Although not, in my opinion, entirely the result of the election of Donald Trump, the Chinese have pounced upon what they see as an emerging vacuum in American foreign policy. It seemed evident that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump might have promised their way right out of the TPP in order to appease rising (and totally wrong-headed) protectionist (anti-globalization) sentiment in America, leaving a “hole,” especially in Asia that China could fill.
Both the Financial Times and Foreign Affairs focus on two different but related examples of Chinese power projection in areas that have been, traditionally, the domain of the US led West.
In a report, the Financial Times examines how China is burnishing its international image by expanding its UN peacekeeping footprint. “Greater participation in peacekeeping gives more clout at the UN, where western countries often control prominent departmental posts,” the Financial Times says, and “Some Chinese strategists even believe it will help give China a voice in any eventual settlement to the conflict in Syria, where Beijing has so far stayed on the sidelines … [and] … Among the five permanent Security Council members, China is now the largest contributor to peacekeeping forces, deploying about 2,600 of the total 88,000 “blue berets”. Beijing pledged last year to raise that number to 8,000. It is in contention to head the UN’s department of peacekeeping operations, which has been dominated by France for many years, according to Foreign Policy magazine.“
“Beijing,” the FT continues, “sees the sponsoring of peacekeeping missions as “both a responsibility and a chance to lift its international image”, said Shen Dingli, head of the America studies centre at Fudan University in Shanghai. It “boosts China’s global status and is potentially helpful in antiterrorism missions outside China, so it is helpful to protect Chinese investment and people abroad” … [and] … Taking the lead could position China for a greater voice in Africa, which hosts nine of the UN’s 16 peacekeeping missions, and, some day, the Middle East. Beijing has watched in dismay as violence engulfs a region on which it relies for oil supplies.“
Beijing is, in my view, taking the long view, spreading its soft power which involves everything from language schools and peacekeeping and business development loans and martial arts movies …
… and it is moving into areas, especially in Africa and Latin America, that America, especially, has either ignored or treated with some thinly veiled disdain.
Meanwhile, Luke Patey, writing in Foreign Affairs says that “As the United States prepares to turn inward after Donald Trump’s election to the presidency, Chinese President Xi Jinping has been busy reaching out to the world in a bid to fill the global leadership gap left by Washington.“
Dr Patey reports that “In recent years, China has rolled out tens of billions of dollars in loan-for-infrastructure deals, and Xi has promised to double Chinese trade with the region to $500 billion by the end of the decade …[and] … During his visit, Xi will no doubt be keen to highlight China’s role in promoting economic development in Latin America and in championing South-South cooperation. Indeed, China has done much to revitalize the region’s stagnant economies over the past two decades. From Brazilian iron ore to Venezuelan oil, China’s hunger for natural resources drove up global commodity prices from 2003 to 2013, fueling a natural-resource boom that resulted in one of Latin America’s fastest periods of growth in decades. By 2014, the region’s trade with China was 22 times greater than it had been in 2000, dwarfing the growth of its commerce with any other country … [but] … in mid-2014, waves of new U.S. shale-oil production and China’s slowing economy sent commodity markets crashing, and Latin America’s resource-driven boom collapsed with it. As the value of oil, minerals, and soybeans plummeted on international markets, Brazil—Latin America’s largest economy and China’s primary trading partner—fell into recession, where it has remained since early 2015. Venezuela’s petrostate fared even worse. Despite having received some $60 billion in oil-backed Chinese loans over the previous decade, Venezuela’s economy utterly collapsed under the pressure of falling oil prices, and the country is now teetering on the brink of political crisis …[however] … It is not China’s fault that Latin American leaders failed to prepare their countries for the volatility of commodity markets. But the resource bust did expose a very unhealthy trade relationship. Latin American exports to China are predominantly natural resources, and while the value of commodities has dropped since 2014, the value of Chinese manufactured goods—clothing, footwear, machinery, and electronics—has not. But these Chinese goods are still entering Latin American markets at a frantic pace: the region’s balance of trade with China, still in surplus in 2005, had fallen into a deep deficit of $30 billion by 2015. With a few exceptions, most large economies in Latin America, particularly Mexico, but also Colombia and Argentina, run large trade deficits with China. As a result, competition from China has dimmed development prospects for some of Latin America’s most populous countries.“
The “output” is that China is now a dominating actor on three of the globes six inhabited continents: Asia, Africa and South America. It is Australia’s largest trading partner, ditto for India, Russia, Pakistan and Iran, amongst many others. America could not use its unsteady political and economic power to prevent key allies, like Britain, from joining the Chinese Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which will “compete” with the US dominated World Bank, and even American clients, like Canada, want to join.
This is part of a HUGE, long range, well developed Chinese global offensive that embraces both hard and soft power and aims to influence everyone, including Canada. The ultimate goal, in my opinion, is to secure China’s place as a coequal global superpower, with the USA. China wants to physically and emotionally displace the USA as THE dominant power in Asia ~ all of Asia from the Urals to New Zealand ~ and to it wants to be respected as a global superpower. It wants to be part of the G-20 and a revised G-7 or 8, but it wants the world to adapt, once again, to a bipolar world in which two superpowers agree to “keep the peace” on their own terms. The Chinese do not want a war: neither a trade war nor a hot war. They believe, I think, that they can accomplish their goal without fighting because they believe, and I agree, that their goal is not unreasonable. But, even if we agree that their offensive is “reasonable,” we must understand that it is an offensive and that means, automatically, that there is a “defence,” too. Some of the defence will collapse quietly, as the Philippines just did, while others, including the USA, might not go so quietly and it is that situation that we face some danger.