China: Creeping Expansion Aimed at Global Domination 01.05.2024

"War is a way of deception. Therefore, when capable, appear incapable to your enemy. When active, feign inactivity. When near, make it appear as if you are far away; when far away, create the impression that you are near." These words were written by the great Chinese thinker Sun Tzu before our era, but they still perfectly reflect the essence of China's foreign policy today—a "path of deception."

In the 19th and 20th centuries, China endured numerous hardships. These included the Opium Wars launched by the British East India Company; the fall of the Qing dynasty; a civil war which brought the Communists to power under Mao Zedong; and the "Cultural Revolution," which for China was akin to Stalin's purges in the USSR in the 1930s. The oldest surviving civilization on the planet experienced a period of decline and harbored enormous resentment against those who inflicted these sufferings. But after every decline, there comes a dawn.

The dawn of China is associated with the name of a truly great statesman—Deng Xiaoping, who began implementing policies of reform and openness in China. In the late 1970s, China began to open up to the rest of the world economically and culturally. The West perceived this as Beijing's transition from communism to capitalism, and China began to be seen as a counterbalance to the USSR, with which China had strained relations at the time.

As a result, huge investments from Western economies began flowing into China, and global industrial giants started shifting their production to China, where the economic costs for their business were minimal. Consequently, during this period, China's economy experienced "explosive growth." For instance, from 1979 to 2010, China's GDP grew at an average annual rate of 9.91%.

In addition to economic reforms, significant political reforms also took place in China, the most important of which was the principle of "leadership rotation." Every ten years, there was a complete renewal of the leadership within Chinese elites, and the political leader of the nation changed. Jiang Zemin, who took full power in China in 1993, and his successor Hu Jintao in 2003, completely followed this tradition. Notably, this period coincided with the primary economic rise of China. However, everything changed in 2013.

In March 2013, Xi Jinping became the 7th President of the People's Republic of China. Xi Jinping's policies fundamentally differed from those of Deng Xiaoping and the policies of Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. From the policy of opening China to the world, Xi shifted to a policy of promoting Chinese domination globally. Initially, the focus was on economic expansion. For this purpose, initiatives such as the "One Belt One Road" program were created and actively implemented, which in turn was a combination of the "Economic Belt of the Silk Road" and the "Maritime Silk Road of the 21st Century." By 2022, China had already spent over $1 trillion on developing this initiative.

"One Belt One Road" targets not only Eurasia but also Africa. By 2024, China came to dominate the economies of nearly all African countries. Professor and former US Ambassador David Shinn in his report "How Much China is in Africa" notes, "It is quite possible that over the past few years, China has become the largest bilateral source of annual direct foreign investments for 54 African countries."

China promotes its economic expansion without paying much attention to the "moral aspects" of its methods. Corruption is used, and the rights of local producers as well as human rights are ignored. The thesis of Niccolò Machiavelli "The end justifies the means" is as relevant as anything else for describing China's external expansion.

In China itself, Xi Jinping's policy also has a dictatorial nature. Since his rise to power, the country has begun massive censorship, reaching absurd levels at times. For example, the character "Winnie the Pooh" was banned in China because it resembles Xi Jinping himself. As part of the widespread crackdown on dissent unleashed by Xi Jinping, bloggers like Qin Huohuo and Charles Xue, as well as Chinese billionaires and political figures, have suffered. As a result, today, the overwhelming majority of party and state positions in China are occupied by people loyal to Xi Jinping, and there is no political or ideological competition for him in the party or the country. Those who disagreed with Xi Jinping ended up in prison or the cemetery.

Especially noteworthy was the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in October 2022, which violated the 10-year tradition of leadership rotation in China. At that time, Xi Jinping was re-elected for a third term as the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPC, with a subsequent re-election in March 2023 for the third time as the Chairman of the PRC. More interestingly, Xi Jinping's predecessor, Hu Jintao, was demonstratively removed from the meeting hall during the 20th Congress, an event comparable to an open coup within the party for conservative China.

Xi Jinping had been heading towards sole power without any rotation for a long time. Here is a brief chronicle of events leading up to this. In 2016, Xi Jinping's personality was declared "the core of the national ideology of the PRC," and in 2018, amendments to the Constitution of China were adopted that included Xi Jinping's ideas about "socialism with Chinese characteristics" and removed the two-term limit for the post of Chairman of the PRC. Then, at the 19th Congress of the CPC, there were no talks about Xi Jinping's successor as the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPC, who usually then becomes the Chairman of the PRC. Then came the aforementioned 20th Congress of the CPC, where Xi Jinping was re-elected for a third term.

In this regard, Xi Jinping was two years ahead of his "colleague in the dictatorship shop" Vladimir Putin, who introduced amendments to the Constitution of Russia that ensure his further re-election only in 2020.

Thus, by the fall of 2022, Xi Jinping had completely cleared all media and political space in China of any disloyal elements, and then easily re-elected himself in violation of the traditions established by Deng Xiaoping for the third time as the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPC and the Chairman of the PRC. After that, Xi Jinping began large-scale "purges" of the leadership of the People's Liberation Army of China. The former Minister of Defense of China, Li Shanfu, the former head of military intelligence, Lieutenant General Yang Hui, and dozens of other lower-ranking military officers were brought to trial. And when do "purges" in the army happen? Correct, before a war.

It is likely that Xi Jinping studied the unsuccessful actions of the Russian army during the aggression against Ukraine, which began in February 2022, and drew appropriate conclusions, which then became the prologue to massive purges among the leadership of the Chinese armed forces and the subsequent revelations of total corruption within them.

China plans to annex the rebellious, according to Beijing, province of Taiwan in the shortest possible time, and after the elections in Taiwan in January 2024, it is already obvious that this annexation will not be peaceful. Following the tenets of Sun Tzu that "War loves victory and dislikes duration," Xi Jinping is not planning to prolong the "hot phase" of the inevitable military conflict over the annexation of Taiwan, hence he is currently working to bring the Chinese army into a reasonably decent condition.

However, the conflict in Taiwan, which is inevitable in the current geopolitical realities and will likely occur sooner rather than later, is just part of the specifics leading to the global issue, namely China's domination of the world.

After the collapse of the USSR in 1991, it was accepted that there was only one superpower in the world—the USA. And, in principle, until recently, this concept of a "unipolar world" was not particularly contested. But now we increasingly hear in the news about geopolitics concepts such as "Global North" and "Global South." Has the world divided again?

The terms "Global North" and "Global South" appeared a long time ago—in 1980. Then, the Independent Commission on International Development, headed by German Chancellor Willy Brandt, proposed dividing the world into two parts based on per capita gross domestic product. Then, the "Global South" and "Global North" emerged, with the dividing line, named after Willy Brandt, running along the 30th parallel north latitude. Everything above this parallel began to be called the "North," and below it—the "South." Exceptions were Japan, Australia, and New Zealand—they fell into the "Global North."

But why are these concepts resurfacing now? Because the world has divided again. Although, personally, I think that the terms "Global North" and "Global South" are not entirely accurate. It would be more correct to use the terms "Global West" led by the USA and "Global East" led by China and use these terms only in a political context. Since, a priori, under the "Global South" from an economic perspective, the technologically backward "third world" is considered. And now, calling China—the world's first economy by GDP on purchasing power parity—backward would be difficult.

Compared to 1980, today's world has changed dramatically and divided again. And at the head of all current processes changing the geopolitical and economic landscape of the world stands China. We have now reviewed how China managed to make a "great leap" through economic and political reforms by Deng Xiaoping, how it developed in the key of openness under Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, and how China switched to a path of dictatorship under the rule of Xi Jinping. Amazing transformations of one ancient and great civilization over the 46 years from 1978 to 2024. But what's next?

China's economic expansion does not stop but only intensifies, bringing new countries into its orbit. The Russian Federation, having become a global pariah during the totalitarian rule of Vladimir Putin's regime, is increasingly falling under China's influence, which is becoming the Kremlin's only major economic and political partner. China's influence is growing in the Middle East, which is increasingly oriented towards Beijing rather than Washington. China's expansion in Africa is colossal—China has economically subjugated almost an entire continent. China does not stop there and promotes its economic interests by all available means in the main components of the "Global North"—the European Union and the USA.

Moreover, it can already be confidently said that only economic expansion by China remains in the past. To economic expansion has been added political expansion and military expansion. The geopolitical axis Beijing – Moscow – Minsk – Pyongyang – Tehran – Islamabad is now obvious. China also supplies its weapons around the world and builds its foreign military bases.

At the same time, the "Global North" does nothing serious to counter the current processes of global deformation of the world's geopolitical map. The United States and the European Union have simply handed over their entire manufacturing base to China, and now even in the field of producing modern chips, the "Global North" has virtually nothing of its own and will not have this even in the near future, despite desperate and costly attempts to open such factories in the EU and the USA. And the reason for this is that most of the production of these chips is located in Taiwan, risking reunification with China in the shortest possible time. At the same time, the technological chains for their creation are now so complex that they require almost decades to recreate the entire process in a new territory.

An example of this is China itself. Despite decades of work and multibillion-dollar investments, the Chinese company Shanghai Micro Electronics Equipment Group was able to announce its first lithographic scanner working on a 28 nm technological process. And it is still unknown when Chinese 28 nm chips will become mass-produced. Meanwhile, the Dutch company ASML, whose production facilities are located in the Netherlands, the USA, and Taiwan, installed the first lithographic scanner for producing 2 nm chips using Low-NA EUV technology. But everything will immediately turn upside down if Taiwan and all its production capacities go to China.

The example with the lithographic scanner is just a particular case. Hundreds, if not thousands, of examples can be cited where China obtained technologies and economic advantages directly from the countries of the "Global North."

But global domination is ensured not only by the economy but also by the army and political allies. During the "Cold War," the Soviet Union had a weaker economy compared to the USA but stronger military and political blocks. How does China fare in this regard?

China is now a relatively new player on the world stage in forming political blocs and coalitions. For a long time, the only political and military ally of China was only North Korea. With the USSR or communist Vietnam, China's relations at certain historical periods were significantly worse than with the NATO bloc. At the state level in China, the formation of armed forces capable of solving global tasks, as well as the formation of pro-Chinese geopolitical blocs, began relatively recently—11 years ago, immediately after Xi Jinping came to power. And it only began to manifest openly in recent years.

Thus, China on the "Great Geopolitical Chessboard" is the youngest participant among the "first league" players. Here, one should not expect any rapid moves and global decisions from China. The main external political and military task of Beijing today is to annex the "rebellious Taiwan" by blitzkrieg. A positive resolution of this task opens the way for China to further global domination in the world, while failure will put Xi Jinping in the same place with the outsider Vladimir Putin, who unleashed a long, aggressive war in Europe and became a global pariah as a result.

Putin's problem in the conflict he unleashed in Ukraine is only that this conflict has become long and bloody. If the Russian army had taken Kyiv in three days, as Kremlin propagandists promised for a long time, then in the short term, all sanctions would have been lifted from Russia, rather than adding new ones in tenfold. China faces the same problems. If the blitzkrieg with Taiwan fails, then China will be drawn into a long war with an uncertain outcome and become a global pariah along with Russia, Iran, and North Korea. But if China captures Taiwan swiftly, then it will be perceived in the world as the reunification of the metropolis and the "rebellious province" and nothing more. Xi Jinping understands this political layout perfectly, so he is preparing carefully for the upcoming events.

Even for reunification with Taiwan, China needs a powerful geopolitical lobby in the world. And now he is forming it. China is building strong economic, political, and military ties with Russia, Iran, Pakistan, Myanmar, African countries, and the Middle East. At the same time, China in these relations strives to weaken the "Global North" and strengthen its influence in the countries of the "Global South." Any conflict that somehow involves the "Global North" is beneficial to China. And China, of course, takes certain steps to use these moments.

Thus, it was China that acted as a mediator in normalizing relations between Riyadh and Tehran. And now Iran is fully focused on its attacks on Israel, not being distracted by Saudi Arabia, as it was before. A major conflict between Iran and its proxies such as the Houthis, Hezbollah, and Iraqi Shiite groups with Israel will inevitably draw allies of Israel such as the USA, France, and Great Britain into its orbit. As a result, the "Global North" will be weakened, possibly even by one Israel. Fortunately, this is now understood in Washington, and everything possible is being done to avoid a major conflict in the Middle East, which is actively provoked by certain interested parties there.

A similar situation for China is in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. De facto, China takes the Russian side in this conflict, providing Moscow with economic and sometimes political assistance. At the same time, China's proxy—North Korea—directly supplies Moscow with a significant range of armaments. But, in turn, it is beneficial for China to weaken Russia in this conflict, as Moscow in this case falls more and more into dependence on China. And this means natural resources at dumping prices, which the huge Chinese economy needs; a market where products from the countries of the "Global North" are completely replaced by Chinese products due to sanctions; and an ally in a possible conflict with the "Global North," possessing the world's largest arsenal of nuclear weapons. At the same time, the "Global North" spends huge resources on supporting Ukraine and gradually also gets drawn into the conflict, thereby weakening itself. For China, so far, only pluses and no minuses.

China also plays in the games of the "invisible front." If China corrupts African and some Asian "kings" almost openly, not fearing any dangerous reaction from the outside to these processes, then in the countries of the "Global North," China acts more covertly. But still, spy scandals related to the work of Chinese special services are becoming known to a wider audience more and more often. Just the other day, the Attorney General of Germany reported the detention of three German citizens suspected of spying for China. Characteristically, this scandal again involves the German right-wing radical party "Alternative for Germany," which previously received active support from Russian special services. And in the USA, none other than the President of the USA, Joseph Biden, is accused of receiving money from China. Thus, the Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, Republican from Kentucky James Comer noted that Biden allegedly benefited from shadow business deals of his family in China. The congressman also reproached the American leader for exposing himself to blackmail by China in the future and placing US interests below his own. And the scale of such scandals is growing day by day, and they are happening more and more often.

In this conflict of the "Global South" with the "Global North," China does not bet on a direct confrontation. China wants to become a leader through a well-thought-out multi-move creeping expansion. Moreover, this expansion now has a hybrid character—it is at the same time economic, political, and military. All those countries where China was previously present only economically will soon or in the near future also face its political or military expansion in one form or another.

At the same time, China prefers to "shake" the "Global North" from within, bribing politicians, involving the countries of the "Global North" in conflicts that are a priori unprofitable for them, provoking uncontrollable illegal immigration, and supplying huge amounts of precursors for drug production. In the USA, China has prepared its huge "fifth column" through Mexican drug cartels, which can play its part at any moment. But this problem, like many others, is usually silenced and ignored. And one must understand that this happens not just like that.

The "Global North" is now weak and vulnerable in the face of the hybrid war unleashed against it by China. China, in turn, is still too young as a global political player, but at the same time, it is very cautious, which is an undeniable advantage for it. And on this "chessboard," each move can shift the balance of power in one direction or another. China so far avoids sharp moves, and the "Global North" has taken a position of "deaf defense." But as Sun Tzu once wrote: "He who does not wish to be defeated defends, he who wants to win attacks."

Dmitrii Ershov, journalist.

Tags: | | | | | | | | |

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.