Recent rhetoric exchanged between China and the U.S. is a huge mistake — for China — writes Anne Applebaum in the Washington Post.
That’s because China has done so well using silent power, making multiple silent ‘power grabs’ across the world over the last few years to which the U.S. has appeared completely oblivious. This isn’t meant to cheer the U.S., but rather to provide a warning.
For example, China is consolidating itself in Afghanistan where U.S. soldiers fight and make enemies every time an error causes a civilian casualty, while Chinese businessmen take advantage of their protection to build companies and make friends every time they provide a job.
The fruits of this success are everywhere. Look at Afghanistan, for example, where American troops have been fighting for nearly a decade, where billions of dollars of American aid money has been spent — and where a Chinese company has won the rights to exploit one of the world’s largest copper deposits. Though American troops don’t protect the miners directly, Afghan troops, trained and armed by Americans, do. And though the mine is still in its early phases, the Chinese businessmen and engineers — wearing civilian clothes, offering jobs — are already more popular with the locals than the U.S. troops, who carry guns and talk security. The Chinese paid a high price for their copper mining rights and took a huge risk. But if it pays off, our war against the Taliban might someday be remembered as the war that paved the way for Chinese domination of Afghanistan.
Something similar is happening in Iraq, via a similar strategy of winning power while avoiding conflict, rather than winning power through conflict, as the U.S. seems to be fond of.
It’s not just about wars either. China has also taken Western nations for a ride when it comes to clean energy initiatives, says Ms. Applebaum:
Along with Western Europeans, Americans are pouring vast amounts of public and private money into solar energy and wind power, hoping to wean themselves off fossil fuels and prevent climate change. China, by contrast, builds a new coal-fired plant every 10 days or so. While thus producing ever more greenhouse gases in the East, China makes clever use of those government subsidies in the West: Three Chinese companies now rank among the top 10 producers of wind turbines in the world.
In addition she highlights China’s dominance of the global rare earths market, which, as we said earlier this morning, means that the U.S. would lose any true trade war with China.
This success with silent power is why it’s such a mistake for China to be so vocal right now on the world stage. They do best when quiet and ignored:
“We still haven’t realised that the scariest thing about China is not the size of its navy or the arrogance of its diplomats. The scariest thing is the power China has already accumulated without ever deploying its military or its diplomats at all,” says Ms. Applebaum.
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