The leaders at NATO summit last month declared China as a constant security threat that could undermine world order that is a matter of serious concern. “We recognise that China‟s growing influence and international policies present both opportunities and challenges that we need to address together as an Alliance,” NATO‟s declaration read. Similarly, G7 announced Build Back Better World (B3W) initiative days before the NATO summit that has to provide $40 trillion to the developing states by 2035 which flash back the Marshall Plan in our minds at the start of the Cold War in late 1940s.
Washington and its western allies are quite concerned of China‟s rapid military and economic growth and especially their expansion through economic initiative‟s in different parts of the world. The western concern is deepening since the launch of the Belt and Road initiative by Xi Jinping in 2013. By BRI, China has signed various rail, road, ports, and other infrastructure developmental projects with over hundred countries that means it would put various regions in Chinese net which seems a serious threat to the west. China‟s economy was smaller than Italy four decades before yet it is the second global economic power at the moment that bothers the west. This article examines how China could threaten the western interests in different parts of the world.
Although the Chinese growing investments are not a direct military threat to NATO or the west but it could hamper their influence in various regions. The Chinese investments in port facilities and telecommunication in Europe could weaken NATO‟s diplomatic influence. China possess ten percent ownerships of all European ports which complicates the situation for those countering China. Moreover, Huawei‟s close relationship with the Chinese Communist Party is a serious concern for the west. China is also rapidly expanding its strategic influence in Africa by investments and providing them low-interest loans with a loose schedule of return that has boosted the Chinese clout in Africa. By overtaking America, China is the largest foreign direct investor in Africa now. The question is why substantial Chinese investments goes to Africa?
Africa is inhibited by a population of 1.3 billion with the age of 19.7 that would provide China a low-cost labor force. By next year, China would become a deeply aged society and by 2050, the maiden age in Chin ais expected 51. Moreover, by 2060, one third of the Chinese citizens would have crossed 65. In addition to this, China is no longer a low-cost country vis-à- vis labor. Thus, Africa can not only provide low-cost but young labor as well.
Similarly, Africa has 30,500 km coastline that provide vast trade opportunities with the outer world. After geopolitical tension with the US, China is diverting its agriculture imports to Africa and invest in agriculture technology in Africa, that serves the Chinese purpose of trade and strategic goals. Likewise, Africa possess a fast-growing consumer market that best suits to Chinese interests. Chinese companies exploring new areas of investment and apply Chinese models, use its technology in this emerging market.
Alike, Chinese military reach is expanding and getting closer to Euro-Atlantic, another serious concern for the western allies. The Russia-China joint military exercises in Baltic and Mediterranean Sea were signal of close military cooperation between Moscow and Beijing.
Beside China‟s rise, the resurgence of Russia under president Putin is also a concern for the west.
Moreover, China and Russia are investing in natural gas projects in Arctic in addition to a
transport corridor known as “Polar Silk Road”. China is in addition developing modern nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers that could have serious implications for the western allies.
Hence, the concerns showed by the NATO leaders carry weight. Earlier, Trump administration was putting considerable pressure on NATO to put China on its top agenda items. Though there is convergence between the western allies and the United States about China, however, there would need a coherent strategy vis-à-vis China. The Biden administration has not that aggressiveness as that of Trump for China. Biden want to accumulate collaboration and competition, a more balanced approach that could challenge the Chinese threat quite slowly.
Similarly, an aggressive strategy that could directly hinder the Chinese influence is not possible as China do not pose a classical security threat to the west and United States. Nonetheless, this fact cannot be denied: China is a long-term strategic challenge for the US and its allies in the decades to come.