China – 2

(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)

Any comments?

 

China – 1

I recently came across this interesting article on the subtle ways China is trying to take control of things

‘Free-market ideologues believe that nations should never interfere in trade. But even if this is generally right, China is different. China’s authoritarian government is manipulating the world trading order. It is consciously building a military and a political system to contest Westen liberal democratic global pre-eminence. And it’s doing it with Western ideas and money. Why should any nation that values liberal democratic capitalism allow this?

Twenty years ago, many reasonable people thought that bringing China into the global trading order would encourage the eventual liberalisation of its politics. Drawing on the experience in Western and Asian countries, it was argued that once China reached a certain stage of development, both the rising middle class and the logic of a developed economy would require political liberalisation. The middle classes, it was argued, would demand political and personal freedoms that accompanied their material wealth – only in this way could they be truly happy. And the logic of economic development held that authoritarian systems could not produce the intellectual discoveries and innovation that allowed countries to move from being an industrial society to a post-industrial one.

The latter point also directly addressed the contention that a rising China could pose a geo-strategic threat to the West. Only a healthy, innovative post-industrial could produce the military that could eventually challenge the West. If an authoritarian system could not produce that type of economy, it follows that it could never create the military that would pose any real threat.

The One Belt, One Road initiative would give China’s military the capability to move vast distances and influence events far away from Asia should it choose

Alas, experience has shown these views to be at best optimistic. China’s burgeoning middle class seems not be taking to the streets to protest the Communist Party’s monopoly on power. President Xi Jinping’s successful removal of term limits, effectively allowing him to remain “president for life“, has passed with barely a peep from the Chinese people. China is now developing a “social credit score“, assigning each person a number based on how socially desirable they behave – in other words, whether they do what the Party wants. Rather than jail offenders as old-style Maoist regimes did,1 the new system simply denies those with low scores access to travel, property ownership, and other advantages. Call it “Nudge” for the totalitarian set.

Nor is China hesitating to spread its influence abroad. Its claims to islands and territory in the South China Sea, threatening countries that border the region, is only one way it is upsetting the West’s dominance. Its “One Road, One Belt” initiative is another. This will link it to over 70 countries.

Ancient Rome used its network of roads to tie conquered lands together and permit its military to move quickly to suppress any dissent. Russia used its control over a crucial natural gas pipeline to influence European and Ukrainian policies earlier this decade, and its proposal to create a new pipeline has raised legitimate fears that Russia could use this to further influence EU policies. At the very least, the One Belt, One Road initiative would give China’s military the capability to move vast distances and influence events far away from Asia should it choose to. Why should this not trouble the West?

 Our experiences in the last century with post-Versailles Germany and Imperial Japan should loom large in our thinking

Nor is China using its position within the global trading order responsibly. As Juliet Samuel’s audio documentary shows, China habitually tilts the rules of trade within its borders to favour its own firms over Western ones. Moreover, it stands accused of either masterminding or turning a blind eye to technology theft or mandatory transfers that allow it to acquire advanced methods and insights that can be turned to military purposes.

In effect, China has used “free” trade to acquire what it has been incapable of producing on its own, giving it capabilities for innovation that the Soviet Union never possessed.

The evidence is that it is using these developments to quickly catch up with Western standards of military capability. Its newest naval vessels and aircraft display Western-style stealth technology that many allege has been stolen from America. Other aspects of its military also display advanced technological capabilities. China is increasing its official military budget by nearly 9% a year, meaning it has more than doubled in just the past decade, and it is steadily closing the gap with America’s advanced technology. It is only able to do this because of its access to Western money, markets, and methods.

The Greek historian Thucydides wrote over 2,000 years ago that “the strong do what they can while the weak suffer what they must”. In terms of military power, the West has been “the strong” for over five hundred years; it used this superiority to force the weak, including Imperial China, to suffer what they must for centuries.2 It would defy our knowledge of human nature and human history to think that a humbled power which acquires the ability to be strong would not seek to redress past humiliations. Our experiences in the last century with post-Versailles Germany and Imperial Japan should loom large in our thinking.

A Cold War-era quote apocraphyally ascribed to Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin is apropos: “We will hang the last capitalist with the rope that he sold us.” China is on a path that could prove Lenin right, but with a twist: the rope that would hang the capitalist world would have been produced in China using methods and money provided freely by the capitalists.

United Western exclusion of the Soviet Union from Western money, markets, and methods hastened that totalitarian state’s demise. Perhaps the West should learn from its past victory and avoid a future defeat by using its power to nudge China back to a responsible, mutually beneficial course.