Saturday, April 21, 2012

What's Up with China These Days?

One of my favorite subjects is China. I have been studying and doing analysis on the Forbidden Kingdom for years. I wrote my first paper on the subject for Admiral Dewy just before he took Manila because he wanted to know how the Chinese Empress would react to US military action in Asia (yes, that's a joke, I'm not quite that old, yet). Anyway, I recently took part in a round table on Chinese expansionism and thought it might be a good time to blog about what our friends in Beijing are up to these days (by the way, I love Peking Duck but, to be Politically Correct, shouldn't we be calling it Beijing Duck now?).

China has always had a goal of becoming the single dominant power in Asia. It has been patient and disciplined in moving slowly towards accomplishing that goal but hey have had a few speed bumps recently which has caused them to adjust the goals slightly and revamp their timeline.

The ruling Communist Party in China is about to have their regular elections to head the government and to fill the nine seats of the ruling committee (the real power in China). The process has not gone as smoothly this time as they would like. First of all, one of the men, who has generally been expected to head the party in the next term, suddenly fell from grace, causing a small political scramble at the top. That resulted in an attempted power grab (what the French call a coup) which failed but further shook up the old guard in the party.

To make matters worse, they have have a good old fashioned Western style scandal on their hands involving some of the same players. It seems a wealthy and influential British businessman was found dead in his hotel room in China - and it turns out that his wife, a close relative of the party member who fell from grace I mentioned above, may have been involved and that the death may have been part of a cover up and that British MI6 may also be involved.... the more details that come out about all this, the more it sounds like a plot from a Masterpiece Mystery special.

This is all good, juicy stuff to those of us following events in China, but what does it mean for the world? Well, a lot, really. These distractions and scandals will all go away but for now they have dis-railed the Chinese master timeline. China will back away from it's expansion south and east which means disputes with Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan over oil exploration and fishing rights will quiet down for at least a year. It also means that China will be more helpful to the West in controlling North Korea. Don't look for any "come to Jesus" moments -but they are very likely to pressure North Korea into a little less sabre rattling. China, by the way, wants the US to give those 500 metric tons of food to North Korea (without it many Koreans will start fleeing starvation and that means many thousands crossing into China looking for food and shelter), so they will try to get the crazies in the North Korean government to come back to the negotiating table fairly soon.

In the short term, China has Islamic radical and ethnic problems to deal with in two large provinces. They have to concentrate on a smooth transition of power. They have a good, but slowing economy, energy shortages and serous pollution problems to deal with. At the same time, they want very badly to be accepted by the rest of the world as an important player in world politics (that is why we are now seeing Chinese naval units actively engaged in anti-piracy patrolling in the Indian Ocean and off the East Coast of Africa).

So, for the short term, I don't think we have to worry to much about any nefarious activities from our Mandarin speaking friends. In fact, this is probably a very good time to work on bettering our working relationship with China (as long as we remember to keep the ammunition handy).

Oh, and before you buy your next "Made in China" item, check out this YouTube clip:

Live Long and Prosper...

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