“China plays the long game” has been an oft quoted statement regarding the way the Chinese have always dealt with Economics, Culture and most importantly, foreign relations. For centuries China has moved ponderously and slowly in it’s dealings with the world at large. checking and rechecking every facet of every option and outcome before decisively moving to engage a policy. It was that lethargy that allowed the Mao uprising, the Japanese occupation and the British and Portuguese rule of this seemingly groggy giant.
But when China does move, it is a juggernaut of awesome power. A mountain that begins to flow like an ocean as it reforms itself into a new unassailable fortress. When a population places the need of the many above personal ambition it seems so alien to western culture that we balk at the acts of and on the individual while completely missing the overall effect of the society. We cannot see the forest, for the trees.
For decades this giant has slumbered, while America and Russia postured at each other while still keeping a cautious eye on the giant. Russia fortified its southern border but regardless of Russian expansion into Europe, they left the Chinese primarily alone. America adventured in South East Asia, Cambodia Laos Vietnam, but after the disaster of Korea, they and the rest of the UN saw the folly of poking the sleeping beast.
When North Korea invaded the south, the UN forces reacted with speed and fury, easily pushing the North out of South Korea and continuing to march north with a superior military and strategy, but as they approached the edge of China it opened one eye and perceived a threat. Not wanting an American puppet on it’s doorstep it sided with the North Koreans and supplied them with arms and ‘advisers’ and suddenly the advance stopped. With the security of the world now resting on the events on this scrap of land an armistice was struck and the 38th parallel was established as a no man’s land. Since then both North and South Korea have bared their teeth at one another but neither has stepped back to that period of war. Regardless of the provocation the North harasses the South with, the South stands firm, and as bloodthirsty and aggressive as the North claims to be, they dare not antagonize their Middle Kingdom protector.
And so China slept on. But not entirely, they watched America and Europe, they learned how the west did commerce and they adapted it to their own set of conditions and mentality. Some will claim it’s Mao communism, but it’s older then that. It’s the acceptance of being selfless cog who’s value is measured on the contribution to the whole that continues to drive this society as it has since before the seven kingdoms were united.
CEOs are traded between companies like Lego bricks in a construction. Businesses are structured to profit while the workforce has been trained to take pride in being just another block in the Lego construct. where a brick alone is just that, a brick, a tool that is meaningless until it is part of a greater structure. China did not turn Hong Kong into a carbon copy of the many villages and cities of the mainland, they cast out what they felt was unproductive but kept the majority of the capitalistic endeavors, and they ran them professionally, to the surprise of many nations. They embraced manufacturing and technology with both arms and squeezed it into a form that was acceptable to the rule without crushing it into powder. (Something the USSR was not able to do) The Chinese were far more flexible in their political dogma, and as a result, added a few pages to Mao’s little red book.
China plays the long game. They have spent decades buying up American debt, creating or copying western technology, and becoming an economic force in the world, modestly and quietly, they have become indispensable to the rest of the world while asking very little in return, even as they ignore much of the frustration and anger over international laws that they have violated. But I wonder if the long game is coming to a close?
In very short order China has created an undeniable presence in the North China Sea, a hub of regional trade, and backed it with enough military and civilian force to make it almost indisputable. They own the United States for all intense and purpose through their accumulation of American debt. They could bankrupt or force a depression on America with very little effort. But most importantly, they are now stretching out a hand in friendship that we have never seen before. the Trans Pacific trade deal, African aid, and the Middle East are all getting a lot of friendly attention, and when the giant guy snoozing in the corner starts glad handing at the party, we should all take notice.
Dan O’Neail Jan/2016
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Part 2: China Awakens, will address President H.E. Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China and his speech at the Arab League Headquarters