In 2013 Chinese President Xi Jinping announced to students in Kazakhstan the Belt and Roads initiative, an infrastructure development programme worth over $1 trillion dollars. It aims to connect Europe, Central Asia down into the Gulf and the Indo-Pacific region, in what is a dynamic and radical move which is going to propel Chinese influence across the world.
Rail, pipelines, power grids and ports are going to expand China’s market basis while also possibly propelling stability and Chinese influence into the middle east. This is of particular interest to China, who have been running an energy deficit for some time now. It has drawn them closer with Putin and Iran as they desperately seek to gain the means by which to power their industrious economy. It has brought them into deep contention with Western powers. Trade deals with Iran and Russia have alleviated sanctions imposed by the West, so that now Western sanctions only seeks to strengthen Sino-Global power.
The west itself isn’t immune to Chinese soft power. China has recently purchased the Ancient Athenian port of Piraeus, an action that cements China’s place in Greece as a third way option between the European Union’s bailout offer and destitution. The French president Emmanuel Macron said “China won’t respect a continent, a power when some members leave their doors freely open” he rebuked Greece for betraying European brotherhood.
This is highly interesting, particularly because now we are seeing a backward flow along the channels of globalisation. Now China is exerting pressure on the West. It is undeniably a global power and is close to being dominant. With fingers in East Africa since the 1980’s and now reaching over the vital middle east, are we about to see the West react?
Never underestimate the dying behemoth, as tempting as it is. We shouldn’t won’t yet condemn the West as broken, but the way it will react to a new challenge to her power is going to dominate the coming years in politics, economics and identity. It is very possible that America too is going to have a different reaction to that of Europe, and fracture western identity.
This really brings the European Union to crunch time. We should expect more protectionist policies from the EU, America and China as they seek to embark on a trade war in the very streets of rights and freedoms of economic liberalism the West has just spent the last Seventy years trying to build. The EU will have to decide what it intends to do: will it fracture? Or seek closer integration and commonality in the face of a rapidly changing geo-political frontier.
Over the coming weeks we will be exploring these ideas, the growth of Sinoism in Central Asia and the Gulf, the vulnerability of the West, developing Europeanism in the face of new frontiers and looking into the motivations behind this bold expansive move.