"China is building a blue water navy, even as it is helping to fund and construct ports in Burma, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The Chinese will not have naval bases in these countries: India would find that far too provocative, and the Chinese are taking pains so others see their rise as peaceful and non-hegemonic. Rather, these harbors will be visited by Chinese warships and will provide warehousing for Chinese consumer goods destined for the Middle East. China is building a far-flung trading network, ultimately to be protected by its warships -- the British Empire refitted for a 21st-century era of globalization."Robert Kaplan, 'While US Is Distracted, China Develops Sea Power', Washington Post, September 26, 2010. (click on post title to read article)
He makes nations great, and he destroys them; he enlarges nations, and he abandons them (Job 12:23)
It didn't surprise me when experts started making the rather obvious prediction that the 21st century would be China's century just as the 19th C. was Britain's century and the 20th C. America's. My grasp of economics may only be at the high-school level (but at least, unlike most theologians and church leaders, I've studied the subject!), but I understand that a country's wealth and ultimately it's power in the world is dependent on its capacity to produce goods and services that the world wants to buy. Since just about everything we want to buy is now made in China, just as in previous centuries it was made in the industrial powerhouses of Britain and the US, it stands to reason that China is raking in lots of cold, hard cash while most of the world runs a trade deficit against it...Australia excepted, for reasons I will come to explain in a minute.
It will come as no surprise to those familiar with history then what China is doing with the wealth its manufactured goods bring it...exactly what Britain did in the lead-up to its period of hegemony on the world stage: it is building a navy to protect its trade routes from competitors and pirates (yes, we still have pirates in the southern seas!) and extending its sphere of political influence to guarantee markets for its goods in the future and thus keep the cycle of wealth production going. Before we are too much further into this century, I predict, China's navy will outgun the US navy, at least in the southern hemishpere. What, do you think, are the likely consequences of that for Australia, which, following the collapse of Britain as a superpower after the highly symbolic and humiliating fall of Singapore in 1942, has relied on the reach of US naval power for security?
Now here's the irony in all of this. Why does Australia run a trade surplus with China whereas Britain and the US run deficits? Because we export huge amounts of iron ore, coal and other minerals to China. For example, about 24 coal trains a day pass through the city where I live bound for the coastal ports and eventually China. The Chinese demand for coal is literally eating away some of the best farmland this country has here on the Darling Downs and in central Queensland and destroying local communities in the process. And what does China do with the coal, iron ore, etc.,? Why, it makes steel to build warships, among other things.
[Pic: The Chinese fleet on parade, 2009. (c. Getty Images)]