Relations between China and the U.S. are a topic of genuine interest all over the world. The countries are simultaneously partners and competitors. Washington understands perfectly well that Beijing is nipping at its heels. Not only that, but China would happily overtake the U.S. on all fronts at the first opportunity. Vassily Kashin, senior research fellow at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, spoke to Argumenty i Fakty about the rivalry between the two nations and America’s fears.
The One in Second Will Take First Place
The simple fact is that China is the second-largest economy, and it will become the first. As it becomes the global leader, China will inevitably enter into greater and greater competition with the USA. This is especially true since China will not only be in first place, but will also attain this position with a population that is three-and-a-half times that of the USA. This is a completely different level of demand for all resources.
At the moment, China is twice as poor as Russia per capita. At the same time, China is already the world’s largest energy importer and a huge investor worldwide. It is building up its presence everywhere. China is beginning to compete with developed countries. In order to reach Russia’s current levels — which you will recall is not the limit of China’s ambitions — Beijing must repeatedly outdo the U.S. in importing all kinds of raw materials. It must become the leading exporter of engineered and electronic goods under Chinese brands. It must also become the leading investor in the gas sector, not just in one region but globally, beginning with post-Soviet countries and finishing with Africa and Latin America.
The world is small and largely divided among various parties. If the Chinese increase their presence somewhere, then someone else must be forced out. It’s simple logic. The fact that China is so big and that the Chinese are determined to fully develop the country in order to achieve a certain standard of living means that they must crowd out many other countries from markets where they do business.
An agreement between China and the U.S. could only occur if America and other Western countries unilaterally withdrew at certain points and gave the Chinese some room without attempting to limit and contain them through political means. Such an option is unlikely since no one in the West is prepared to do this. Accordingly, a growing policy of containment against China is beginning: competition in Africa and Latin America, attempts to “cobble together” a coalition against it, among others.
This brings to mind events in Europe at the end of the 19th century. Back then, the great powers of England, France, and others were established, and they divided the world among themselves. Suddenly, Germany came on the scene, doggedly progressing and developing. It also needed colonies and resources. It was clear that they could potentially overshadow the “old” countries.
Naturally, current events are creating conditions that could lead to conflict. We don’t know if there will be a war. However, it’s absolutely clear that we’re talking about a fairly intense global competition, one that is already beginning to define all international relations and global politics in the 21st century. The only thing that could stop it would be a major internal crisis in China or the USA, forcing China to bow out of the fight.
What’s Good for Russia Is a Problem for the US
The U.S. is a country of 300 million people that has essentially reached its peak growth. China, with a population of more than 1.3 billion, is growing at an astounding rate, and it will continue to grow for decades. It will crowd everyone out. Companies will go bankrupt and lose markets. American oilmen will have a harder time getting contracts anywhere in Nigeria or Angola. Competition will get fiercer and fiercer. For countries like Russia, which sell natural resources, this is terrific news. For developed countries, China’s rise will become a problem.
India will head the same way as China. Despite a 20-year gap, it’s growing at a comparable rate; it simply began the process later. India’s population is nearly equal to China’s, although India has less territory and fewer resources. As long as these countries rise, even to the level of a medium per-capita gross domestic product, everyone will have to step aside and make way. If not, they will make way themselves.