Updated: Jan 20, 2020
Photo by: Forbes
China’s Hundred-Year Marathon
In The Hundred-Year Marathon, Michael Pillsbury marshals a lot of evidence showing the Chinese government has a detailed strategy to overtake the US as the world’s dominant power.
They want to do this by 2049, the centennial of China’s Communist revolution.
The strategy has been well documented in Chinese literature, published and sanctioned by organizations of the People’s Liberation Army, for well over 50 years.
And just as we have hawks and moderates on China within the US, there are hawks and moderates within China about how to engage the West. Unfortunately, the hawks are ascendant, embodied most clearly in Xi Jinping.
Xi’s vision of the Chinese Communist Party controlling the state and eventually influencing and even controlling the rest of the world is clear. These are not merely words for the consumption of the masses. They are instructions to party members.
Grand dreams of world domination are part and parcel of communist ideologies, going all the way back to Karl Marx. For the Chinese, this blends with the country’s own long history.
It isn’t always clear to Western minds whether they actually believe the rhetoric or simply use it to keep the peasantry in line. Pillsbury says Xi Jinping really sees this as China’s destiny, and himself as the leader who will deliver it.
To that end, according to Pillsbury, the Chinese manipulated Western politicians and business leaders into thinking China was evolving toward democracy and capitalism. In fact, the intent was to acquire our capital, technology, and other resources for use in China’s own modernization.
It worked, too.
Over the last 20–30 years, we have equipped the Chinese with almost everything they need to match us, technologically and otherwise. Hundreds of billions of Western dollars have been spent developing China and its state-owned businesses.
Sometimes this happened voluntarily, as companies gave away trade secrets in the (often futile) hope it would let them access China’s huge market. Other times it was outright theft. In either case, this was no accident but part of a long-term plan.
Pillsbury (who, by the way, advises the White House including the president himself) thinks the clash is intensifying because President Trump’s China skepticism is disrupting the Chinese plan. They see his talk of restoring America’s greatness as an affront to their own dreams.
In any case, we have reached a crossroads. What do we do about China now?
China’s bid for world domination
The rumour that China plans to dominate the world has been circulating for decades. Its isolation from the West for a significant period of time made it even easier to turn the country into a Bogey Man. Some argued that it was a misunderstood country, whilst others held firmly to the view that China could never be trusted. These days, with greater media coverage of the world’s most populous country, we perhaps have a clearer view of its ambitions, and it seems some of the old rumours contain more than a grain of the truth.
Global expansionism is one of China’s tools. John Glynn writes that Beijing’s ‘Going Global’ strategy emerged in 1999, and it signalled the end of the “Mao-era mindset of self-reliance.” China suddenly started taking advantage of a boom in world trade and global market investments. Glyn says, “The idea that one government could commandeer sub regions in Asia, Europe and Africa, which account for 64 percent of world population and 30 percent of world GDP, might sound ludicrous. But try telling this to the Chinese government.”
Glyn also warns in his article that President Xi is engaged in an ideological and economic venture, and that it is clear the country has massive global ambitions, if its investments are anything to go by: “Between 2005 and 2017, the combined value of China’s global investment in construction was $1.8Trillion.”
What does it construct? The Chinese Government is making a concerted effort to increase infrastructural, economic, and political connectivity between China and the other countries of Asia, Africa, and Europe. Glyn calls it a “Belt and Road” initiative. But as he also says, it is essentially a new Silk Road connecting China to the rest of the world.
Glyn also remarks, “While other countries find themselves consumed by petty squabbles, Beijing officials discuss square footage, potential monetary gain, and militaristic strategies.”
It has invested widely in Energy, Transport, Real Estate and Metals — the key ingredients for developing infrastructure, and this has worried the Western governments, particularly the Trump presidency. That’s why he’s so keen to buy Greenland, an island mass that is rich in rare earth metals.
It is also the case that China has been involved in lending large amounts to other countries, and some fear that part of its strategy is to saddle these countries with “unimaginable levels of debt.” Furthermore a lot of this debt is “hidden” and that is especially worrying. Hidden debt means that the borrowing isn’t reported to or recorded by official institutions. A Kiel Institute study found that other countries’ debt owed to China has soared ten-fold since 2000, and it stated, “This has transformed China into the largest official creditor, easily surpassing the IMF or the World Bank.”
Much of this money is going to emerging markets. This is not because China wants to help grow these economies, but because it allows China to put those countries in a position of “indentured servitude.”
It is also looking to expand its military bases internationally. The US defence department expects China to add military bases around the world to protect its investments in its One Belt One Road initiative. Currently Beijing currently has just one overseas military base, in Djibouti. However, officials are planning others, including one in Pakistan.
This repressive regime has global ambitions and they are closer to being a reality than ever. Can China be stopped? The answer would appear to be — NO!