”, which is now occupied by the United Kingdom and which it calls the Falklands.
A strong message to the United Kingdom, especially when the dispute in Asia is Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as the participation of the United Kingdom in the axis of AUKUS (Australia, United Kingdom and USA).
The situation is not for less. Since the island’s official separation from the mainland at the end of the Chinese Civil War, Taiwan has been the stronghold of the self-styled “Republic of China,” a place where opposition to the Beijing regime is mainly concentrated. In this sense, Taiwan currently has limited recognition as a state, as the People’s Republic of China (or mainland China) progressively maneuvered to undermine its legitimacy throughout the 20th century.
Thus, the only thing that separates the island from definitive adherence to the People’s Republic is precisely the US presence in the region, which supports the opposition stronghold both economically and militarily. One of Taiwan’s main weapons to guarantee its survival is the production of products such as semiconductors or the famous microchips.
Today, semiconductors are the core of cutting-edge technology and one of the world’s most valuable resources. In this sense, Taiwan is the world’s leading producer of this valuable technology, which allows it to maintain US protection while making Beijing look at the island with even more covetous eyes.
China’s attitude is not limited to the military sphere. Being faithful to its way of seeing the world, the main Chinese effort continues to be the investment of huge amounts of money abroad that allow it to expand and gain influence.
With these strategies, China has dealt significant blows to the United States, the most recent being that it has been able to strengthen its relations with the Philippines, one of the United States’ traditional allies in the region, through large investments and trade agreements. But, as I already mentioned, if there is something that exemplifies the “peaceful rise” of China, it is the ambitious project of the New Silk Road, through this project it is also cementing solid relations between some Latin American and European countries and the superpower asian.
However, according to some analysts, this influence strategy could change in the coming months and years. As an example of this, it would be to pay attention to Xi Jinping’s speech during the XX Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, the star word was “Security” above “Economy”.
Regarding the most recent actions of the United States, this October 2022, the Biden Administration published its new National Security Strategy where it recognizes China as “the only competitor with both the intention and the economic, diplomatic, military and technological capacity to reshape the international order.
The Biden Administration has also continued to tighten the siege on Chinese companies, especially in the technological field, limiting their access to US technology and applying sanctions of all kinds. In addition, US fleets are counting on a large deployment in Southeast Asia as a deterrent to an increasingly emboldened China.
In this way, the United States makes it clear that it has no intention of giving up its influence in the region. Curiously, the conflict in Ukraine is seen by some as a breath of fresh air for the United States, which has been able to recover much of the lost ground and in this way, for some analysts, reaffirms itself as the leader of the world (especially vis-à-vis the West) and guarantor of international security, while at the same time enriching itself from the sale of fossil resources and weapons to Europe.
Likewise, it seems that the US strategy continues to focus especially on keeping the Pacific States as far as possible from Chinese influence. A clear example of this is the Aukus Agreement, an alliance designed to contain Chinese expansion. Also the approaches that Trump especially with India with the aim of encouraging rivalry with Beijing in the continental region.
The historic re-election of Xi Jinping as General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party with seemingly non-existent internal opposition in the State Council makes him one of the most powerful figures in recent Chinese history. Also, as a fact, Forbes Magazine considers him the most powerful man in the world.
While reunification with Taiwan remains on the Chinese leader’s agenda, domestic economic challenges and continued US pressure in the region continue to consume major Chinese efforts. If the war in Ukraine has shown anything, it is that nothing is predictable in International Relations. The current data seems to indicate that China continues, despite being mild, a phase of growth and development that can last a few years before it feels sufficiently prepared to challenge the international order.
In this sense, the situation in the South Pacific seems, right now, difficult to escalate into a true armed conflict. Rather, it seems that China will continue its strategy of investing in developing countries and strengthening the New Silk Road, its most ambitious project. This October we have seen the acquisition of 25% of the port of Hamburg by the Chinese state company Cosco. This does not mean that, in the event of aggression or feeling seriously threatened, China cannot respond forcefully and effectively in the regions bordering its coasts, although it is true that the domain of the deep waters continues to be the United States.
We are at a historic moment where not only the position of the superpowers in the world ranking is at stake, but also the very configuration of the international system. The next decades will define the future not only of China or the United States but of the entire globe.
International and geopolitical analysts should carefully follow the signals that will be left if China manages to impose itself in its region with influence and unseat the United States as conductor of the international orchestra or if, on the contrary, it becomes just another aspirant becoming part of the of the legend of the End of History.
Tensions over Taiwan have been mounting for several reasons. First and foremost is the fact that the Chinese Communist Party has effectively eliminated its own hopes for “peaceful unification” with Taiwan. China’s campaign of repression in Hong Kong undercut the prospect that a “one country, two systems” model would appeal to those living in Taiwan. Polls now show that fewer than 10% of Taiwan’s residents want to be part of the People’s Republic of China.
As a result, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s desire to gain control of Taiwan is increasingly reliant on the threat of force.
For all these reasons, it appears that 2023 will be a difficult year in U.S.-China relations — perhaps the most difficult in decades. This is not to suggest that a great power war is likely in this year. But the risk is rising, and leaders in Washington, Taipei, and Beijing will have to work hard in 2023 to avoid the type of serious crisis that the world faced 60 years ago.
In such a way that I leave to finish the Nine recommendations to the presidential candidates on the policy of China published in the American Enterprise Institute written by Dan Blumenthal, Zack Cooper, Tijeras Derek.