China, the world’s leading economy is surging everywhere and is unstoppable.
China's grand vision is spearheading a massive commercial revolution which is at once bold and imaginative. For instance, online transactions in China and the rest of Asia are now worth twice the combined value of transactions in the US and Europe.
The Middle Kingdom has ventured much further than its initial foothold of producing cheap goods and selling them all over the world. It is now virtually dictating the global supply chain. The 'Made in China' brand' once shunned has now taken on global proportions. 87 Chinese enterprises are among Fortune Global 500 – their global business booming as they staked out their capital in an array of overseas assets.
Transatlantic trade? That’s the past. The oceanic wave of the future lies in Trans-Pacific trade with Asia boasting 15 of the world’s top twenty container ports and China in pride of place - with Shanghai, Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Guangzhou in lead positions.
It’s Asia, particularly China, who now rule the waves. What a graphic contrast to the past 500 years since European trading ships arrived in eastern shores in the early 16th century.
Then there is also the spectacular rise of inland China. These provinces have a huge population of at least 720 million people and a GDP worth at least $3.6 trillion.
“Over 200 major Chinese cities with populations greater than 750,000 lay some 150 miles inland from the coast. In effect, we are observing the rise of the world’s largest landlocked economy, and that will change the way China looks at the world. From Guangzhou’s factories to Shanghai’s bankers, all are starting to look inward, not outward,” Ben Simpferdorfer in 'The Rise of the New East'.
The new way in which China now views the world and itself has surely not registered in the world's consciousness, especially the way the West looks at China. In the West, the spin is always about a slowing China's economy and bubbles about to burst. The real narrative now is how China will develop and modernize its mid-and-large sized cities with populations larger than 750,000. China focusing inland on itself is now as important as China spreading its tentacles across the world. This is what’s at the heart of Beijing’s breathless “urbanization drive.”
During the 1990s, the imperative was massive investment in manufacturing. During the 2000s, the buzzword was massive investments in infrastructure - and a property boom. Now China is tweaking its model – from large-scale economic restructuring to absolutely necessary improvement of political governance.
Geopolitically, China has already tweaked its model, but the West, especially the US, has barely noticed it.
President Xi Jinping announced during the November 2014 Central Foreign Affairs Work Conference in Beijing that henceforth China would stop treating the US and the EU as its main strategic priority. It’s new focus would be on BRICS, in particular Russia; its Asian neighbours and top nations of the Global South, referred to as “major developing powers”.
This is not as much a Chinese pivot to Asia, as a Chinese pivot to selected nations in the Global South based on a “new international relations centered on ‘win-win’ cooperation”.
China’s new strategic policy is to court its Asian neighbors to embark on China’s extremely ambitious two pronged strategy of the greatest trade and commerce story of the 21st century: the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. In short, the launching of the first $40 billion Silk Road Fund of its “Belt and Road initiative,” as it’s known in China.
The enormity of the challenge is on a par with Beijing’s great ambition of a pan-Eurasia trade/commerce utopia, weaved by high-speed rail, fiber optic networks, ports and pipelines, and connecting East Asia, Central Asia, Russia, the Middle East and Europe.
Of course there will be challenges but also plenty to get excited over in the new century. What’s certain is that the Chinese dream of internal and global expansion has already started, aimed towards a “win-win” pan-Eurasia integration.