China: it's all about the long game
The Chinese have always played the 'long game'. Donald Trump would think that the 'long game' refers to Chinese golfers winning by preferring to drive the ball further than putting more effectively.
Err, no. The long game is the sacrifice of short term success for greater long-term opportunity. Pay attention Donald!
Readers will recall the article in last week's W&D about the two marshmallow test.
Readers will also recall that W&D is fond of Zhou Enlai's famous response when asked, in 1972, by US President Nixon (making small talk) what did he think of the French revolution. Zhou replied, "too early to tell".
So, this is what the Chinese do, they play the long game very well. They are patient. Economically, as well as politically. And with the mask of the obscure.
On the other hand, Westerners like the obvious. It's a lot easier to understand the obvious. And less taxing on the brain.
Which is why Trump is a success. He focusses on the obvious and drives the obvious point home. Subtlety is lost on him. Which is why the Chinese will relish his election, if it happens.
Trump responds readily to being irritated. So the Chinese will irritate him wonderfully.
So where is this going?
Well, China is now economically confidant. Sure, there is a long way to go, but it's one hell of a big economy.
China has for some time been devoting all of its energy to its domestic economy and how to manage its vast population and that population's expectations.
And has now subtly changed its hitherto low profile on international affairs.
W&D has joined the dots for readers. Consider:
- China is now supporting Syria's war on its rebels
- China is now tightening its noose around Hong Kong's legislature
- China has just built its first foreign military base (in Djibouti) since withdrawing from North Korea in 1958
- New Chinese laws allow it to send Chinese troops abroad without a UN mandate
- China is building airbases on the artificial islands that it has created in the South China Sea
What's going on? Well, look at this from China's point of view.
The US has formal military alliances with South Korea, Japan and the Philippines. The US is seeking access to navel facilities in Cam Ranh Bay and Danang in Vietnam. The US is returning to having troops in the Philippines for the first time since 1972. South Korea has agreed to the US basing a new anti-ballistic missile system there.
Perhaps the Chinese are feeling a bit squeezed.
And it's fair to ask, where is Russia in all of this?
Well, in spite of the fact that President Xi and President Putin have met 17 times since 2013, W&D considers that Russia is only useful to China as (a) a source of natural resources and (b) someone with whom to work as stones in the shoe of Uncle Sam.
So the Chinese will want to:
- irritate the US (and Japan)
- politically project it's increasing economic power
- ensure that it will never again be militarily embarrassed (readers will recall the Unequal Treaties).
What does this look like? W&D recommends that Western political leaders get onto Amazon and buy a copy of The Art of War, by Sun Tzu.