What makes you want to stay in China

Soon economic power No. 1 : The West can wait a long time for an end to forced labor in China!

What will the new year bring geopolitically? In the past few days, there has been no lack of short-term forecasts - although Corona has only just shown how all forecasts can be wasted within a year.

Instead of short-term forecasts, long-term analyzes are therefore more appropriate, in which events such as the pandemic are, as it were, “priced in”. So what could the international balance of power look like in ten years? Will China then have overtaken the USA as the leading world power?

In the years to come, the future will undoubtedly belong to renewable energies, as otherwise global warming would accelerate with dramatic consequences for mankind. For countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia or Australia, whose business model is primarily the export of fossil fuels, this opens up poor prospects.

Moscow compensates for its loss of importance with military force, China triumphs

From a geo-economic point of view, this is likely to reduce the international status of Moscow and Riyadh in particular; after all, economic strength is a central aspect of the exercise of political power.

The loss of economic importance can be alleviated in the short term through the use of military force. Moscow in particular is ready for this, as the unscrupulous operations in Georgia, Crimea and, most recently, Syria have shown. They enabled Russian President Vladimir Putin to return to the world political stage as a key player.

In the long term, however, economic weakness and military strength form a bad combination, as the collapse of the Soviet Union has shown. There is therefore much to suggest that Russia and Saudi Arabia will be weakened internationally at the end of the decade.

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The opposite is true for China, whose share of global economic output has risen from two to 20 percent since 1980. As early as 2018, the former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd diagnosed that the People's Republic was "a more important partner than the United States of America for practically all states in the greater East Asian region". This is proven not least by the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership founded in November and controlled by China, the largest free trade area in the world.

The London Center for Economic and Business Research expects China's gross domestic product to outperform the United States by 2028. The researchers see an important reason for this in the failure of US President Donald Trump to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, which permanently discredited the political leader of the hegemonic power.

The number of corona deaths in the USA has now exceeded the threshold of 350,000 - a negative world record that is accompanied by disastrous economic and social losses.

While the US remains divided, China is celebrating itself as the victor over the pandemic

China, on the other hand, under the leadership of Mao Zedong, who was elected for life as head of state and party leader Xi Jinping, was able to keep the number of deceased within narrow limits thanks to draconian and extensive isolation measures. The official information of around 5,000 corona deaths should only be insignificantly embellished.

There is no doubt that Beijing's state capitalism can cope with the macroeconomic consequences of the pandemic much better than any western industrialized nation. As the only industrialized country, China was able to increase overall economic production by around two percent in 2020. In contrast, the US economy collapsed by 3.7 percent, and the statistically already signed unemployment figure soared by five million to 10.7 million.

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While the USA will remain a deeply divided country under President Joe Biden, the vast majority of the Chinese are celebrating Xi Jinping as the “winner over the pandemic”. You don't have to be a prophet to predict that China's foreseeable global economic domination is also a legacy of Donald Trump.

Beijing turns money into influence - for example with the help of the "New Silk Road"

Beijing is already converting its economic strength into geopolitical influence. This is evidenced by the expansion efforts in the South China Sea, the stationing of Chinese troops in Djibouti, the northeastern tip of Africa, and the growing pressure on "renegade" Taiwan. In addition, there is the “New Silk Road” project, which already includes more than 60 countries in Asia, Africa and even Europe, which together represent a good 60 percent of the world's population.

The attractiveness of the “Silk Road” is based on China's rapid economic success and the often only camouflaged mistrust of market economy principles in most partner countries - not infrequently a late echo of earlier colonial experiences.

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The well-founded Western complaints about “ethnic discrimination” and “Chinese imperialism” are therefore likely to fizzle out in Beijing and in the second and third world countries connected with China - which is often understandable from a historical perspective.

Because with the European expansion since the late 15th century, often under the guise of the Christian missionary mission, it was all about asserting one's own economic interests. “The age of empires and the rise of the West were based primarily on the ability to use force on a massive scale,” sums up the British historian Peter Frankopan.

The current situation can be explained with the story

China's elites in particular have a long historical memory. You know that after the first Opium War from 1839 to 1842, Hong Kong was virtually robbed by Great Britain - and China even had to pay reparations for the destruction of British opium.

You also know that the Nanking Treaty, which ended the Opium War in 1842, ushered in a nearly 100-year period of “unequal treaties” in which China lost its trade sovereignty and warships patrolling the coast opened up the Chinese domestic market to the British and others Europeans forced.

And they know that the esoteric Catholic Taiping movement, backed by US missionaries, plunged the country into the bloodiest civil war in human history, killing 30 million in the middle of the 19th century.

Against this historical background, it is not surprising that justified Western complaints about human rights violations or the persecution of minorities such as the Uyghurs fall on deaf ears with the political elite of China and large parts of the population. It is therefore unrealistic to expect the recent investment agreement between Brussels and Beijing to end forced labor in China. Instead, the country's historical experience is now hitting the West back - and by the end of the decade, China will pave the way to economic world domination.
Global Challenges is a brand of DvH Medien. The new institute aims to promote the discussion of geopolitical issues through publications by recognized experts. Today a contribution by Prof. Dr. Bert Rürup. Chief Economist of the Handelsblatt and President of the Handelsblatt Research Institute. Other authors are Prof. Dr. Ann-Kristin Achleitner, Sigmar Gabriel, Günther Oettinger, Prof. Dr. Volker Perthes, Prof. Jörg Rocholl PhD and Prof. Dr. Renate Schubert.

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