Whither China?

There is something decidedly unsettling about the Xi Jinping regime in China.  First, the Uighur problem:  the central government has trampled on the rights of Uighurs to maintain their culture and practise their religion.  Any resistance leads to re-education camps, and we all know what that means.

Next, the muscle flexing:  The Indians complained about an incursion into Indian territory in Ladakh adjoining Tibet,  while the Taiwanese resent the overflights by fighter jets.  And as the U.S. distances itself from Iran, the Chinese are walking in with aid and presumably securing direct access to the oil fields in the Gulf.  

They already have a naval base at Gwadar in adjoining Pakistan.  Developing a string of them would bring de facto control of Gulf oil traffic supplying important U.S. allies like Japan not to mention friends like Malaysia in the ASEAN compact.

Further west on the westward tip of the Arabian peninsula, the Chinese have an important relationship going back over a half century with Yemen.  During this period they have provided considerable humanitarian and economic aid.

Across to Africa, where China’s involvement is viewed positively by most Africans, who cite the help received in infrastructure development and job creation.  The two decades old Forum on China-Africa Cooperation is scheduled to meet again this coming September in Dakar, Senegal, when Chinese and African officials will reflect on the relationship — China’s dealings with African countries are on a government to government basis.  Despite a late start compared to European countries with their long colonial ties, China has become Africa’s largest trading partner while US trade with Africa has dipped.  

China is also moving into America’s backyard.  It has already become the largest Latin American country’s prime export market.  Brazil now exports three times as much to China ($67.7 billion in 2020) as it does to the U.S. ($21.6 billion) which comes in second, and its exports to China total $35.5 billion.

China is also Chile’s largest market constituting 24.3 percent ($22.57 billion) of exports, and is at the same time  increasing investment there.  Not surprising in the least given that the country has vast stores of copper.  And right next door to the U.S. is Mexico, to which China was able to export $45.4 billion worth of goods in 2019 while importing about $7 billion.

At a time when economies are hurting due to Covid-19, China’s continuing purchase of products from South America have helped mitigate the hardships. In the process, China has become South America’s leading trade partner.

China’s ambitions are clear.  It wants to be the world’s leading power:  economically, militarily and technologically.  That the U.S. has been complicit (through a lackadaisical attitude to technology transfer or to China’s thrust into markets worldwide) without substantive preparedness or a countervailing response to its global challenges only helps China achieve its aims.

Is the US then destined to lose this contest with China?  It is what often happens between a rising power and a complacent leading one.

Dr. Arshad M. Khan
Dr. Arshad M. Khan
Dr. Arshad M. Khan is a former Professor based in the US. Educated at King's College London, OSU and The University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. Thus he headed the analysis of an innovation survey of Norway, and his work on SMEs published in major journals has been widely cited. He has for several decades also written for the press: These articles and occasional comments have appeared in print media such as The Dallas Morning News, Dawn (Pakistan), The Fort Worth Star Telegram, The Monitor, The Wall Street Journal and others. On the internet, he has written for Antiwar.com, Asia Times, Common Dreams, Counterpunch, Countercurrents, Dissident Voice, Eurasia Review and Modern Diplomacy among many. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in its Congressional Record.