(Though some of this article is the same as an earlier blog, this is all my thoughts, and also includes a Christian reflection.)
In the 19th and previous centuries, the European powers, mainly the UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal, were conquerors of many parts of the world. In many cases, it started of with trade, but then became bigger through political ambitions of power, often in a race with other European nations. Japan and one or two others did the same, but on a smaller scale. This often brought misery to the conquered countries through slavery, exploiting their resources and disease, which killed millions of locals.
Then, in the late nineteenth and throughout the twentieth centuries onwards, the USA, and to a certain extent, the EU countries, sought to control countries through unfair trade agreements, usually in favour of multi-nationals. (They also stationed troops in key bases around the world, usually operating without the country’s consent, especially the USA and France, through bribery.) Of course, the USA, aid and abetted by the UK and other countries, supported anti-communist revolutions, which often led to dictatorships.The USSR came into the picture through its desire to spread communism, controlling countries through making sure they followed the dictates of Moscow, and putting down resistance violently (eg Hungary).
Although China has not done quite the same as Russia, despite it taking over a number of countries like Tibet, its influence has been growing in very subtle ways. First, although still staunchly communist, it has allowed the free market to exist, within certain limits (mainly through partnerships with local businesses, many of whom are controlled by the State or members of the Communist Party). But, its ambitions are bigger than that. It is all part of its ‘Silk and Belt’ road initiative, which is loosely based on trade along the so-called ‘Silk Road’, linking China with Europe, brought into focus by the travels of Marco Polo during the Middle Ages.
A lot of it has been China financing various infrastructure projects, either through loans or grants which tie the country to them. (For examples, see the following article – http://uk.businessinsider.com/what-is-belt-and-road-china-infrastructure-project-2018-1/#britain-isnt-part-of-belt-and-road-and-its-stance-is-unclear-prior-to-her-trip-to-china-uk-prime-minister-theresa-may-refused-to-formally-endorse-the-project-and-said-it-would-only-contribute-to-global-growth-if-it-was-well-implemented-15 ) It has also led to many non-Chinese businesses getting contracts which form a large part of their earnings, so they also become tied to China.
It is also investing in many key companies around the world, especially in energy, transportation, hotels, electronics and a few other sectors.
Then there is the building of key military bases. For example, it has built one in Djibouti, on the east coast of Africa, which is at the bottom end of the Red Sea, through which many ships pass through with their commodities, including oil. (France and the USA, also have bases.) It has also built one in the middle of the South China Sea, in area disputed by many countries, claiming the islands on which it has been built and according to the UN is in international waters. I am sure there will be others in the future (with one in the Pacific near Australia??)
Back home, the President of China has made himself as life president, and so his teachings are now ‘gospel’, like Mao was all those years ago. This has the blessing of the non-democratic Party Congress. So, the country has almost become a dictatorship.
So, where does this leave the rest of us. Basically, to me anyhow, China is setting itself up to control the various parts of the world in ways people will not notice (see above). In China itself, things are intensifying with imprisonment and re-education camps for those who do not follow the Communist Party line (including Christians and the peoples of west China like the Uyghurs and Tibetans . It also goes further, through the intensive use of surveillance equipment, and the implanting of Communist Party officials to live with families in their homes! Will this become the norm in other countries that has Chinese influence, as well? It is interesting though, China has only focussed on east Africa, some western African countries, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the United States. ( https://chinapower.csis.org/china-foreign-direct-investment/ ) Will it spread to other parts of the world?
So, we the public need to be aware of the bigger picture of the activities of various countries, multinationals, and the defence industry as they jostle for power and the desire to make millions, all at the expense of the man in the street.
Whilst the various secular political and economic philosophies vie for control of the world, using many different methods, what can we as Christians do about it and why bother? First of all, the world is the Lord’s, including everything in it, and so there is a responsibility for us to look after it, as well as to advocate for when this does not happen. And in particular, every human being is special to God and should be to us, for He gives them dignity and worth.
One of the key things to remember is that we are involved in a spiritual battle for the very soul of the world. So, prayer is essential, but it needs to be informed prayer (thus the importance of reading and researching about what is going on throughout the world) – general prayers are no good – and ones led by the Holy Spirit for discernment as there is so much untruth or bias, even among Christian sources.
With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we need to seek how we can make a transformative difference to people, communities, government policies and conflict. Hence the importance of meditating on the Scriptures to make sure our contribution has a distinctive biblical response, based on God’s love working through us. (See Matthew 28:18-20)