China is adamant when it says it does not want to replace the United States as an international player. But what does it want, asks The Diplomat Shaun Rein, author of The War for China’s Wallet: Profiting from the New World Order. “ Many nations feel Western, historically ethnically white nations have an outsized say in institutions like the World Bank or IMF and feel the U.S. contains their growth.”
Describe the core construct of China’s new world order.
American policymakers need to understand China is not looking to challenge and replace the American-led world order as the Soviet Union wanted during the Cold War. President Xi wants China to have a greater say in international affairs that an economic power of China’s size deserves. Many nations feel Western, historically ethnically white nations have an outsized say in institutions like the World Bank or IMF and feel the U.S. contains their growth.
By launching initiatives like One Belt, One Road [OBOR] and using economic carrots and sticks with other nations, China hopes to gain more influence. Worried about President Trump upending long-term alliances and relationships, many nations like the Philippines are moving closer to China’s orbit and benefiting from China’s economic largesse. However, such economic carrots come with a price — adherence to China’s political aims and loss of political independence. Like it has done with South Korea, Norway, and Mongolia, China will punish nations that cross it politically by stopping trade and by using the state-owned media to rally consumers to boycott brands.
Explain how China’s innovation and investment strategy shapes China’s world order.
China uses economic carrots like low interest loans and infrastructure investments to curry political favor from nations in a divide-and-conquer plan. For example, many ASEAN nations criticize China for its reclamation of islands in the South China Sea which many countries view China using as unsinkable destroyers in the event of war.
To blunt criticism, China essentially buys support from nations like Laos and Cambodia by showering them with low interest loans and infrastructure projects. In return, Cambodia mutes criticism of China in ASEAN pronouncements. There is clearly a quid pro quo deal in place.
China uses similar strategies in Europe with Hungary and Ethiopia in Africa. For example, earlier this month every European nation ambassador in China except for Hungary signed a letter criticizing China for not opening up projects enough for foreign firms in the One Belt, One Road initiative. Most likely China will dole out economic benefits to Hungary in the coming months in a similar to way that it opened up 12 direct flights for Ethiopian Airlines to China, just weeks after Ethiopia publicly supported China while other African nations were criticizing it, making that country’s national carrier the main hub for Africa-China flights.
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