By: Maria Paz Galarraga

Mid 19th century is a particularly appealing starting point to analyze China’s involvement in the world. After World War I, leading countries were worried to be displaced by a new set of ideologies. With the end of the Cold War, the previous international system fell, and new trends of connectedness rose. A system called globalization was established, and with it came the internet and the Web. This new interconnected system is characterized by a strong sense of global uniformity. Many leading nations took advantage of globalization to pursue their own personal, economic, social, and political goals. Within the international environment where the USA and Japan already ruled, China’s strategies stood out. These are better understood by their influential theoretical approach to globalization, different from the one used to analyze Japan or the USA.    

Undoubtedly China is a country with decades of history, all of which leads to today’s occurrences. China’s current mindset is composed of the events of the past three decades, highlighting globalization as their boost. Historians, economists, and politicians can point out their four main goals. First, the nation seeks to upgrade its skills in its workforce through higher education. Following their education process, China is on a quest for a world with a superior digitized level. China is recognized for its leading efforts to establish frameworks on data, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence. Furthermore, the nation’s central goal is to build the world’s infrastructure followed by the establishment of the One belt and the One Road Initiative. Bearing such ideals in mind, China finally aims to reshape multilateral agreements and to bring in developing countries to achieve newly advanced economies. To achieve such goals, China is involved in a variety of economic sectors such as the extraction of resources, road construction, and mining. Unfortunately, globalization deepened inequality pushing developing countries further down the international economic ladder. It is in this small breach of the system that China is looking to pursue its goals. Africa, South America, and the Middle East make up the regions where China is involved in industries such as energy, mining, infrastructure, and even research. Nevertheless, to understand how a nation managed to rule worldwide we must examine its early involvement in the Middle East as it sets a trend of expansion.   

The years between 1978 and 1991 determined the beginning of a strong relationship between China and the Middle East. They took a practical approach when seeking support for the development of their modernization programs and establishing diplomatic relations with the Middle East. With the end of the Cold War, the new modernization program gained power making Beijing interesting to the world. This process enhances china’s influence while competing with the two extant superpowers. By 1992 a thirst for oil arose, and a search for new economic ties consolidated a long-lasting oil relationship. The peace process in the Arab Israeli territory pushed new economic cooperation to emerge. More than 15 partnerships and agreements were made between China and the Middle East, demonstrating their growing influence in the area. While it is true that their relationship started because of oil agreements, today it mostly revolves around the energy demand and the Belt and Road Initiative making. The crossroads of trade and sea lanes linked Asia to Europe and Africa, leaving the Middle East as a crucial key in the future of the BRI. Furthermore, China got involved in the spread of the anti-privacy and maritime security mission in the Arabian sea. China’s economic presence in the region has gotten wider, causing conflicts with European interests. Their establishment in the Middle East has allowed them to be physically closer to the European continent and become a strong competitor towards western influence inside the region.  

Currently, it is even outweighing the United States and Europe’s control. China pursues the building of the world’s infrastructures and its desire to rearrange agreements does not stop in the Middle East. Investors spread into Africa which is currently the fastest-urbanizing region in the world. However, the nations are unable to foresee the expenses of infrastructure. Hence, China answered the call for investment and currently plays a central role in Africa’s urbanizing projects. Their presence in this region started before 2013 when the BRI was introduced. China accomplishes once again its goal by investing more than $200 billion dollars a year in the region. Even though their idea of investing in third-world countries seems honorable, China’s early partnership with Africa has other reasons, nothing came for free. When the colonial power removed their presence over the continent China immediately stepped into the power vacuum of the region. They laid down political and economic inroads that gave Beijing the advanced position it has today. It is here that one notices the true reasons for what we thought was an honorable act between nations. All this money borrowed and invested led African nations into a debt trap. Countries such as Sudan, Angola, and Nigeria needed the investment to provide their citizens with a dignified life, yet the money received was tied to demands. China in exchange received oil, cotton, manganese, cobalt, and coltan, all materials useful for their massive technology and textile industries.   

Chinese ambition grew with time, taking their ideologies and money around the world. Becoming Latin America’s top trading partner lending in energy and infrastructure. Yet for many years this relationship was kept under wraps as its presence worries the United States. Nevertheless, it has not stopped Latin American countries from getting involved with the Asian superpower despite the ideological pressure of North America. In fact, more than 20 countries have signed the BRI. By 2010 investment in the region was $180 billion, and it is expected to grow to $700 billion by 2035. Chinese companies further oversee foreign direct investment and loans. In return, Latin American governments often offer oil, energy, and infrastructure projects. Yet, the political relationship does not stop there. Countries like Venezuela allowed their involvement in national matters such as the strengthening of their military ties with China. However, as previously mentioned, every cent borrowed conditioned Venezuela into a debt trap. China makes up the biggest share of trade in South American countries. Chile has a 34% total trade with the superpower, followed by 28% in Brazil and Peru. Nowadays due to the socio-political situation in Central America, it seems like a particularly fertile ground to expand.  

Every move done since the beginning of globalization has allowed China to overcome its national struggles and achieve today the biggest GDP in the world. Not only have their goals been accomplished but they have also achieved a huge level of influence around the world. Considerably bigger than the one held by the United States above the Latin American region. As previously mentioned, China’s ambition went past the Middle East and then into Africa. Now it is focused on pressuring the United States and, to do so, they have stepped into Latin American nations. China made smart strategic moves throughout the decades resulting in its involvement with most of the world. They currently own an unimaginable amount of oil, energy, and technology all of which were achieved by their conquests within developing countries. Historians define it as a new form of colonialism viewed in the forms of economic and cultural imperialism, and finally followed by globalization and conditional aid. All of which is aimed to influence or control a developing country. 

Sources: 

Guillermo Solís , luis. (2021, September 10). What’s behind China’s growing push into Central America? Americas Quarterly. Retrieved June 3, 2022, from https://www.americasquarterly.org/article/whats-behind-chinas-growing-push-into-central-america/  

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Jonathan Fulton, C. L. (2019, October 21). China’s Great Game in the Middle East. ECFR. Retrieved June 3, 2022, from https://ecfr.eu/publication/china_great_game_middle_east/ 

Laurance, W. (2017, March 28). The dark legacy of China’s Drive for Global Resources. Yale E360. Retrieved June 3, 2022, from https://e360.yale.edu/features/the-dark-legacy-of-chinas-drive-for-global-resources

Roy, D. (2022, April 12). China’s growing influence in Latin America. Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved June 3, 2022, from https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/china-influence-latin-america-argentina-brazil-venezuela-security-energy-bri 

Woetze, J., Lin, D.-Y., Seong, J., Madgavkar |, A., & Lund , S. (2017, April). MGI China’s role in the next phase of Globalization | McKinsey. Retrieved June 3, 2022, from https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Featured%20Insights/China/Chinas%20role%20in%20the%20next%20phase%20of%20globalization/MGI-Chinas-role-in-the-next-phase-of-globalization.ashx 

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