Enter the Dragon

As Europe continues to titre on the edge of financial crisis, an economic giant from the East continues to prosper. China, a nation that has experienced double-digit growth for nearly a decade continues to grow in terms of influence and superiority in the global economy. Just this year China overtook Japan to become the second largest economy in the world  causing great ripples in the west, predominately worrying the USA. As many countries grow suspicious of this economic heavyweight, what is unearthed in this scrutiny is the sheer size of China PLC around the world.

made in china

China - ready to dominate?

China has managed to grow almost unchecked around the world with its largest interest in both Latin America and Africa, two massive areas of economic development in this century. China’s investment all across Africa, with public and private sectors buying up large parts of African economies, is just half the story concerning this ‘Goliath flexing its economic muscle’. The movement of about one Chinese million workers  to Africa and the massive building of public infrastructure by the Chinese illustrates an enormous ‘takeover’ of a historically tough economic landscape. This has been met with criticism from the West and some African countries claiming that China’s involvement in Africa is for vested interest and is potentially damaging for Africa, indicated in the treatment of workers by Chinese firms in Africa . However, others have emphasised the importance of China in Africa, most vividly shown by Robert Mugabe’s comments that Africa needs to look to the East, as it is bearing fruit  .

Furthermore, combined with its new domination in Africa, China has immersed itself within Latin American economies, with Brazil becoming its largest business partner. China until recently was unheard of in countries such as Brazil but now China makes up 9% of investments throughout Latin America . In episode two  of Justin Rowlatt’s documentary series, entitled ‘The Chinese are coming’, he alluded to the criticisms of China within Latin America. The bulk of the complaints in Brazil specifically focused on the saturation of poorly made Chinese goods sold cheaper than the higher quality Brazilian goods, and the use of illegal charcoal for the enormous production of pig iron bound for China.

However, China’s interest does not stop at the door of these emerging economies but has washed up on the shores of Europe, there has been open offers to buy up the debt of the small, paralysed economies. This has recently resulted in China offering to buy Spanish and Portuguese government bonds to create credit within these struggling economies. This presents Europe and in particular an American-fronted West with a string of new predicaments regarding the eastern giant and the threat it poses to the West’s economic superiority in what it sees as its sphere of influence.

No longer is China’s enormous investment and economic activity miles away from home but as this century starts to unfold, China seems to be diversifying, spreading around the globe in an attempt to become the superpower of our era. The USA has reacted predictably, showing enormous concern with Chinese activity in Africa, Latin America and now Europe. America is struggling both with an inferiority complex and the realities of being a declining superpower in regions where it has been the dominant force since the decline of the British Empire. All these symptoms are well known to Britain, where socially and economically we still suffer from the hangover of our colonial past.

Regardless of the negativity that China seems to be host to during this period of ‘economic landscaping’, what does seem important is that Europe along with its Atlantic neighbours, need to recognise that China’s rise around the world can be seen as a simply a mirror image of an old colonial pattern. A pattern arguably manufactured by Britain and followed by the Americans throughout the twentieth Century. China and its emergence as a superpower, willing to do business where the west has failed, should not be a reason to be negative about the string of Chinese projects around the globe.

However, there is a mounting growth of pessimism and concern coming from those who live in the nations where China operates. These centre on the conduct of the Chinese companies especially the treatment of workers and the potential damage this global Chinese project is having on the environment.  It is certainly the job of the west to listen to these views and hold China to account through the correct supranational institutions such as the UN. However, it is not the job of the west to get caught up in a ‘green eyed monster’ battle about who has the larger stick. Whatever, you think of China’s expansion throughout the international economy, I think it is safe to say the Chinese are no longer coming they have already arrived!


About Henry Fowler

Unite Branch Secretary. Labour Party. Trade Union officer.

Posted on July 10, 2011, in Coalition Government, Foreign Affairs, Looking Forward and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Interesting article. I do, however, think that this ‘Yellow Peril’ is not all it is cut out to be and that China is more on a path to being a failed state than a dominating one. I also disagree that it has a ‘new domination in Africa.’ Its influence in Africa has certainly expanded, but even the U.S. is still sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest trading partner. Moreover, trading with Africa is a ‘low priority’ for the U.S.

    I think that the ‘domination’ in Africa is completely depicted as something it really is not.

  1. Pingback: China: Fragile – handle with care « Politics Matters

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