Tuesday, April 10, 2018

A Lot of Balls in the Air

Strategypage takes a tour of China.

It seems to me that while China's economic progress has truly raised standards for huge numbers of Chinese, the massive corruption and hidden problems caused by this progress could cripple this advance thus far built on moving peasants into factories for export products.

And it seems as if China is hoping their "New Silk Road" (now OBOR: One Belt, One Road) project to gain new lines of trade to Europe overland, with sea lines of communication going through the Indian Ocean that provides a nice strategic move to sort of surround their foe India, will generate enough growth to nullify the problems and corruption.

But the corruption may be too deeply ingrained in China to prevent this ambitious investment project from being undermined, and ultimately failing to provide sufficient returns on investment. And worse, unlike the development thus far in China that at least has left physical assets for China, abroad the assets will be in the hands of others if they choose to assert control.

Will the money China is loaning to so many countries bind them to China? Or will the Chinese failure to make enough money from this massive project weaken China enough to allow the borrowers to escape the debt trap that allows China the means to potentially control the assets built?

If the Chinese anti-corruption effort simply erodes into a useful cudgel only used against opponents of the new emperor Xi, corruption will remain with new players the only change. Remember, the Chinese Communist Party isn't primarily about defending China. The CCP is about defending the CCP monopoly of power in China. Those are different objectives.

There are side trips to North Korea, which is learning to adjust to new sanctions (no surprise there--see Iran and Saddam's Iraq); and to Pakistan, which is turning more and more to Chinese weapons as America distances itself from our "problem child" ally.

Oh, and a bonus "Ef you India" move by China:

China has sold Pakistan a high-tech missile tracking system that enables Pakistan to develop more accurate and destructive ballistic missiles. This system is key to developing an effective multi-warhead missile, one that can deliver two or more warheads accurately to different targets.

Also--and I'd missed this development--China completed the move to return the border guard force to military control. As China modernized its army, a lot of low tech infantry-type units were transferred to police organizations. That was reversed for the border guards.

It just feels like Xi is juggling a lot.

We'll see if China emerges from all this as a great power or a broken power. Can Xi orchestrate all the good things that have to happen to make China great again?