If China wants to win, it should start acting like it.


China’s strategy is too much based on clientelism, the case in Sri Lanka is very illustrative.  And China’s values are far too much based on national instead of global ones.

The deal in Sri Lanka was largely between China and the then-president Rajapaksa who stacked loan upon loan to help build a pet project port of his in his home town of Hambantota. Other lenders rejected the investment because the port would not ever turn a profit and clearly was a way of Rajapaksa-clan self-enrichment at the expense of the Sri Lankan taxpayer. But China went ahead anyway and added onerous conditions that now are kicking in. Rajapaksa and his corrupt clique are not in government now but the country is of course still servicing his almost private Chinese debt.

Venezuela is the other case, where the current corrupt government is heavily indebted to China because of loans that are more intended to buy influence and leverage than actually contribute to economic growth.

At some point a country is going to default on China and its economic leverage will be a paper tiger. China only has the power of the US-built post-war international institutions to see to it that its loans are repaid and considering the exploitative nature of those loans, some governments like a post-Maduro Venezuela may decide not to service them. 

It will be many decades before China can bring a fist to such remote locations. But far before then, it’s also becoming clear that China is not a global player, its values are about promoting the Chinese nation and the Chinese race. Yes they are racist values: China feels it has authority over all ethnic Chinese individuals including those (such as Gui Minhai 1) who are not Chinese citizens, allover the world. And it feels it has license to treat non-Han Chinese within its borders as collectives, see the repression and mass incarceration of the Uyghur 2.

Unlike the US, China does not say that all humans are created equal and that by extension the global playing field ought to be equal to all. While in practise the post-war order is far from egalitarian, the US did oversee and further decades of a global economy where the two largest global car companies are the champions of Japan and Germany, the late and great enemies. It is that inclusiveness that no other global power with such military means ever advocated let alone flew as its ideological flag. 


1 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/08/daughter-gui-minhai-swedish-bookseller-china-fears-jail

2 https://www.theguardian.com/world/xinjiang