The primary policy line of the People’s Republic of China, above all at sea level, is to defend its strategic and military interests, but anyway without undermining the trade routes and economic relations between China and its neighbouring countries.
Just think about the Spratly issue, but also about the Chinese position on the ownership and nationality of the Senkaku Islands, as well as about the pressure made on China by India in 2017 to block the road that China had planned and designed on the border with Bhutan.
From this viewpoint, China’s tensions in its neighbouring countries have immediately affected Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam.
We should also recall, however, the naval confrontation with the United States in May 2009, especially with the USNS Impeccable and Victorious, for the right to operate in the 200 nautical miles off the Chinese Special Economic Zones.
The United States does not like at all China’s protection of its regional seas, but it will be hard to change China’s mechanism of full protection of its coasts, which partly inhibits the use of old and traditional checkpoints, from Malacca to the Paracel and Ryuku Islands – all areas in which the United States could impose a blockade on the trade and military flows of China’s vessels.
This is still the first goal of China’s regional naval security.
This is one of the primary strategic features of the Belt and Road Initiative, i.e. to get out of the Eastern maritime region and, hence, credibly offset the inevitable imbalance of the Chinese strategic formula on its regional seas with a significant geo-economic presence on Central Asia’s Heartland.
As well as to provide China with a possibility of military (but also geo-economic) countermove capable of blocking the opponent on the sea or, alone, on its land borders.
Therefore the aim pursued by China is its full security and absolute freedom of manoeuvre, within the “first circle” of peripheral islands, but with the possibility of projecting a significant interdiction power beyond this limit.
One of the essential strategic meanings of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative is that, at geo-financial and economic levels, the Chinese leaders are well aware that the global financial crises – the past ones, but also those looming large – make the Chinese economy too vulnerable to global flows.
This is even more severe if you have planned a neo-mercantilist and export-oriented economic development, as the Chinese leaders have done since Deng Xiaoping’s Four Modernizations.
At that time there was no other alternative option.
We also need to consider the tensions in Tibet and Xinjiang, which have also a geo-economic significance.
It should be recalled that in 2000 the Chinese government launched a “Great Development Program for Western Regions” to finally establish a close connection between the land areas of Xinjiang and the Tibet region – which is essential for China’s nuclear defence and intelligence -and the coastal areas’ economic development.
This is also a very useful logical pathway to understand the Belt and Road Initiative well.
Also at military level, which – in the Chinese logic – is closely linked to political decision-making, so far all the 2008 and 2009 “White Papers” of the Chinese Armed Forces have always emphasized the rule of the “three functions and a role”.
It is a rational and operational criterion, which envisages that the Armed Forces should: a) provide the strength to enhance the Party’s leading role, which has always been the first aim of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA); b) provide support to take advantage of this period of great strategic opportunities for China; c) also provide support for the defence of China’s national interests; and, finally, d) play an important role in maintaining world peace and promoting global economic development.
These are not empty words. These are programs.
Reading between the lines, it is said that – beyond the regional seas and networks outside its borders – China will operate in such a way as not to create definitive tensions with its competitors or allies.
Therefore what we need to know is that currently the CPC has the urgent need to define a stable economic development for China.
Thirty years ago the CPC leaders argued – and history has proved them right – that the war between the superpowers would never occur, in line with Mao Zedong’s thinking, whereby imperialism “was a paper tiger”.
A regional, Soviet, Euro-American and partly Middle East paper tiger, in which no one had any interest in firing the first shot.
At the time, however, China was already thinking about Asia, Africa, the “Third World” devoid of “capitalists” or Soviet “revisionists”, left as breeding ground for a new growing great power, which had not been ruined by the crazy Cold War, namely China.
Now – and this is also implicit in the Belt and Road Initiative – the current Chinese leaders obviously think that additional 30 or 40 years of peace and development are needed to enable China to really become a stable and great power.
Hence in terms of current strategic doctrine, so far China has adapted to fight what the Chinese strategists call “a war and a half”. This means that it can and must successfully wage a major war on its own borders, in addition to effectively resisting attacks carried out around other Chinese borders.
We also need to consider the stable Indian garrison of 60,000soldiers in Southern Tibet, in addition to the very recent Quad 2.0 alliance between the United States, India, Japan and Australia, established precisely to counter the Belt and Road Initiative.
In this case, we have the whole range of potentialities and contrasts facing the Belt and Road Initiative.
Obviously it should also be recalled that at least 22% of Japan’s and Australia’s foreign trade currently depends on China. Hence it is very unlikely that regional and military tension will turn into a real clash.
In its future strategic planning, however, China is preparing to resist an Indian land invasion from the South-East and to simultaneously lead a victorious regional naval confrontation, especially in Taiwan’s peripheral area or in the South China Sea.
Certainly present-day China is simultaneously carrying out the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), with the ten ASEAN countries and the six ones with which ASEAN has further free trade treaties, as well as with the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area. The United States, however, has already created its anti-BRI commercial and economic network with the US-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA), and then with the probable reformulation of a proposal from the old Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) or with the new Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Hence, while the United States is rebuilding its geo-economic centre of gravity in Asia – that it considers to be of primary military and commercial interest – obviously China has turned to Africa, where currently the United States is not particularly engaged.
A Zen game of void and full, where everyone represents both characteristics.
At political and technological levels, the United States is causing severe trouble to China, particularly with the recent creation of a special agency called Review of Controls for Certain Emergent Technologies, an office for “dual use” control regarding biotechnologies, Artificial Intelligence, advanced navigation and positioning systems, data analysis and above all big data, robotics and biotechnology.
This is, in fact, the broader scene of the clash on Huawei and 5G which, as we can imagine, is much more important than the simple organization of an evolved Internet network.
For example, in the 2018 US Cyber Strategy it is argued that the USA must “win two cyber wars simultaneously”, which are clearly wars against the Russian Federation and, above all, against China.
Hence, should the United States led by President Trump fail to fully win their current trade war with China, it could use the cyber leverage to redress the global balance of power, with a clear support action taken by the other NATO countries – an action which is necessary from the political and military viewpoints.
One will be used in the absence of the other – the greater the Chinese commercial presence in the leading sectors, the greater the tendency and likelihood of a cyber war against China.
And the other way round.
There is more, however, in relation to the clash between the United States and China and, hence, in relation to the necessary and logical shift of China to a closer bond with the EU, its individual Member States and the rest of the world.
For example, The National Defense Authorization Act of 2019, published on August 13, 2018, focuses on the operations of the Chinese ZTE corporation, while the US government is prohibited from purchasing all Huawei’s materials – as is now well-known – but also the products of Dahua, which deals with video surveillance, as well as the products of Hytera, which manufactures advanced radio systems and, finally, of Hikvision, the current largest producer of video surveillance systems in the world.
As has long been happening, in all the US government official documents China is also seen as a dangerous competitor of almost equal rank and power.
Is it a realistic project? The answer is both yes and no. At technological level, probably in the future. At financial and commercial levels, not yet.
Nevertheless the matter here is tuer dans l’oeuf, namely to nip in the bud.
It should also be recalled that, again in August 2018, US President Trump announced 25% additional tariffs and duties on 50 billion US imports/year from China and later 10% additional tariffs and duties on other 200 billion Chinese goods exported to the United States. Last September further duties on Chinese exports to the USA were announced to the tune of additional 267 billion dollars.
Last autumn, at the UN General Assembly, the United States made public the “alleged” China’s influence operations against the Republican Party (only?) in the midterm elections while, at the same time, Terry Branstad – the US ambassador to China since 2017, a “friend of President Xi” and former Governor of Iowa twice – published an article condemning China’s “influence operations” in Iowa.
The United States has also put great pressure on El Salvador to avoid it breaking with Taiwan. Later, however, the United States exerted further very strong pressures on the IMF, with a view to stopping funds for Pakistan that would partly be used to repay old Chinese loans to the country.
Also President Trump’s move to withdraw from the INF Treaty – which apparently concerns, above all, the Russian Federation – anyway puts also China under military pressure.
Nevertheless, there is the stick and also the carrot for the future US friends in Asia: last August, in fact, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo proposed a package of financial aid for Asia to the tune of 300 million dollars, to which other 133 million dollars would be added, albeit only for specific support to private companies operating in the region.
The BUILD Act has created a new US government agency, namely the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, with as many as 60 billion dollars of US funds already available abroad, above all to Asia – a very evident response to the Belt and Road Initiative.
Hence what will the United States do in the future, considering that the bilateral clash with China is now seen as structural?
Surely, the battle over duties will continue and it is now possible that, in only two other moves, all Chinese imports to the USA will be heavily and selectively taxed.
In any case, the United States will try to hit the companies that are most active in the Chinese project known as Made in China 2025.
The current Chinese leaders’ project is modelled on the German one, known as Industry 4.0, and is already focused on the general technological upgrade of Chinese public and private companies, with the predetermined increase of components and spare parts manufactured nationally from 40% in 2020 to 70% in 2025.
There is also the construction of centres for productive innovation – that is already at an advanced stage – which will be 15 in 2020 and 40 in 2025. There will also be a change and a significant strengthening of internal intellectual property rights.
Innovation will be mainly focused on: 1) a new information technology; 2) robotics and the automated production of consumer goods and capital equipment; 3) aerospace and aeronautics; 4) hi-tech shipping; 5) railways; 6) vehicles with new energy and motion systems; 7) energy; 8) agricultural technologies; 9) new materials; 10) biopharma and advanced biomedical technologies.
In the official Chinese documents, there is no mention of “autonomous innovation “in all these sectors – as was the case in previous projects as from 2006 – and it is not here just a matter of innovation, but of entire production processes.
Autonomous innovation is internal activity and here the Chinese government makes us understand that there is a global research and experimentation activity open to collaborations with the EU, Japan and Korea.
Hence, where possible, the United States will hit exactly in these sectors, by avoiding – to any possible extent – any kind of technology transfer or, in any case, any transfer ofad hoc scientific information.
Furthermore, in the future, the United States will have the opportunity of convincing both Japan and the EU to implement practices against China featuring sanctions and open trade restriction, not only at technological level. Certainly Italy will harshly experience this kind of operations, whether they are known or not to our intelligence Services.
How will China respond to these practices? Probably with a hard and close dialogue, although with some significant concessions to the United States.
Furthermore, in the framework of China’s technological upgrade program, its leaders will have the chance to increase the non-State sphere in China’s production system. Finally China will look for new foreign markets. This is the first CPC’s response.
Most likely, the Chinese leaders will also avoid the additional burden of public debt on companies and, above all, they will largely limit the growth of real estate speculation.
In all likelihood, China will spend a lot of money on productive investment – as already envisaged in its 2025 Plan – and will look for new external markets, above all (but not only) with the Belt and Road Initiative.
It should be recalled that currently the BRI countries account for 27.3% of the total Chinese foreign trade with the United States alone.
Moreover, China will soon develop excellent regional free trade agreements, such as with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the enlarged ASEAN.
Furthermore, nothing forbids to reach a great agreement with India.
In the future, however, China’s trade interest will be, above all, in Japan and South Korea.
Meanwhile, the United States can carefully assess the military and commercial cost of an all-out economic war against China, which will certainly not be irrelevant.
This is context in which we can see the weak and tired interests of the European Union, which does not know its destiny and hence will not have one. The same applies to Italy which could use the potential of the Road and Belt Initiative, but will not be in a position to do so and, above all, will have no way out of the US strategic, military and financial pressure.
Assad’s visit to China: Breaking diplomatic isolation and rebuilding Syria
The visit of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to China to participate in the opening of the Asian Games came as a serious step to try to break the diplomatic isolation from Syria. Syrian President “Bashar Al-Assad” was keen to meet his counterpart Xi Jinping in the city of Hangzhou in eastern China, where the Asian Games are being held, as this was the Syrian president’s first visit to China since 2004. According to the Syrian regime’s Al-Watan newspaper, Al-Assad will attend the launch ceremony of the (nineteenth edition) of the Asian Games, which will open on September 23, in the Chinese city of Hangzhou. This visit to Bashar al-Assad reflects the great coordination between Moscow and Beijing, as it is likely that the Russians pushed for this visit at this precise time. Perhaps, through his visit to China, Bashar al-Assad is trying to deliver a specific message about the start of “international legitimization” of his regime. Syria’s accession to the Belt and Road Initiative in January 2022 is an indication of the possibility of implementing vital Chinese projects, especially since it is located between Iraq and Turkey, making it a vital corridor for land routes towards Europe.
Bashar Al-Assad’s visit to China also comes in an attempt to attract it to reconstruction projects in the affected areas in Syria, as China has the ability to complete reconstruction infrastructure in residential and civilian areas with exceptional speed. This is the same as what the Chinese ambassador to Syria “Shi Hongwei” announced in August 2023, that “Chinese companies are actively involved in reconstruction projects in Syria”. The war in Syria led to massive destruction of infrastructure and the destruction of many vital sectors of the Syrian economy, including oil, while the Syrian government is subject to harsh international sanctions. We find that the Chinese side has shown great interest in the reconstruction projects in Surba, such as the presence of more than a thousand Chinese companies to participate in (the first trade exhibition on Syrian reconstruction projects in Beijing), while they pledged investments estimated at two billion dollars.
China played an active role through diplomatic movements in Syria, as it participated in the “Astana” process, and obstructed Security Council resolutions related to Syria, to confirm its position in support of Damascus, using its veto power more than once in the Security Council, against resolutions considered to be a blow to Assad’s “legitimacy”. In September 2017, the Syrian regime classified China, along with Russia and Iran, as “friendly governments” that would give priority to reconstruction projects. Therefore, Al-Assad affirmed during his meeting with Chinese President “Xi Jinping” that: “this visit is important in terms of its timing and circumstances, as a multipolar world is being formed today that will restore balance and stability to the world, and it is the duty of all of us to seize this moment for the sake of a bright and promising future”.
According to my analysis, China follows the policy of “breaking diplomatic isolation on presidents and countries against which America is angry”, so the visit of “Bashar al-Assad” comes within a series of visits that China witnessed during the current year in 2023, to presidents who are isolated internationally by the United States of America, such as: Venezuelan President “Nicolas Maduro”, the Iranian President ”Ibrahim Raisi”, and the Belarusian “Alexander Lukashenko”.
China is also keen to conduct interviews in its newspapers and official websites affiliated with the ruling Communist Party with many presidents and officials of countries isolated internationally and diplomatically by the United States of America and the West, such as the Chinese keenness to conduct and publish an interview with Syrian Foreign Minister “Faisal Mekdad” on September 21, 2023, and the Chinese reviewed his statements, saying that “the United States of America has plundered oil, natural gas, and other resources from Syria, causing losses worth $115 billion”. The Chinese newspaper “Global Times”, which is close to the ruling Communist Party, also focused on the United States’ greater role in the deterioration of “Syria from stability to chaos” . The Chinese newspaper compared this to China’s policy, which constantly calls for peaceful dialogue and opposes “foreign interference” .
Through his visit to China, Syrian President “Bashar Al-Assad” is trying to lay the foundations for joint cooperation between China and Syria within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, with full Chinese support for Syria’s accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a dialogue partner. China has always affirmed its firm support for Syria’s efforts against foreign interference, with the Chinese rejection of the stationing of illegal forces on Syrian territory. China is also making great efforts with many countries to lift sanctions and the illegal economic blockade on the Syrian people, in addition to Chinese support for building Syrian capabilities in the field of combating terrorism. Knowing that despite its alliance with President “Bashar Al-Assad”, China did not participate in supporting him militarily, but it used the right of criticism to obstruct the passage of resolutions against him in the Security Council.
We can reach an important conclusion that Bashar Al-Assad’s visit to China has a greater political track, and that Beijing is trying to play a greater role in the issue of resolving conflicts or to have a greater actual role in negotiations related to sensitive issues in the region. The implications of Assad’s visit to China are also politically significant, as China is trying to play a greater political role in the region, as China has been trying since the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war and the emergence of a vacuum in the Middle East as a result of the decline of Russian influence due to its preoccupation with the war, so Beijing is trying to expand in the Middle East and Africa.
China’s Inclusive Diplomacy for Global Cooperation
President Xi Jinping’s address at the recently held 2023 CIFTIS resonates as a powerful call for inclusive development and cooperation in the services trade sector. China’s commitment to expanding market access, increasing connectivity, and aligning policies with global standards demonstrates its commitment to ensuring a level playing field for all nations.
This commitment extends across different sectors, including telecommunications, tourism, law, vocational examinations, and the larger services sector. President Xi’s address emphasized China’s intention to expand broader, broaden market access, and support inclusive development in the services trade sector. His sentiments resonate with the global world as China seeks to create new prospects for openness, cooperation, and economic equality.
Over the last few decades, the services trade landscape has changed drastically, becoming an essential component of international business. However, this expansion has not been uniform, with developing countries frequently encountering difficulties such as limited market access, complex rules, and capacity limits that prevent them from fully participating in international services trade.
Notably, China is committed to promoting inclusive growth in the services trade sector. It assured of taking continuing steps to accelerate Chinese modernization through high-quality development, to open up new avenues for openness and collaboration for all countries.
Through openness, cooperation, innovation, and shared services, China emphasized the need for inclusive growth and connectivity. Recognizing that a rising tide in services trade should raise all boats, particularly those from nations with limited resources, China has launched a series of ground-breaking initiatives. Additionally, China is actively expanding its network of high-standard free trade areas, participating in negotiations on the negative list for trade in services and investment.
China is setting an example by aligning its policies with international standards. President Xi highlighted in his speech that national integrated demonstration zones for increased openness in the services sector, suitable pilot free trade zones, and free trade ports will be at the forefront of aligning policies with high-standard international economic and trade regulations. These zones demonstrate China’s commitment to fostering an atmosphere conducive to international cooperation and growth.
Real-world examples vividly demonstrate the practical impact of China’s assistance to developing countries in the services trade. China’s investments in transport infrastructure, such as the Standard Gauge Railway, have considerably facilitated the flow of goods and people in Kenya, boosting the services sector indirectly.
Pakistan’s experience with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is similar, with improved physical connectivity catalyzing the expansion of digital services and e-commerce. Various infrastructure developments in Indonesia have resulted in spectacular advances, opening up new potential for services trade.
Ethiopia, too, has reaped the benefits of China’s commitment, with active participation in industrial parks reviving the services sector, which includes logistics, banking, and education. These real-life success stories highlight China’s critical role in facilitating the expansion and development of services trade in developing countries.
China’s commitment to capacity building and technical aid is critical in its support for developing countries in the services trade. China provides these countries with the knowledge and skills they need to participate effectively in the services trade by offering specialized programs. Furthermore, China’s significant investments in infrastructure projects such as ports, logistical hubs, and telecommunications networks play an important role in facilitating the smooth flow of services.
Furthermore, China’s commitment to reducing entry barriers and optimizing regulations indicates the country’s persistent commitment to creating an equitable environment. This approach not only promotes equitable possibilities but also simplifies market access, making it easier for developing countries to export their services to China’s enormous and dynamic market.
Furthermore, China gives significant financial support in the form of loans and grants for service trade-related initiatives, recognizing the financial problems that many developing countries confront. This financial assistance enables nations to overcome economic challenges and invest in the expansion and improvement of their service sectors, thereby encouraging economic equality and cooperation.
As the world continues to evolve, services trade will play an increasingly important role in global economic growth, and China’s leadership in this realm is helping to shape a future where opportunities are shared, disparities are reduced, and cooperation knows no bounds. It is a vision worthy of appreciation and support since it is consistent with the ideals of justice and equality, moving the globe closer to a more linked and wealthy global community.
China’s Multilateral Engagement and Constructive Role in the G20
The recent G20 Summit in India has once again taken center stage, attracting global attention as it gathered together leaders and delegates from the world’s 20 most powerful economies. This high-profile event was significant in shaping international relations and addressing serious global concerns due to its broad presence and crucial talks. This high-stakes gathering occurs at a pivotal juncture, marked by escalating divisions among major powers on a multitude of pressing global issues, including the Russia-Ukraine conflict, global economic recovery, food security, and climate change.
The recent inclusion of the African Union (AU) as a permanent member within the G20 serves as a positive signal, signifying consensus among major economies. However, lurking concerns persist about the formidable challenges involved in achieving unity and issuing a joint declaration in the midst of these complex global dynamics.
Chinese Premier Li Qiang’s opening remarks at the 18th G20 Summit in New Delhi resonate as he underscores the paramount importance of unity and collaboration among G20 member nations. He emphasizes the critical need for effective coordination of macroeconomic policies to restore hope and generate momentum for long-term economic growth.
Premier Li eloquently highlights the interconnectedness of humanity’s destiny and calls upon nations to demonstrate mutual respect, seek common ground while momentarily setting aside differences, and work tirelessly towards peaceful coexistence. In a world characterized by profound crises and shared hardships, he aptly observes that no nation can thrive in isolation. Therefore, the only plausible pathways for guiding humanity forward are those rooted in cooperation and harmony.
The G20, originally established to navigate global financial crises and forge collective strategies for addressing economic challenges while fostering global economic development, has, regrettably, experienced a decline in consensus and a rise in differences among major powers. This shift has been particularly evident since the onset of the Ukraine crisis and the United States’ strategy of containment against China. Consequently, the G20 is increasingly devolving into a forum marked by discord, rather than the once-productive and constructive multilateral mechanism it was intended to be.
Nevertheless, the G20 retains its significance as a pivotal forum for international collaboration in confronting global challenges. With the increasing contributions of developing nations like China, India, and African countries, the voices within the G20 have diversified, no longer solely dominated by Western perspectives. As a response, the United States seeks to regain control of the multilateral process to further its agenda of great power competition. However, this approach is unlikely to be warmly received by the broader international community.
China remains steadfast in its commitment to deepen reforms and open up further to foster high-quality development and its unique brand of modernization. China views itself as a catalyst for additional momentum in global economic recovery and sustainable development. China stands ready to collaborate with all stakeholders to contribute to the well-being of our shared Earth, our common home, and the future of humanity. Despite Western media’s attempts to sensationalize China’s stance and magnify perceived differences, China continues to play a constructive role within the G20, dedicated to its multilateral mission.
To ensure that the G20 remains a platform focused on global governance rather than being overshadowed by geopolitical conflicts, China remains determined to fulfill its constructive role within the group, regardless of attempts by Western powers to politicize the mechanism. China’s efforts have expanded the G20 to include the African Union, effectively transforming it into the “G21.” China was the first nation to endorse African Union membership in the G20 and advocates for the African Union to assume an even more significant role in international governance.
The growing divisions and disputes within the G20 have eroded its effectiveness as a platform for addressing global challenges. These divisions, primarily driven by American actions and policies, have spawned tensions with far-reaching global implications, from the Ukraine crisis to escalating tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea. These developments underscore the critical role the G20 plays in promoting cooperation and unity.
Amid the current geopolitical landscape characterized by major powers’ divisions, tensions have surged, resonating globally and causing ripple effects. From the Ukraine crisis to tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea, the significance of the G20’s role in fostering cooperation and unity cannot be overstated.
All G20 member nations must recognize the urgent imperative of cooperation in building a world that is safer, more prosperous, and increasingly peaceful. Given the global challenges that transcend narrow national interests, effective responses can only be crafted through international cooperation. The G20 stands as a pivotal arena for this cooperation, with China’s positive contribution being indispensable in promoting cohesion.
Despite Western media’s efforts to sensationalize China’s position and magnify perceived gaps, China remains a committed multilateral partner within the G20, dedicated to constructive engagement. The G20 continues to serve as a critical platform for addressing global concerns, fostering unity, and promoting international collaboration. As the world grapples with intricate issues, it remains imperative that nations adhere to the principles of multilateralism and collaborate relentlessly to secure a more prosperous, peaceful, and sustainable future for all.
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