China’s declared ambition is to become the world’s superpower by 2025. It can reach there much sooner. In many ways, it is already there. In terms of development, India is a good 50 to 60 years behind, if not more. Here are some of the lesser known nuggets of information on China that demonstrate why China is already a formidable power.
China has a ten-year supply of oil and gas energy booked at the lowest market point ($34 to $40 per bbl) of any nation. It is rapidly converting 10 percent of its energy sources to alternative forms much higher than the very small 1 to 2 percent achieved by most of Western Europe thus far.
China’s biggest mantra of success with the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia is its oil and gas diplomacy. China used to be an oil exporter, but about a decade ago it turned into a net oil importer. This way, China sought to kill many birds with one stone. For one, China made friends and influenced people in these countries by buying their oil. Secondly, by doing this, China started replicating the U.S. strategy of building its POL reserves–definitely a superpower-ish behavior. The Chinese involvement with Central Asia is best exemplified by its gas pipeline diplomacy.
China has very quickly and methodically interwoven its economy with economies of as diverse regions as Africa (South Africa and Nigeria), Latin America (Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Ecuador), Oceana (Australia and New Zealand), Middle East (Iran), Central Asia (virtually every country in the region) and ASEAN (Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines). This tactic has proven to be a major factor for China to successfully absorb the shocks of global recession that started in September 2008 and is still not over.
Needless to say that the Chinese juggernaut is moving at a breakneck speed as it milks its more than ten producing gold mines and sets its sights on five new and developing oil fields coming on stream by 2015-17.
China maintains a reasonably good balance between agriculture and industry. China has the largest car market in the world and at the same time its agricultural base is sound. China is not merely self sufficient in food production but a net exporter of products like edible oil, rice and meat, to name a few. The Chinese food security scenario is all set to be all the more rosy with its recent free trade deal with ASEAN. Because of this free trade agreement, the cost of living for southern and south western China is expected to be pushed lower by as much as 19 percent as these regions of China will have access to much cheaper vegetables, fruits and other food articles through ASEAN imports.
China possesses a stockpile of rare earth metals for military and domestic use that can easily last for the next two decades. The past few weeks have demonstrated how China has flexed its rare earths muscle with Japan.
Though it is not verified, Beijing has claimed to have the world’s largest English-speaking population, pegged at some 390 million under-35 people who can speak and understand basic English.
China’s infrastructural forays are very well known. China is going to add a huge network of 13,000 km of new high speed rail across the length and breadth of the country in the next three years. This rapid connectivity will not only facilitate its citizens and tourists to reach anywhere inside China within eight hours by rail; this massive infrastructure is expected to create as many as 12 million jobs.
In China everything is big. So is the case with its army that exceeds that of the United States by at least 5:1. The 60th anniversary parade on October 1, 2009 showcased the teeth and diversity of the Chinese military might, which demonstrated supersonic aircraft, drones, a wide array of missiles, Special Forces, ground mobility vehicle and high-technology equipment.
China is acutely aware of the racial challenges to the majority Han people and to the State itself. That is why since 2007-08, Beijing has started catering to non-Han racial groups. Now as a matter of policy, China is increasingly encouraging celebration of the multicultural diversity of all 56 ethnic groups. Their local festivals, languages, art, music and dance are being promoted in an effort to knit all these ethnic groups together. Importantly, China is paying close attention to the protection of heritage and natural sites of non-Han ethnic groups (China has 17 World Heritage Sites).
Space—the final frontier—is another area of deep focus for China. It is significant that while America’s NASA is gasping for funds, China has loosened its purse strings, aggressively pursuing plans for its own space station, deep space programme, and cutting edge space technologies. Besides, China is leaving no area of importance untouched and pouring in massive funds in such diverse sectors as nanotechnology, biotechnology, transportation, agriculture, textiles, environmental science, and medicine. The 242 exhibits at the recent Shanghai World Expo gave a sneak peak to the world where China is headed in the near future.
The moral of the story is simple. China is here to stay. The 21st century is projected to be the century of Asia. As of now, China is well poised to justify it. The way China is proceeding it may well be China’s Century.
By. Rajeev Sharma
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