China is dealing with a number of serious issues. After decades of economic growth its trajectory is stalling. The people are openly rebelling against COVID-19 policies, clampdowns on freedom of speech, the treatment of minorities, and President Xi Jinping’s insistence on serving an unprecedented third term.
Those setbacks are not in question.
Here’s a real question: Do these developments imply that China is going to miss its goal of replacing the United States as the world’s economic superpower?
That certainly is not what I’m hearing from my friends in Latin America. According to an Ecuadorian cabinet minister who asked to remain anonymous
Latin American countries possess many natural resources, but we don’t have the technological or financial capabilities to exploit them. China offers hope. We would rather accept help from China than the States. After all, China has never invaded a Latin country or backed coups and assassinations against our elected officials; the US has a history of doing both.
During my time as an EHM, one of our primary goals was to defeat the Soviet Union for world superpower domination. The US supported brutal dictators like Chile’s Pinochet, Indonesia’s Suharto, and Iran’s Shah if they pledged allegiance to the US and allowed our corporations to exploit their nations’ resources. We justified coups and assassinations under the pretense that we were defending democracy and capitalism – when in fact we were promoting a predatory system that made the rich and powerful richer and more powerful.
Then all that changed. My new book describes what China’s economic hit men have learned from the successes and failures of the US’s EHMs. China has beaten the US to become the largest investor and/or largest trading partner in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. China took advantage of the US’s mistakes. From the new book:
The US and its allies won the Cold War, the Berlin Wall crumbled, and the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Lacking the leverage of an alternative superpower, lower-income country leaders grew more vulnerable to US EHM tactics. Neoliberalism proliferated. Resentment grew as these leaders felt exploited by Washington’s hawkish politics and corporate greed and their impotence to counteract it.
Although the Soviet Union had collapsed, the US EHM strategy continued in full force. In what can only be described as misguided arrogance, the US fumbled. China grabbed the ball. The book continues:
It occurred to me that I and my fellow EHMs had been overly confident that the world wanted us, our corporations, and our military. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, that high level of confidence became hubris. China’s EHMs were not about to make the same mistakes. They were playing to the pride of other countries and promoting the prosperity that would accompany the interconnected trade routes (touted as China’s New Silk Road).
US media pundits are quick to point out that China has suffered setbacks. Following the pandemic, China’s economy has faltered. Beijing has been heavily criticized for its treatment of minorities and its aggressive actions toward Hong Kong, Tibet, and Taiwan. Many of the projects it has financed and built in other countries have been poorly engineered and constructed. President Xi’s consolidation of power during the 20th Congress in October 2022 has raised serious concerns among many countries that China is becoming an Orwellian, militarized dictatorship. The list goes on and on. However, at the same time, China has quietly continued to establish itself as the globe’s newest economic power center.
The New York Times cited China’s recent diplomatic activities as one example:
China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, a dapper man in well-pressed suits, keeps up a relentless travel schedule, more than 30 countries so far this year, to places big and small: island nations in the Pacific, Central Asia on China’s western periphery and, often, Africa.
He is the campaigner for the global ambitions of his boss, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, carrying the message that Beijing will not be pushed around, least of all by the United States. . . .
In a not-so-subtle way, Mr. Wang is setting up a fight for Asia, with China in one corner and the United States in the other.
“China’s argument is that Asian problems should be solved by Asians,” said Bilahari Kausikan, former foreign secretary of Singapore, who has been with Mr. Wang in closed-door diplomatic meetings. “The argument also says that the U.S. is an unreliable troublemaker.”
Regardless of whether China or the US wins the war for global hegemony, the fact is both countries are promoting a degenerative Death Economy that is consuming and polluting itself toward destruction. There are no winners on a dead planet. The US and China can compete on many levels and disagree about many issues, but we must stop ravaging our mutual home, Earth.