China Stupid if Its Silk Road to Europe Is about Geopolitics


Protesters defaced Chinese flags in the Czech Republic during Xi’s visit this spring. Photo credit: MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty

Protesters defaced Chinese flags in the Czech Republic during Xi’s visit this spring. Photo credit: MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty

US talented political scientist Samuel P. Huntington says in his well-known book “Clash of Civilizations”, “For over two hundred years the United States has attempted to prevent the emergence of an overwhelmingly dominant power in Europe. For almost a hundred years, beginning with its ‘Open Door’ policy toward China, it has attempted to do the same in East Asia.”

China wants to rise to become the largest economy in the world as its people want to enjoy as high living standards as those enjoyed by developed countries. With its huge population, its economy will be much larger than the US even if its per capital GDP is only half of America’s.

US pivot to Asia and interference with China’s disputes with its neighbors in the South China Sea have made Chinese leaders realize that the US regards China’s rise as the emergence of an overwhelmingly dominant power in East Asia. They have begun their arms race with the US in order for China to grow strong enough militarily to resist US attack.

First, they built artificial islands in the South China Sea and will militarize them in order to prevent their homeland from being attacked by cruise missiles from US submarines there. They have tried repeatedly to make people believe that the artificial islands are for civilian purpose but who will believe that? Anyway, they do not militarize the islands openly.

On May 31, US media National Interest carried Robert D. Blackwill’s article titled “China’s Strategy for Asia: Maximize Power, Replace America” that says that China’s goal is to recover from the United States the primacy it once enjoyed in Asia as a prelude to exerting global influence in the future.”

Perhaps US leaders are ignorant of China’s intention and believe that China has such a goal. They tell their navy to conduct freedom of navigation operations to give China the excuse to militarize its artificial islands openly.

Mr. Blackwill’s article is absurd because, as I have pointed in my comment on his article: First, the US has never had primacy in Asia nor has China ever had. The nation that had primacy in Asia for some time in the past was Mongolia not China. How would China recover what it has never had? Second, China is stupid to want to have such primacy as it is unable even to have primacy in one of the three Asian powers Russia, Japan and India.

Some Chinese people perhaps want China to replace the US as number one in Asia and even in the world, but Chinese leaders are not as stupid as them now and shall not be so stupid in the future. They shall know China shall never try to take over from the US the very heavy and costly burden of world leader. As China has always been run by wise or at least shrewd leaders and as stupid people never run the country, I hope that China will never be so stupid as to try to do what the US wants to do but has failed sadly.

US ignorance of China does not stop there. On June 1, US media Foreign Policy carried Reid Standish’s article “China’s New Silk Road Into Europe Is About More Than Money”.

The article is correct in regarding China’s Silk Road initiative as aiming at something more than money, but fails to see the Silk Road is for security of trade with Europe and that it has nothing to do with Chinese investment in Europe. Nor even for geopolitics. Do you think that China is rich enough to buy goodwill from Europe that is much richer than China.

Everybody knows that the US is going to deploy more of its military force to East Asia to contain China and US military strategists have been discussing the ways to attack China. I said in my book “Space Era Strategy: The Way China Beats The U.S.” that the US is stupid in sending its troops within the range of Chinese weapons to be destroyed by China and will thus leave inadequate navy to control the oceans and cut China’s trade lifelines.

Chinese leaders have the vision to see that developing enough strength to resist US aggression is far from enough. China will be in great trouble if US dominant navy cut China’s trade lifelines through the oceans, especially Indian Ocean for trade with Europe, Middle East and Africa. Inability to get oil from the Middle East alone will be enough to cause Chinese economy to collapse.

Therefore, China has to develop land routes to Europe through Russia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe and to the Middle East and Africa through Pakistan and Iran. The construction of infrastructures in China’s Silk Road economic belt helps the countries along the routes develop so that they will allow Chinese goods to go through them without trouble. China’s huge investment in Silk Road economic belt aims first of all at security of its trade with Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Now, US efforts to draw India to its side have pushed Pakistan closer to China so that China’s trade lifeline through China-Pakistan economic corridor is quite safe now. If the US has instead had drawn Pakistan close to its side, China would have had great difficulties in getting oil from the Middle East when the US blocks China’s sea route to the Middle East.

Now, China has achieved its goal in its One Belt, One Road initiative. It has not only land route through Pakistan but also sea route from a Pakistani port to the Middle East. Iran is now discussing the deal of trading lucrative oilfield for China’s aircraft-carrier-killer anti-ship missiles (according to mil.news.sina.com.cn’s Depth Column article on May 31). When Iran has such missiles, US warship will not be able to attack Chinese commercial ships sailing along Iranian coast.

Economically, China can sell the excessive capacity in its construction, power generation, mining and building material industries to the countries along the Silk Road economic belt. Such investment may bring no return at all, but as the capacity shall be scrapped whether China can sell it or not, selling it to those countries can bring at least some goodwill from those countries and perhaps some proceeds as when those countries’ economy grows, they will be able to make some payments for the supply.

From the above, you see how wise Chinese leaders are in their Silk Road economic belt and maritime Silk Road initiative.

The initiative has nothing to do with Chinese investment in developed European countries. China’s investment there aims at economic gains as it has lost confidence in US dollars and has to divert its investment to Europe where the prospects may be better.

Philippe Le Corre of the Brookings Institution, co-author of the recently published book China’s Offensive in Europe may be right in saying, “The European part of One Belt, One Road will not be a walk in the park, It’s not that simple to say, ‘China is going to come and rescue Europe.’ I don’t think there’s appetite for this.”

Certainly China is simply unable to come and rescue Europe.

Le Corre’s problem is that there is no such European part of One Belt, One Road in China’s investment in Europe. One Belt, One Road in Europe only concerns trade route through Eastern Europe to developed Western Europe. China needs to buy goodwill along the route but no need to buy goodwill from European countries not along the Road.

As for China’s development of artificial islands and military strength in the South China Sea, China does not need European goodwill nor can it buy European goodwill in that respect as China is simply not rich enough and as quite a few European countries are not corruptible by money.

China is strong enough to resist US interference in the South China Sea alone while the US has to wait for the development of its B-21 prompt strike bombers for attacking China. Aircraft carriers cannot attack China as China has lots of anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles to sink them. Nor can submarines as China has built artificial islands to control the South China Sea.

What the US is able to do now is to cut China’s trade lifelines though the oceans, but that will harm lots of countries including European countries that are doing big business with China. I wonder whether the US can afford losing those countries’ goodwill. Anyway, Chinese leaders are wise in their One Belt, One Road initiative to make the US unable to cut China’s trade lifelines to Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Foreign Policy’s article: full text of which can be viewed below:

China’s New Silk Road Into Europe Is About More Than Money

Beijing is spending billions on new ports and rail lines, but its ambitions for Europe are as much about geopolitics as commerce.

China is actively building out the European portion of its ambitious new “Silk Road” plan, with port deals from Greece to the Netherlands, railroad investments in Greece, Serbia, and Hungary, as well as a handful of historic, high-profile state visits this spring by President Xi Jinping.

Beijing’s multibillion-dollar plans to build overland and maritime links across Central and South Asia — whether that means huge investments in Pakistan or gas pipeline deals in places like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan — grab the lion’s share of attention. But the ultimate prize in the Silk Road plan — also known in China as the “One Belt, One Road” initiative — is someplace else: Europe.

That’s true both because Europe represents a bigger and richer market than the relatively poor countries that dot the steppe, and because Beijing’s ambitions aren’t purely commercial.

“It is not an economic project, it is a geopolitical project — and it is very strategic,” said Nadège Rolland, an analyst at the National Bureau for Asian Research, a think tank. As it has across Asia, Africa, and Latin America, China is trying to parlay its economic heft into bigger diplomatic influence in Europe, especially in cash-strapped states in the east and southeast.

That task is made easier thanks to the increasing weight and reach of Chinese state-owned companies. Beijing began encouraging consolidation among competing firms last year as a way of trying to deal with overcapacity in Chinese industry, where having several giant firms in the same sector was leading to inefficiencies.

The resulting mergers created giants like such as CRRC Corporation, formerly a pair of railroad equipment makers and now the world’s second-biggest industrial company, and COSCO, cobbled together from a pair of state-owned shipping firms and now the world’s fourth-largest shipping company.

Both of those mega-firms are active in China’s recent European investments: COSCO is snapping up stakes in ports, while CRRC is working to build new rail lines in Eastern Europe. Another state-owned giant, ChemChina, has been on a European buying spree in the last year, gobbling up agricultural firms, tire makers, and machine tool manufacturers. And their state-backed involvement makes clear that more is at stake than the financial bottom line.

“Most Chinese foreign direct investments are not normal foreign direct investments,” said Philippe Le Corre of the Brookings Institution, co-author of the recently published book China’s Offensive in Europe. “With a few exceptions, they just happen to have the whole Chinese state behind them.”

One of the unstated purposes of China’s entire Silk Road program is to buy political goodwill from countries along the way. Decades ago, Chinese investment in Africa often brought support from those countries for Chinese positions in the United Nations. Chinese investments in Afghanistan, for instance, have recently translated into Kabul’s support for China’s territorial positions in the South China Sea disputes.

In Europe, China’s investment push has indeed led to a few diplomatic victories. Fueled by big investments in the energy sector, Xi received red-carpet treatment from British leaders on a state visit last year, and China considers the U.K. its best friend in the West.

Several of Europe’s biggest countries, including the U.K., France, Germany, and Italy, supported China’s creation of a new international development bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, despite heated objections from the United States.

China is perhaps making its biggest inroads on Europe’s periphery. It has created a new grouping, known as the “16+1,” of the 16 Central and Eastern European countries including some inside and some outside the European Union. The informal club has responded to Chinese infrastructure investment with closer ties and a more compliant approach to issues that are prickly for Beijing, especially human rights.

The Czech Republic, for example, once outspoken on the subject of Tibetan independence, now hews closer to Beijing’s line regarding its continued control of the Himalayan nation. Beijing hailed Slovenia as one of a group of 40 countries China says back its position on the disputes in the South China Sea; plenty of other countries on that list, from Afghanistan to Mozambique to Venezuela, have also been on the receiving end of China’s economic largesse.

But China is also encountering plenty of pushback — and not just in Europe. In Central Asia, Beijing is a preferred partner for the region’s many autocratic governments who welcome China’s non-interference in their affairs. But China’s growing footprint there has received a much cooler reception from the local population.

Kazakhstan, which has inked $50 billion worth of deals with China, has been wracked since April by protests over the fears the government will open the country up to large-scale Chinese purchases of land. In neighboring Kyrgyzstan, mounting public pressure caused the government to abandon plans to offer mining concessions to Chinese firms in lieu of paying back $1 billion in loans.

In Europe, China’s geopolitical ambitions have run into growing opposition, both in the street and among some governments. Protesters defaced Chinese flags in the Czech Republic during Xi’s visit this spring, for example. And earlier this month, the European Parliament recommended against granting China “market economy status,” a label Beijing craves and which it believes it is entitled to 15 years after joining the World Trade Organization. The EU reticence is driven, in part, by concerns of continued unfair Chinese competition, including “dumping” the detritus of its industrial overcapacity in Europe, which makes life more difficult for struggling European firms.

Europe has also begun to push back against China’s territorial ambitions in the South China Sea. Slovenia made clear, in contrast to Beijing’s public pronouncements, that it does not take sides on the dispute.

In April, France signed a $40 billion deal to build advanced new submarines for Australia, prompted by French concerns about Chinese military expansion in the Western Pacific. More recently, Britain urged all countries including China to respect an upcoming ruling by an international arbitration panel on the South China Seas imbroglio; Beijing has attacked the tribunal’s legitimacy and vowed to ignore whatever ruling it hands down.

Those setbacks suggest there’s a limit to the leverage that Chinese investment can buy in Europe, despite the region’s continued economic woes, said Le Corre.

“The European part of One Belt, One Road will not be a walk in the park,” he said. “It’s not that simple to say, ‘China is going to come and rescue Europe.’ I don’t think there’s appetite for this.”

Reid Standish contributed to this article.


3 Comments on “China Stupid if Its Silk Road to Europe Is about Geopolitics”

  1. Leonie says:

    Hi there. superb job. I did not anticipate this. This is a splendid article.

    Thanks!

    Like

  2. Kristen says:

    There is definately a lot to find out about this topic.
    I like all of the points you made.

    Like

  3. Steve says:

    Excellent – Good analysis

    Like


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