China Is Quietly Reshaping the World

from The Atlantic

The Pakistani town of Gwadar was until recently filled with the dust-colored cinderblock houses of about 50,000 fishermen. Ringed by cliffs, desert, and the Arabian Sea, it was at the forgotten edge of the earth. Now it’s one centerpiece of China’s “Belt and Road” initiative, and the town has transformed as a result. Gwadar is experiencing a storm of construction: a brand-new container port, new hotels, and 1,800 miles of superhighway and high-speed railway to connect it to China’s landlocked western provinces. China and Pakistan aspire to turn Gwadar into a new Dubai, making it a city that will ultimately house 2 million people.

China is quickly growing into the world’s most extensive commercial empire. By way of comparison, after World War II, the Marshall Plan provided the equivalent of $800 billion in reconstruction funds to Europe (if calculated as a percentage of today’s GDP). In the decades after the war the United States was also the world’s largest trading nation, and its largest bilateral lender to others.

Now it’s China’s turn. The scale and scope of the Belt and Road initiative is staggering. Estimates vary, but over $300 billion have already been spent, and China plans to spend $1 trillion more in the next decade or so. According to the CIA, 92 countries counted China as their largest exports or imports partner in 2015, far more than the United States at 57. What’s most astounding is the speed with which China achieved this. While the country was the world’s largest recipient of World Bank and Asian Development Bank loans in the 1980s and 90s, in recent years, China alone loaned more to developing countries than did the World Bank.

Unlike the United States and Europe, China uses aid, trade, and foreign direct investment strategically to build goodwill, expand its political sway, and secure the natural resources it needs to grow. Belt and Road is the most impressive example of this. It is an umbrella initiative of current and future infrastructure projects. In the next decades, China plans to build a thick web of infrastructure around Asia and, through similar initiatives, around the world.

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9 Responses to China Is Quietly Reshaping the World

  1. Jimmy Bedoya November 3, 2017 at 6:36 pm #

    For a while, the United States was the leading country with its amount of power and money. Serving and aiding the world with its economic, social, and political benefits, the United States made its imprint on a global level by formulating alliances as well as establishing a vast amount of trade markets within other continents. Now the leader seems to be China with its growing extensive commercial empire. Serving as the largest export and import for 92 countries, 35 more than the United States, China is moving at a speed that is shocking the world. China at this point has been found to be lending more to developing countries than the World Bank. Using aid, trade, and foreign direct investment, China plans to build goodwill, increase its political say, and expand its natural resources. Belt and Road, a current and future infrastructure, is China’s most recent and detrimental source of ensuring their objectives. China’s plans consist of building a broad connection of trade initially through Asia and then through the rest of the World. Currently, this Belt and Road strategy is being executed through the Pakistani town of Gwadar. Undergoing “a storm of construction”, Gwadar is receiving a brand new container port, new hotels, and 1,800 miles of superhighways, as well as a fast-paced railway to connect it to China’s western provinces. Ultimately, China, with Pakistan’s help, plans to turn Gwadar into a city that houses 2 million people. Having spent over $300 billion in asserting this form of construction, China plans to spend over $1 trillion more in the next decade.

    On the contrast, due to recent studies, many speculate that these investments and loans will not help economic growth and will displace local firms as well as small enterprises. Not to mention the fact that these loans have interest rates rising from 2.5% to 5%, making it harder for developing countries to pay China back. Some believe that China is simply doing this act of “kindness” as a means to gain power and control over the governments of these countries. Critics believe that these Belt and Road projects are only encouraging “terrible governance, environmental, and human rights standards”. They also reiterate the ideology that China forms ties with countries who are corrupt. China was also reported to leave a huge amount of workers who were underpaid, as well as leaving damages upon the environment of the countries in which they work in. However, it is important to note that China has been making strides to formulate stricter guidelines and apply “world-class” standards, in an effort to improve their reputation, but most importantly, their ties and alliances. The author of this article believes that because the Western Hemisphere does not have the funds to assist these developing countries, the best that they can do is ensure that the change and improvements China is assessing are done in a positive manner. I agree with this ideology for the simple fact that no one country should hold the responsibility or power to improve the world around us. Instead, it should be a collaborative effort executed by all countries, if not at least all the powers of the world. A checks and balances system on a global scale would prove instrumental in the development and assurance of positive, global evolution. One power could invest funds, while another oversees where exactly these funds are going to, and a third power could ensure that these companies and projects are being done effectively and correctly. Something of this nature, as well as a rotation in responsibilities, would help the world reach higher social, economic, and intellectual status.

  2. Joane L November 4, 2017 at 10:57 pm #

    China is indeed becoming a leader in trade, not too long the country was only recognized for abusing their citizens through cheap labor. However, I think many disregard the fact that China is known for cultivating some of the smartest innovators.
    With companies like Alibaba, China has developed a unique model to support global wealth. They are also extending their skills to many developing countries in the carribean by building infrastructure while keeping the natural components of those countries in tact. One major issue that the article reveals is that China is the largest investor in countries run by dictatorship and that don’t respect human rights. This claim is not supported by any evidence, except one ignorant remark made by the president of Uganda. If that’s the case, Chinese practices should be viewed as unethical and limited, but instead they are gaining territory and advancing at a rapid pace, putting top leading countries at risk. Trading should be expanded for many reasons, it will reverse unhealthy political issues in many countries. Wealth should not be kept only in certain countries while the rest of the world suffer and corruptions continue to rise. This approach will help solve many issues that plague the society we live in.

  3. Elliott Otmani November 5, 2017 at 3:52 pm #

    There are many ways to analyze the purpose of this article. China is the biggest country in the world in terms of population, its population and economics grow faster and faster but there is a gap getting bigger and bigger in between the rich and poor population. On this sense, the government has decided for a few years to massively invest and open its economic to catch up with the globalization. We have seen Chinese companies and workers going to Africa a lot, Chinese capitals moving into European and Occidental companies too. This type of investment looks similar to the ones produced by few countries such as Qatar or Emirates in order to develop their economics and expand their development in a globalized world. In the case of China, there is a huge difference with those countries I just mentioned, it is the size of the population. They have a lot of people and they struggle to be in a situation of offering and creating jobs on their country. What do they do then? They invest outside on the territory of countries in development and they bring their main d’oeuvre with their companies to create jobs in these countries. What is wrong with that? China is growing fast, investing inside and outside of their territory. On the other side, do they create a profitable situation for the hosting countries? It seems that they do not help the population much, according to the article and statistics. Actually, they seem to be more profitable for the hosting government rather than the hosting population, going into countries which do not look so democratic and ethical in terms of money exchange and trades. China is taking advantage of weaker countries than them to develop themselves more than they would help those countries.
    Finally, how can we really bring a judgment on what China is doing? Doesn’t it look like the process of development used by European countries almost everywhere in the world? I do not mean to state that China is doing the right things but they are doing what Europeans have done in the past, and what they are still currently doing in a way with different countries in Africa for instance. It is the new colonization.

  4. Rebecca Hu November 9, 2017 at 9:25 pm #

    Ever since President Xi took office, he launched China into a new economic era. China is the fastest growing economy in the world annually 10% GDP growth. I have heard about the belt and road economic plan when I was in Hong Kong. President Xi emphasizes the importance of trade. This belt and road system is in hopes it will revitalized the silk road in the past.
    China investing in developing countries such as Pakistan, Uganda and many more in hopes to promote a cheaper trade connection. The belt and road initiative allows China to invest in large amount of money “to build a thick web of infrastructure around Asia and, through similar initiatives, around the world.” These investments are not really mutual beneficial, instead “often displace African local firms, and thus hurt employment in small enterprises.” In the world of economics there is no such thing as a free lunch.
    Maybe with some experience living in China, I feel China is always victimizing themselves and trying to create a scenario where China have always been the weak one. Now it is the time for China to exploit other country and race with U.S.A to be the largest economy in the world. I am amazed with the economic growth in China, however, with growth at such a fast rate it worries me about the stability of China’s economy. I believe I am not the only one holding doubts to the economic boom in China. Although with numbers China is doing great and the international market, Chinese companies and customers are known to be rich in asset. Domestically there are still many social and economic problems.
    I believe that the majority of the countries care too much about the numbers, about GDP growth. At the end of the day we created these numbers to measure how we are doing, these numbers are all results of human population exploiting natural resources. These natural resources will take a long time before they replace themselves, let’s not forget the negative impact these actions have on our planet. Chinese government are investing huge amount of money on rebuilding the Silk Road trade route, without thinking about any social issues. The priority for the Chinese government is profit. “Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni – no guardian of human rights – explained he likes Chinese investment because they ‘don’t ask too many questions,’ and ‘come with…big money, not small money.’” Clearly, these dictators like the Chinese investment compared to other loan options, they do not care people’s future. They want the money now and they want power.
    I don’t know how long it will take to make people realize that these numbers are not a good indication of how the people are doing. These are just numbers represented by our exploitation of natural resources. Instead of thinking about creating better trade relationship, the agreement that boosts these numbers. We should think about sustainably, with the current economy the rich will become richer and the poor will only stay poor. We are just enlarging the gap between the current broken economic and social system. I am not encouraging that everything has to be fair and the distribution should be even. But look at our wealth distribution in real life, the gap is ridiculous. China wants to race with the United States, just create another extremely skewed wealth distribution. I think it is time for people to change their way of perceiving the economic model. The poor people in China or Africa are not going to benefit. Without proper management and sustainability, the bridges and infrastructure China built in these nations will be quickly destroyed. Nobody will do anything about it because they want everything now, they want construction work to create jobs. They want investment to boost numbers that represent the welfare of the nation.
    I believe it is a poor economic model we are operating under. China has good intentions with the belt and road initiative. However, the bottom line of this initiative is about profit not about sustainability.

  5. Shiyun Ye November 10, 2017 at 3:10 pm #

    This article focuses on China’s belt and road policy, which is a newly developed and highly promoted economic plan recently. The main purpose of this action is to connect and cooperate between Eurasian countries and create a China centered trading network. These days the world is amazed by how fast and large is China’s economy growing. According to the CIA, 92 countries counted China as their largest exports or imports partner in 2015, far more than the United States at 57. What is most astounding is the speed with which China achieved this. While the country was the world’s largest recipient of World Bank and Asian Development Bank loans in the 1980s and 90s, in recent years, China alone loaned more to developing countries than did the World Bank. Therefore, with China’s strong financial ability, it helps other developing countries to build their solid economic expansion in the plan of one belt, one road. For example, one of the city — Gwadar is experiencing a storm of construction because of the participation in the plan. China and Pakistan aspire to turn Gwadar into a new Dubai, making it a city that will ultimately house 2 million people. Moreover, in the next decades, China plans to build a thick web of infrastructure around Asia and, through similar initiatives, around the world.
    However, there are some downsides of this economic plan: as China becomes the main investor on helping the economic growth and infrastructure building, China could own many of these countries’ coalmines, oil pipelines, and power plants, and thus have enormous advantage over these countries’ governments. At a minimum, it creates advantage to make many smaller countries feel economically beholden to China. Although people may argue the U.S. will find it harder to impose its will and it prevents the control from it, China now could be the one to impose its will. Finance and policy are always intervened with each other and it sometimes can create serious backfire. Currently the process is still going so whether the outcome will be good or bad is under inspection. According to the statistics, China is often the largest investor in countries that others ostracize—because they are run by dictators, do not respect human rights, and are corrupt—such as Zimbabwe, North Korea, Niger, Angola, and Burma. This negative history sheds a bad influence on people’s minds that the old story would come to the stage again. People would not want to experience another type of colonization, especially under today’s liberal trend.
    Furthermore, environment and legality are other vital elements to consider. As China’s GDP grows in a fastest speed comparing to other developing countries, the actions behind the numbers should be examined. For example, how many acres of trees are cut down in order to make factories and how many poor are being labored illegally in order to produce more profits? Numbers do are important to measure a country’s economic power, however, the actions behind it should be in a continual and practical method that can make the numbers grow sustainably.

  6. Tianqi Xu November 17, 2017 at 10:17 am #

    There is no doubt that after the World War II, United States is the strongest country in the world. Even until nowadays, United States is still the most powerful country in the world. Within the past 60 years, people can easily find out some traces that affected by United States from almost every field, such as business, technology and science. On the other hand, in the recent decade, China, a country that received a huge influence during World War II, has rapidly and continuously developed and started to show his power to the world and try to challenge America’s dominance in the world. The rising of China is a phenomenon that cannot be ignored.
    “The belt and Road” is the policy that Chinese government started to implement nearly about 10 years ago. It is a policy of taking China as the core and trying to jointly develop countries and regions along the coast of China, Central Asia, North and West Asia, the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. It included lots of area, such as trade, facilities construction and culture. Why China willing to lend a lot of money to those countries? It seems an unreasonable for most of people. However, China has its own purpose. First of all, China need to build good relationship with some of the countries in order to create convenience way to tread with other countries. Then, China need to “bribe” those countries. This is to show that China is the No. 1 country among these countries. However, in my opinion, this action is useless.
    As the article mentions, this action may let that countries gain a little bit benefit, but there are also negative influence. Such as, some of the countries in Africa did not been helped at all and they still need to pay back to China a quite lot of money. While China introduced Chinese worker to these countries, it caused the unemployment increased of the local countries. Even though I believe China’s purpose is to help them, the result is not what they expected at beginning. But here always have somethings will come out and things become complicated. There is no excuses for China to say they did all things right, they have to admit that there still have negative result. The later on job is to make up all those mistakes.
    The “belt and road” is only working for those countries who are weaker than China or it can be said that the only for the countries who still need help now. In addition, it is difficult to say the result of this action. Maybe it works for the Asia and the Africa however, the rest of the countries could not benefit from it. I do not know is abscess on it, the world is changing under this action and China benefit from it for sure. No one will do something that is harmful for himself or herself. No matter what will happen in the future, we all wish the world become better and better in the future.

  7. Valerie Dorsett November 17, 2017 at 2:52 pm #

    China has been developing at an incredibly fast rate. They are very advanced with technology and are always creating new ways to improve. One article I have read is that China is trying to use facial recognition all over the whole country. This has not shocked me because China is usually ahead of other countries when it comes to industry. Now, China wants to create a “Belt and Road,” and because of that they are transforming a whole town. They plan on creating new hotels, ports, and a 1,800 mile super highway and railway in order for it to connect to land in the Western part of China. When construction is all done, they estimate the town will be able to become home to 2 million people. They compare it being as good as Dubai or better.
    The article adds that China is quickly becoming the world’s biggest commercial empire. They usually take commercialism and technology to the next level. However, this is an expensive investment for the Chinese. So far it is estimated that China has put $300 million towards this project so far. They plan that over the next few years they will spend at least $1 trillion dollars on this new “Belt and Road,” project. That is an insane amount of money to think about. However, I guess with all of the work China produces and profit they gain, this is possible to do. Even so, I was surprised by this fact that China has loaned more money to developing countries more than the World Bank. The article adds that in contrast to Europe and the United States, “China uses aid, trade, and foreign direct investment strategically to build goodwill, expand its political sway, and secure the natural resources it needs to grow,” which makes China’s allies and surrounding countries want to help them out because China helps them out as well.
    China has this new type of town all figured out. The “Belt and Road,” is to date China’s biggest foreign policy initiative. It will connect all of China together which makes sense for transportation in the future. There is also oil coming right through Strait, which is why it makes even more sense to build routes near it. A very popular place in China that everyone knows is Beijing. The article says that this new plan will be able to compete with the United States of America. They definitely will be able to without a doubt. They will be making a lot of money and many people will want to go visit China possibly because of this new change. This could also create a greater sense of peace between many countries. If China is trading with many countries no one would really want to go to war and disrupt that. Along with this trade, China’s economy will be able to grow because of the business it produces with other countries. China will also always be able to keep up its profit because of how much interest they charge for a loan. Right now the interest is at 2.5 percent but the article says it could go up to 5 percent which means that they will always have an increase in income. Countries who borrow money will want to pay China back as fast as they possibly can. China wants to become more international, which will happen with the success of this new “Belt and Road,” system. China is on the road to success because of this new technological age that can grant them many advantages. I do not see this slowing down anytime soon.

  8. Li Zonghao November 17, 2017 at 3:35 pm #

    The Atlantic’s article “China is Quietly Reshaping the World” points out many new things about the global economy, but perhaps the most surprising is the quote “in its own way, China is thus helping to uphold international peace.” While this statement may hold some truth in that what China is doing contributes to international peace, I thought it was interesting that the author phrased it as if China actively attempts to uphold international peace. It is one thing to state an undeniable fact such as how the global economy is emerging more important than ever, but it is another thing to imply that China has any intention to actively uphold international peace. Thus, the author of this article may perhaps be a testament to the West’s revised opinion of China.
    Personally, I feel that China is certainly doing good for the international community, but it is not out of obligation to uphold international peace. Rather, it is a positive externality out of China’s attempt to become the world’s strongest nation. As America turns protectionist under President Trump, China is taking the chance to step up to fulfill the power vacancy in the international community. In many ways, this will benefit China because ever since the humiliating defeat at the Sino-Japanese war, this is China’s chance to get recognized by the international community.
    Furthermore, it should be said that it is not strange for China to use economic power as a means to gain international prestige because it aligns with Chinese foreign policy. A quick glance at the Chinese stance on the South China Sea and Southeast Asia relations will reveal a few themes: militancy and peacefulness and self-reliance and dependence on Western nations. However, among these varied themes there is the common goal aimed at increasing bargaining power and increasing Chinese reputation.
    In addition to the prestige that comes from helping surrounding countries, China’s reason to help them is also solidly grounded in the economic theory of free trade. Historical data has proven that lowering trade barriers and globalization helps by lowering prices for everyone. While domestic Chinese firms may suffer as a result, 1 billion Chinese people and many others will benefit from lower prices. Therefore, to say at the very least, China is doing good for the international community, but any implication that China is doing so for the sole purpose of the international community should be said carefully.
    After all, as China amasses power, the tension of the many unresolved international disputes regarding territory will definitely increase. The current peace among the complicated international relations in Asia is but a status quo maintained only by the United States; because China has to respect United States it cannot actively invade the territories that it claims as its own. However, in the future when China gains a better spot in the international community everything would change and the prospect of an invasion is not far off. As with the recent Catalonian independence, more and more people are forming their own national identities out of nuanced differences in culture. While it may be hard for foreigners to understand, to them it is as different as day and night.
    However, that is a question for the future. For now, the increased economic relations will definitely help the global economy as well as China itself. Furthermore, improved economic relations will deter conflict between countries that depend on each other. Unless a major event draws national outrage, there should not be much of an issue.

  9. Vincent Scorese December 8, 2017 at 8:30 pm #

    China was once a very weak nation and a laughing stock in most cases of the history of the world of more recent years and that of the ancient past however that wasn’t the case. Countries take turns rotating between being world powers and taking center stage on the global stage for grow and other reasons as well. If you look at history, the Chinese had very great moments of dynasties and prosperity followed by years where the Romans took over that stage of prosperity, followed where the Europeans all individualized and the British took their stake in the world stage. The Americans weren’t very far behind and following the revolution developed the new world that many went to in order to find new life. the Germans followed by Adolf Hitler as well as those of Japan and Italy rose to high power in the wake of world war 2 which was quickly reclaimed by the power of the Americans and allies following the war. The Americans have been growing and a global powerhouse in the highest degree for the entire 20th century and in that process and was the world’s leading economy. However, the turn of the century would tell a different story where china is now taking its turn of being the world’s largest economy and out doing the united states in mostly every category which is very peculiar for the world which was dominated for a long time by the American economy. They used to make china an open market with policies call Open Door policies which allowed trade form all the European nations into china to take advantage of natural resources or other desirable goods.

    Now china is getting the last laugh in this century as they are growing ever steadily with no signs of slowing down. They have a GDP growth that is well above any of the others around the world and is showing they aren’t taking their foot off of the gas pedal with the projections of over 300 billion already spent and a projected billion expected to be spent fixing up their nation and towns making them even more money and productivity on their way to trying to be the best nation on the planet as far as the economy is concerned. Our every growing dependence on china is a major cause for their growth and is also scary for us if china falls under for some reason or if we have issues with that country in the near future. I believe we need to be more independent so we can stand on our own two feet and again reclaim the position of being the top economy and exporter to the world around us.

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