China and Russia conducted a six-day military exercise last week. The exercise simulated attacks on both countries from ballistic and cruise missiles. The Chinese Ministry of Defense declined to identify which country was the simulated aggressor in the exercise, but it’s not hard to figure out that it was the United States.
“To pursue peace through strength, it shall be the policy of the United States to rebuild the U.S. Armed Forces.” President Donald J. Trump, January 27, 2017.
“[Gen. Martin Dempsey] told American troops based in Japan on Thursday that ‘the best way to avoid war is to prepare for it.’” Associated Press, April 25, 2013.
The idea of “peace through strength” can be traced back to at least Roman times and almost certainly goes back even further, but in U.S. history, it is associated with Ronald Reagan. In his essay, “The Ancient Foreign Policy,” historian Victor Davis Hanson salutes its origins and links this “common wisdom” to the concept of deterrence.
An American, a German, and a Chinese gentleman walk into a bar in Prague. The first two order a beer, and the bartender then turns to the Chinese man to ask, “What can I get you?” He simply replies, “The accounts please, I own the place.”
The joke is not entirely removed from reality. The Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI – an economic agenda billed as the Silk Road reincarnated – is putting meat on the bones of Chinese interaction with Central and Eastern Europe. BRI investments play a role in the increased priority attached to the “16+1” – a political format that brings China and the region together. The sixth meeting of heads of states of the Central and Eastern Europe countries and China in Hungary has revealed four faces of Chinese activity in the region: connector, shaper, investor and challenger.
Image courtesy of Kurious/Pixabay.
Blending the policies of his predecessors, the Chinese president is trying to liberalize with an iron fist.
The world has changed since modern China was founded, and it seems that China, not for the first time, is changing with it. When Mao Zedong established the republic in 1949, having fought a civil war to claim it, China was poor and unstable. To reinstate stability he ruled absolutely, his government asserting itself into most other state institutions. Private property was outlawed, and industrialization was mandated, from the top down, in an otherwise agrarian society. The goal was to disrupt China’s feudal economic system that enriched landlords but left most of the rest of the country in poverty. Mao’s techniques ensured compliance with government policies, but they did little to improve the country’s underdeveloped economy. This is what we consider the first era of communist rule.
“The project of the century” is how Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi touted the Belt and Road Initiative to the world when addressing the UN General Assembly on 21 September. It was only the latest in a series of pronouncements and events, including a Belt and Road Forum in Beijing in May and the ninth BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit in Xiamen in early September, choreographed to position China at the vanguard of a new stage of globalisation. Step by step, China is demonstrating that the Belt and Road is now the guiding framework for its international economic statecraft.