by David J. Bercuson
January 10, 2019
Last week China pulled off the incredible feat of landing a science probe on the far side of the moon. It is a testament to China’s new prowess as an advanced technological nation. At the same time, China’s president-as-long-as-he wants-it Xi Jinping extolled his military to prepare for war as he threatened that China’s reunion with Taiwan is inevitable, even by force if necessary.
There is hardly a week that some new major measure is not announced by China. These include the “belt and road” initiative to connect China to Europe using rail and road transportation; a high level of foreign aid that now brings Chinese engineers and construction workers, as well as billions of Chinese Yuan, to nations in Africa, South America and Asia; the Chinese navy’s participation in anti-piracy patrols off the Horn of Africa and its harassment of U.S. naval vessels in the South China Sea; an initiative to build a railroad in Kenya from the interior of that nation to the Port of Mombasa to speed Chinese trade from there to the Chinese mainland; Chinese initiatives to build a railway through Myanmar, to add to an oil and a gas pipeline connecting China to the port of Kyaukpyu on the Bay of Bengal, thus allowing Chinese commercial traffic to bypass the Malacca Straight chokepoint; the establishment and expansion of a freight and naval base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa and the possible establishment of a second base possibly in Namibia; the building and expansion of reefs into island bases in the waters of the South China Sea; and free trade treaties with nations such as Australia. No doubt more such developments will be announced in the near future.
These initiatives show China attempting to reverse the impact of geopolitics on that country. China is after all, a land-bound nation with a single coastline that faces at least two island chains of non- or anti-Communist nations such as Taiwan, Japan and the Philippines as it looks eastwards across the Pacific. It is also still challenged by a United States Navy based at Sasebo in Japan and regular U.S. patrols both the South China Sea and East China Sea. What China is doing, therefore, is to use land-based solutions to reach westward to the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean, and southwestward to Africa while tying up smaller nations with loans that presumably bring political and economic pressure to bear on their relations to China.