Everyone’s eyes are turned to China, the Middle Kingdom, whose dizzying economic growth never ceases to draw exaggerated praise. However, we are also facing the growing military might of a government that not only has not renounced the Marxist ideology but still maintains the relentless repression typical of Communist police states. Thus, one may ask: Is it prudent to ally oneself with China? Has its growth not turned into a “bubble?” Is there a danger of its pagan civilization defeating Western Christian civilization? Is the risk of such a threat worth running for the West? This article reveals the glittering side and the dark face of the “Paper Tiger.”
The severe recession hitting the major economies has made Western nations more indebted, weak and vulnerable. People’s attentions are increasingly turning to emerging markets — and particularly China — as the last hope of salvation to prevent a new Great Depression of incalculable consequences. However, there is a price to be paid for this hope: One must turn a blind eye to human rights violations in China, allow it to arm itself and recognize it as a “market economy” — all to the obvious economic, political and military advantage of Beijing.
Is this game worth it? Can China stably assume a position as the locomotive of world economic growth? Will the resulting political hegemony contribute to universal peace and stability or, conversely, increase the risk of destabilization and conflict?
In order to give an objective and nuanced answer to these questions, we need to discern the light and dark aspects of this overall picture without bias. This is what we intend to do here. We will not take as a compass the interests of this or that country or area of civilization, economic sector or political current, but only the supreme interest of souls.
Pope Pius XII once said that “the Church is an historical fact which spans the history of the last two millennia like a powerful mountain range.”
Like it or not, history unfolds in function of Our Lord Jesus Christ. One of the Church’s fields of action is the care of those peoples whose culture can still be called Christian. Another field is that of peoples who still have not recognized the divinity of Jesus Christ and combat Him openly or in a veiled fashion.
Jesus Christ and His Mystical Body — the Holy Catholic Church — really constitute the rock of scandal of the past and present; and it is in function of this cornerstone that the future will unfold.
This is the reason why Catholics everywhere in the world are led to desire cultural prestige, economic strength and political influence (inseperable, in this vale of tears, from military power) for their respective nations in order more easily to fulfill Our Lord’s mandate: “Going therefore, teach ye all nations.”
That is exactly what happened from the Middle Ages onward, when Christian peoples became the world’s leaders. They continued to be so even after the Renaissance, which marked the beginning of the decay of Christendom both under the House of Austria, in whose lands “the sun never set” in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and under French political and cultural hegemony in the Age of Enlightenment. Neither the English domination in the nineteenth century nor the power of the United States in the twentieth century changed this constant. Not even the huge Sino-Soviet Communist octopus at the height of the Cold War managed to wrestle the world’s geopolitical scepter from the West.
Today, Western civilization is neo-pagan in its most essential, deeper and more profound features, and its neo-paganism is in a sense more radical than that of the East. However, in it still spring forth many priceless traditional Christian values from that perpetual and renewable source of spiritual life, the Holy Catholic Church based in Rome. So it would be a serious error to claim that the West’s political and cultural hegemony upon the East has not and will not bring huge benefits to the world.
In this context, it is not surprising that the number one goal of the forces of evil is to eliminate all Christian influence in the world, eradicate Christianity in the West as much as possible, weaken formerly Christian nations and transfer the geopolitical center to the pagan countries of the East to the greatest possible extent.
China and the Goal of Eradicating Christianity
China is a nation that was never Christian in its immense majority. Worse, a neo-pagan graft was inserted into its old pagan trunk: Communism. In 1949 the country fell under the iron fist of the Chinese Communist Party, which, over the last few years added yet another poisonous neo-pagan graft: a hyper-productive frenzy typical of some macrocapitalist Western companies. Both grafts are reducing to a minimum the friendly traditions that China retained from its glorious imperial past.
Therefore, to magnify present-day China at the expense of the West is gradually to transfer the preponderant influence in the world from Christianity to paganism — unless the Holy Spirit, Who blows where He wills, inspires an expansion of the Catholic Church in the ancient Middle Kingdom and thus radically changes this picture. But that appears to be a far-fetched aspiration at this point.
Once the scepter of the oriental world — and pretty much of the whole globe — is gradually being passed into the hands of China, we must ask: What kind of configuration will a future world take under preponderantly Chinese influence?
Which fears or hopes does this perspective bring from the standpoint of the great ideal of re-conquering the world for Jesus Christ?
On this threshold of the third millennium, the world geopolitical situation and the dazzling rise of Communist China on the global stage should be analyzed particularly from this religious standpoint.
Today’s China: The Glittering Face of the Coin
Shanghai’s skyscrapers sometimes lead us to forget that a few years ago China lay in the most degrading poverty, with literally nothing to eat. That was the result of communism and, in particular, of the sinister Cultural Revolution undertaken by Mao Zedong in the mid-1960s.
If China was able to develop and rise to its current status as an emerging power, it is thanks to the assistance of large, macrocapitalist Western companies that made huge investments and moved almost all their industrial production there, to the detriment of the economy and labor force of their respective countries.
From 1978 onward, led by Deng Xiaoping, China introduced elements of a market economy, allowed a controlled entry of foreign capital and created on its eastern seaboard the so-called Special Economic Zones (SEZ). Mixed-capital companies able to invest in the research and development of new technologies, with the support of European and American scientists, settled in those areas. On the other hand, in the agricultural sector, responsibility for production, ownership of the means of production and decision-making were transferred from municipalities and local governments to the farmers themselves.
In 2003, only 25 years later, foreign investments had risen from $5 billion to $60 billion; GDP had grown practically sevenfold; per capita income grew five times, and productivity quadrupled. Over the same period, China’s share of world GDP grew from 5% to 15% (calculated according to purchasing power parity).
The total value of Chinese foreign trade rose from $20.6 billion in 1978 to $1.1548 trillion in 2004, rising from 38th to third place in world ranking. In the previous year, China passed Germany as the world’s largest exporter.
From 2004 to this day, China has continued to grow at an average annual rate of 9.65%, and in February of this year passed Japan as the world’s second largest economy.
Because of its trade surplus, China has accumulated huge foreign exchange reserves ($4.21 trillion, equivalent to 30% of world reserves). No single country in modern history had ever accumulated such an amount of financial resources. Chinese sovereign wealth funds serve as tools for a neo-colonialist offensive at all latitudes, particularly in Africa and Latin America, where China finds the raw materials its own territory lacks.
In a word, the Middle Kingdom has apparently become the greatest success story in the economic history of mankind.
The Dark and Dangerous Side of the Coin: the “Paper Tiger”
As often happens, however, appearances can be deceiving…
1. Per Capita GDP
Even if China’s GDP as published by its Communist rulers (thus to be taken with a grain of salt) were one day to equal that of the U.S., there is an often-forgotten detail: China currently holds the 100th place in the World Bank’s GDP per capita global ranking, between Angola and Tunisia!
And the day the Chinese economy reaches the size of its American rival’s (it is estimated that this could happen around 2050), its GDP per capita will still represent a meager quarter of the per capita GDP in the U.S. or Canada.
This means that if it continues to grow at the current pace for another forty years, China will still be a developing country in which about 50 million people enjoy a Western standard of living, while another 350 million remain on a level equivalent to that of today’s Russia and one billion still linger in the dark misery inherited from socialism.
2. Ongoing Riots
It is easy to imagine the degree of discontent emerging from this vast mass of people immersed in extreme poverty and forced to migrate to other regions where they live face to face with the ostentatious luxury of a minority of opportunists and members of the former nomenclature. A study by academics at Tianjin University reported 90,000 cases of revolt, including street riots and petitions in 2009 alone. According to the Vatican’s leading China expert, missionary Father Bernardo Cervellera, the number of episodes of social revolt is up to 180,000 a year! Holding the whole country together will require further strengthening the already ruthless repressive military and police apparatus.
3. Lack of Creativity and Initiative
By limiting access to information and education, this repressive system stifles intellectual capital and entrepreneurial spirit, which require a climate of freedom in order to flourish properly. This lack of creativity is what forces Chinese Communist rulers to unabashedly develop full-scale industrial espionage to copy new discoveries and methods developed elsewhere. Yet, as shown by the recent accidents with a high speed train and the subway in Shanghai, they are barely able to copy correctly.
In a globalized and hyper-competitive world governed by what economists call “breakthrough innovations” that change the parameters of particular sectors of the economy (e.g. new technology releases by Apple under Steve Jobs), China has no chance of winning the race and will be limited to its current roles as a giant contractor to multinational companies looking for a cheap labor, and the world’s biggest counterfeiting shop.
We have recently seen the scandal of counterfeit “Apple” and “Ikea” stores open in Kunming, capital of Yunnan Province in southwest China. A few years ago there was a sensational case of a joint venture between Embraer, the Brazilian maker of mid-range civilian aircraft, and the Chinese state-owned CAIC, which took advantage of the partnership to steal Brazilian technology and then broke the contract to develop its “own” aircraft.
This lack of creativity and initiative will weigh more and more on the Chinese economy.
4. State Socialism
This is all the more so since the economy’s most important and lucrative sectors are reserved for state enterprises, which benefit from 80% of bank loans. The result is that while 150 companies nationwide and 120,000 regional companies get the lion’s share, four million private companies and tens of millions of small private businesses, often informal, must fight for the crumbs. According to statistics, the 150 large firms generate more than two thirds of China’s GDP and their profits correspond to half the national wealth.
Although many companies are listed on the stock exchange or have been officially privatized, the government actually retains at least half — and up to two thirds — of the shares, and company heads are chosen by the Commission for Supervision and Administration of the Patrimony after consulting with the Communist Party.
Not surprisingly, two thirds of board members and three-fourths of their executives are officials or members of the Chinese Communist Party, which currently has 85 million members and a waiting list of 80 million to 100 million opportunists. In 2008, the present prime minister, Wen Jiabao boasted that “the Chinese Communist Party represents the people, and therefore the dictatorship of the proletariat is the world’s best system.”
As China continues to operate on “five-year plans,” its squalid private sector is forced to act within the strict framework set by a dictatorial party which considers access to development by a majority of the population as a threat to its power.
No entrepreneur can carry out his activities without submitting entirely to the orders of the single party and without paying off government officials and the Party’s leading cadres. Moreover, through the system of 70-year leases, nothing in China really belongs to any private individual, be it land or homes.
5. The Brain Drain
The result of this climate is that the best entrepreneurs, who have managed to survive and enrich themselves, are investing abroad en masse in order to install their families there and obtain a foreign passport. Their favorite destinations are the United States, Canada and Australia.
According to a joint report by the China Merchants Bank and the U.S. firm Bain & Co., 27% of 20,000 Chinese owners of a fortune of at least $15 million emigrated and 47% are considering doing so. Last year alone, 68,000 Chinese obtained the coveted U.S. green card.
6. The “Geographical Fracture”
The only solution to avoid this continuing “brain drain” would be to liberalize the regime. However, that would cause other grave problems given the severe regional, social and ethnic imbalances throughout China. Indeed, the ancient Middle Kingdom is a victim not only of Tibetan and Uighur separatists, but the Chinese identity itself is facing a major crisis caused by a “geographical fracture” between developed coastal regions and the backward agricultural hinterland on the one hand, and by fights between the central administration and local governments dominated by small potentates on the other.
7. Energy Shortage and Pollution
Access to energy resources is one of the issues that causes friction between regions. China not only lacks arable land and water, but its development has led to a dramatic “energy shortage.” According to the International Energy Agency, China’s energy consumption has doubled in less than a decade, making it the world’s largest consumer, surpassing even the United States.
China has been the largest coal producer and consumer (67% of its energy is thermoelectric) since 1959, when the Great Leap multiplied the numbers of small thermoelectric ovens even in villages of the interior. This explains the fact that in almost every city — especially Beijing — the sky is gray rather than blue and that 30% of the acid rains polluting Japan come from China.
Moreover, while coal mines are located in the north, 71% of the consumer industries are based mainly in the east. This is why half of all rail freight is monopolized by the transport of coal. On the other hand, oil and gas wells are located in the northwest, requiring the construction of huge and extremely long oil and gas pipelines.
It is not surprising that the number of environmental accidents has grown exponentially in recent years and that China’s rivers are the world’s most polluted. One of the more economic solutions is hydroelectricity, and this explains China’s iron-fisted control over Tibet, where most rivers originate. Yet, Chinese dams (including the gigantic Three Gorges) represent less than 10% of current production.
8. An Aging Population
However, the major “Achilles heel” of the People’s Republic of China is the aging population, a result of the irrational “one child” policy established by the Chinese government in 1979. The fertility rate is estimated at between 1.5 and 1.8 children per woman of reproductive age, below the 2.1 rate needed to maintain a stable population.
The three main consequences of the “One Child” policy are:
a) Imbalance in the sex ratio at birth (mainly due to the abortion of unborn girls), currently 120 boys per 100 girls, has resulted in a shortage of 20 million to 30 million girls that boys could marry;
b) This gradually turns the age pyramid upside down, placing an excessive load on the shoulders of the current generation of young people, who will have to cope alone with sustaining their aging parents. In 2007 the number of Chinese at retirement age was 144 million. By 2035 this number is expected to rise to 391 million (more than double), while the number of young people will decrease. This drop is already noticeable in schools: In 1995 there were 25.3 million new students; in 2008, that figure had fallen to 16.7 million; in 1990 China had over 750,000 elementary schools; by 2008 they numbered close to 300,000 because of declining birth rates;
c) Decline in the labor force, which in the last ten years saw a 14% fall in the number of young workers aged 20 to 29 (a drop that will reach 20% in the next 20 years). This labor shortage will result in increased wage demands by new workers.
9. The Housing Bubble and Inflation
To these very serious structural weaknesses are added two alarming cyclical weaknesses: the housing bubble and rising inflation. Indeed, in order to maintain a double digit growth despite the financial crisis of 2008, the Communist Party ordered the Central Bank to provide credit and encourage private individuals to invest in real estate, on the one hand; and on the other hand it encouraged local potentates to develop a policy of building new infrastructure (much of it useless).
This gave rise to speculation in the construction sector and to the formation of a huge housing bubble. In recent years, construction sector participation in GDP has risen to more than 20%, causing property prices to soar far above the buying power of middle class families (resulting in tens of millions of unoccupied apartments and houses). To have a point of comparison, at the height of the building boom in Spain and Ireland, the GDP share of construction was respectively about 11% and 9.4%. Thus, the bubble in China is twice the size of the Spanish and Irish ones. What will happen when the Chinese bubble bursts? Just look at what happened in Spain and Ireland…
According to available data, the internal debt is currently at 125% of GDP, and half of it is deemed unrecoverable. As a result, rating agencies have begun to downgrade the notes of banks and public enterprises in China.
Inflation was another result of that same loosening of credit. As interest rates offered by banks for deposits are clearly inferior to price increases, the Chinese are encouraged to spend money quickly on goods that can maintain their value. This feeds back into inflation. In recent months it has hovered above 6% per year, affecting mainly sectors that relate to everyday life: food, housing, etc. Containment measures have achieved negligible results and price controls on some vegetables only fueled the black market.
10. The New Wage Demands
In view of this, and given the decreasing numbers of young people entering the labor force, company employees began demanding significant pay increases. Unable to absorb the costs, companies are forced to jack up prices. This leads employees to demand further increases, leading to a “price-wage spiral” that makes Chinese products more expensive in overseas markets. This is precisely the opposite of what has been the basis of the “China miracle”: cheap labor and low-cost exports.
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All in all, China’s unbalanced growth, spectacular as it has been in recent decades, may be only a fleeting mirage. If this happens, China will become a “paper tiger,” the derogatory expression Mao Zedong applied to the United States.
China, Largely Responsible for the Financial Ruin of the West
However, in its short period of glory, this “paper tiger” is said to have managed to cause the economic crisis in which Europe and the United States find themselves. The mechanism of this development was recently revealed in the pages of the French newspaper, Le Monde by Antoine Brunet, co-author of the book, La Visée hégémonique de la Chine (L’Harmattann, 2011).
Brunet explains that, according to the IMF and the UN, China keeps the yuan at $0.15 and at 0.11 euro thanks to a draconian control of its currency, while the exchange rate should be $0.25 and 0.21 euro. By admitting China into the World Trade Organization, Western countries renounced the right to apply anti-dumping measures and customs restrictions, the only weapons that could have forced Chinese rulers to revalue their currency.
The result was a massive de-industrialization of the West (companies moved their factories to China), accompanied by an intense industrialization of the latter, which took over the markets. The West’s trade deficit soared, while domestic investment in Western nations decreased and their economies were exposed to a prolonged recession of a structural nature caused by the manipulation of the yuan.
Instead of standing up to China, the solution found by Alan Greenspan (former chairman of the Federal Reserve) and his European colleagues was to promote a policy of low interest rates to discourage household saving and encourage the purchase of housing loans and other consumer goods. For four years, GDP and employment in Western countries were pulled up by a real estate euphoria that led to excesses and had a terrible boomerang effect: a three-pronged real estate, banking and stock market crisis, with a recession and an explosion of unemployment: An absolute fiasco.
In late 2008, instead of forcing China to revalue the yuan — which would have been the only real solution to boost foreign trade, GDP and employment in Western countries from the beginning — the apprentice sorcerers of the Western economy opted for a policy of budgetary stimulus while maintaining low interest rates in the short and long term.
In spite of this Keynesian strategy, the resumption of growth was modest and short-lived, and in any case unable to absorb the huge deficits caused by stimulus plans, making the national debt go through the roof. The ensuing investor suspicion about the ability of weaker countries to honor their commitments (Greece, Portugal, Ireland, etc.) caused a surge in interest rates demanded by the markets to purchase government bonds, pushing these countries to the brink of bankruptcy. This new and resounding fiasco threatens to blow up the eurozone and the European Union as well.
Who is responsible? — The cowardice of the West facing China. Why? Because: 1) It was monetary pacifism facing Chinese currency manipulation that destabilized western economies at all levels (commercial, economic, social, technological, etc.); 2) compensatory policies failed and only served to aggravate the destabilization; 3) the only structural solution would have been to collectively enforce customs reprisals to force China to revalue the yuan.
Will the United States and Europe have the courage to do it, knowing that trade disputes are often the preface to diplomatic and even military conflict? This raises the delicate issue of China’s military escalation.
China’s Greatest Threat: Its Growing Military Power
Favored by Beijing’s diplomatic recognition as the sole legitimate representative of all China with a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, the Chinese Communist rulers have used Taiwan’s independence aspirations as a pretext for an escalating arms race.
Taiwan, with its own government and de facto independence on the island since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, is in fact recognized as an independent State by fewer than twenty small nations. And Beijing threatens to use force if Taiwan formally declares independence, offering in exchange the “one nation, two systems” formula in force in Hong Kong.
The arms escalation, however, goes far beyond what would be needed to frighten and eventually face Taiwan, leading American and European analysts to suspect that China has wider geostrategic and military interests.
1. The Dominant Economic and Ideological-Strategic Interests
Such interests are at the same time, ideological-strategic and economic. From an economic standpoint, China’s scarce natural resources oblige it to ensure the supply of a coastal population whose consumption pattern grows every day. Moreover, the Chinese export-based development leads the country’s rulers to ensure access to reliable sources of the raw materials necessary for its manufacturing sector. This explains China’s growing rapprochement with Pakistan, with which it is building a partnership (11,000 Chinese soldiers are stationed in the Gilgit-Baltistan region to help Pakistan fight a separatist rebellion by the local population) in order to build a road and rail corridor giving direct access to the huge port of Gwadar at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, recently funded and built by China.
From the ideological and strategic standpoints, in order to defend her own interests, China strives to build an international coalition of emerging countries that will ultimately end up embarking in a sort of North v. South struggle, an updated version of the old Marxist class struggle. This explains China’s approach to the dictatorial regimes of Cuba and Venezuela, as well as their populist partners in Ecuador, Bolivia and, more recently, Peru.
In addition to military exports — the purchase of 40 K-8 (Karakorum) aircraft by Venezuela and six by Bolivia and of a command and control center by Chavez’s air force using JYl-1 radars, also acquired by Ecuador — the Chinese People’s Liberation Army employs institutions of its National Defense University (in Nanjing and Changping, near Beijing) to strengthen ties with officers of Latin American armies by offering them courses in Spanish and English. For the same end, since 2004 the PLA participates in the UN international force in Haiti and has carried out exercises in humanitarian assistance in Peru.
2. The Red Dragon’s Hegemonic Doctrine
In order to achieve these political, strategic and economic goals, geo-strategists of the People’s Liberation Army speak of a new “frontier of interests” of the People’s Republic of China, suggesting that the Chinese army should not only protect its vast territory, but also economic interests far beyond its borders (for example, oil and mining companies operating in vulnerable regions of the Amazon forest).
Hence the need, according to Chinese strategists, to prepare the armed forces not only for defensive action but especially as a “deterrent force” capable of “active, far-reaching defense” (in faraway places). In 2006, Wu Shengli, commander in chief of the Chinese Navy, demanded “a powerful navy to protect fisheries, exploration of raw materials and strategic energy routes.”
In 2010, the director of the Research Institute of Military Development at the Chinese National Defense University, Colonel Liu Mingfu, published a book titled, A Chinese Dream: Big-Power Thinking and Strategic Positioning in a Post-American Era, in which he maintains, paraphrasing Clemenceau, “the world is too important to be left to the United States.” The colonel continues, “China must save herself and the world” and prepare to be the “world’s skipper,” since it “has the superior cultural gene required to become world leader.”
Asked by the site of Global Times, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, about the conclusions drawn in Colonel Mingfu’s book, 80% of Chinese Internet users said yes to the question: “Do you believe China should strive to become the world’s number one country and the dominant military power?”
This new bellicose trend was shown in 2001 when Chinese aviation forced a U.S. reconnaissance EP-3 plane to land on Hainan Island and later dismantled the aircraft and imprisoned its crew for a long time.
3. The Peoples Liberation Army’s Conventional and Nuclear Arsenals
In fact, China already has the world’s largest troop contingent and has doubled its military budget in a race to equip its forces with ever more sophisticated weaponry, including non-conventional weapons.
Over the last decade, the Chinese Communist government has increased the number and quantity of nuclear warheads in its arsenal, with missiles capable of reaching distant targets. A recent Pentagon report acknowledged that the People’s Liberation Army “is rapidly closing the technological gap with modern armed forces.” For example, Chen Hu, chief military columnist of the official Xinhua news agency and editor of the magazine, World Military Affairs, maintains that the latest versions of J-10 and J-11 fighter jets are more advanced than the latest version of the American F-16, and that this is the reason why the Obama administration refused to provide F-16s to its Chinese nationalist allies in Taiwan.
The same report reveals the existence in central China of deep underground facilities connected by three thousand miles of tunnels, used to store and hide warheads and missiles and to house command centers resistant to nuclear attack.
In his recent book A Contest for Supremacy, Prof. Aaron L. Friedberg of Princeton University explains how China represents a serious threat to the future of peace: “The range, accuracy, and number of medium-range ballistic and cruise missiles in China’s arsenal will soon give it the option of hitting every major American and allied base in the [Western Pacific] region with warheads that could put craters in the middle of runways, smash through concrete aircraft shelters, and shut down ports, power plants and communication networks,” the author states.
Based on the “asymmetric warfare” theory of Maoist guerrillas (that says that a mortal threat does not necessarily come from an equivalent military power; for example, the attack on the twin towers), the PLA has devoted much of its resources to areas that give it an asymmetric advantage, such as electronic warfare and espionage.
Another factor that gives Chinese troops an edge is their fanaticism, resulting from an ongoing political indoctrination by People’s Commissars. The latter exploit national pride by presenting China as a Third World country, victimized by predatory Western imperialism and colonialism.
At a recent conference in Canada, Donald Rumsfeld, Defense Secretary under President George Bush, candidly admitted, “The only thing I really worry about with China is I don’t really understand the relationship between the political leadership — the Communist Party leadership — and the [People’s Liberation Army] PLA. I don’t know what [the PLA’s] influence is or who’s in charge of the place. It’s kind of a mystery to me.”
A similar ingenuity seems to prevail among Western leaders about the notorious rapprochement between Moscow and Beijing.
4. The Strategic Convergence between China and Russia
In fact, despite the claims of most Western leaders based on optimistic analysts, the interests of China and Russia are not divergent, but convergent, at least in the short and medium term.
A study by Kyrre Brækhus and Indra Øverland published in 2006 by the Oslo-based Norsk Utenrikspolitisk Institutt emphasizes this convergence with its expressive title: “A Match Made in Heaven?” The authors reckon this geostrategic convergence results both from common material interests and shared values and ideology.
From the material point of view, Russia is the balance of power in the power play between Japan and China for preeminence in Asia. The reason is that the two asian powers lack raw materials, especially energy, which must be brought from afar through strategic routes at high risk, whereas they are found in abundance, more securely and with lower shipping costs in the Russian territory.
A symptomatic case is the pipeline to carry oil from western Siberia to the Far East, whose course was bitterly disputed between Japan and China. Until 2004, it seemed that Japan was having the upper hand and that the eastern terminal of the pipeline would be located in Nakhodka Bay, Siberia, later to be completed all the way to Japan. Instead, in 2005 the Russian government chose an alternative route taking the oil first to Skovorodin, near the Chinese city of Daqing. The pipeline, built with a $25 billion loan, began operating on January 1, 2011 and will provide China with 300,000 barrels of oil per day for 20 years. There is already a plan to develop a parallel gas pipeline.
Russia can also provide Chinese companies with strategic minerals of which Russian companies are the top world producers, such as aluminum, nickel, titanium and palladium. Such companies are also among the leading producers of other minerals such as platinum (2nd largest), magnesium (3rd), vanadium (44th), cobalt and gold (5th), copper (6th), not counting their coal reserves, trumped only by the United States.
China’s growing competitiveness will not pose a threat to Russia because the latter’s manufacturing industry is very small and Russian customers can take advantage of cheap Chinese goods without causing with such imports a large disequilibrium in their trade balance (having a great surplus due to oil sales). Moreover, both nations recognized each other as “market economies” (sic!) and in October 2004 concluded negotiations under the auspices of the World Trade Organization.
The military is another area of convergence between the two countries. Russia has been China’s main arms supplier since the end of the Cold War (90% of its arms purchases between 1991 and 2004, according to a Pentagon report), including submarines, destroyers, fighter-bombers, missiles and strategic reconnaissance aircraft. Russia has also provided technical assistance to the Chinese space program.
The chances of one country invading the other are very slim, as both are endowed with large armies and big conventional and atomic arsenals. On the other hand both lack allies of weight and have thus expanded military cooperation, especially in the field of military intelligence.
From the ideological point of view, both regimes mercilessly repress their rebellious ethnic minorities, particularly Islamic ones (Chechens in Russia, and Uighurs in China), and repress domestic opposition with equal disregard for human rights while supporting each other before international organizations and world public opinion.
Their diplomacy converge in many conflict areas, such as ending sanctions against Iran (a partner of Russia and China), or the Middle East and Africa. Their interests converge above all in their common rivalry with the United States, calling to mind the old adage that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
For all these reasons, the strategic convergence between Russia and China is a trend that will continue to gain momentum in the short and medium term and can suffer from long-term friction only in regard to Siberia, where demographic pressure from China is clearly felt.
What will prevail for a while is the statement by Dmitri Medvedev during a 2008 visit to Beijing, that the goal of his trip was to confirm “Russia’s conviction that China is a serious geopolitical ally in their challenge to the West.”
Challenging the West…
The statement by puppet president Medvedev takes us back to the beginning of this article. Whereas the West developed the highest historical expression of Christian civilization, sheltering in its bosom Rome, the capital of Christendom; whereas it still keeps the most admirable and valuable treasures of its Christian past; whereas the Faith is still alive in countries like Poland, Ireland and Malta, and in emerging nations in Latin America, the forces of evil strive to hasten its decline to favor the pagan East.
This should lead us, Catholics, to watch with great vigilance the geopolitical rise of China and the possible formation of a large anti-Western bloc under its leadership.
Extending a Hand to the Authentic Chinese
This in no way means that the Chinese people are our enemies, quite the contrary.
At the beginning of these lines, we said that Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Church are the center of history, which continues to have only two camps: those peoples whose culture can still be called Christian, and those who still have not accepted Jesus Christ. Although clear, simple, logical and obviously consistent with historical fact, this division must be viewed with a certain flexibility of mind, because there is on both sides a profound division.
How much misery is found in the West — so full with the light and glory deriving from its splendid Christian past! In it one sees apostasy from the faith, religious indifferentism, relativism and immorality sometimes more odious than in Asian or African paganism.
Meanwhile, in countries of the former Gentiles there are a growing number of thriving Catholic groups which, as a whole, constitute a new springtime of the Faith. Behind the police-enforced bamboo curtain that still surrounds China, there are riches in souls that refused to be absorbed by communism or by newly-induced hyper-productivity and who march in a direction diametrically opposed to that of the country’s false elites. The best of China is represented by its 4% of Christians and particularly by its 1% of Catholics (14 million). Naturally, the latter are at odds with the sinister strategy of division promoted by the Communist Party through the schismatic Patriotic Church under Beijing’s orders.
Relentlessly persecuted by the regime because of their unswerving loyalty to Rome and to the universal jurisdiction of the Successor of Peter, those millions of true Catholics in the underground Church are the great promise of the huge Chinese people.
If they remain faithful and the “paper dragon” — weighed down by its unbalanced growth and hegemonic pretensions — eventually collapses like a colossus with feet of clay, this will open a luminous pathway to the evangelization and conversion of hundreds of millions of disillusioned Chinese.
Like a lily born in the night of catacombs, in the mud of a regime that has joined the evils of Communist miserabilism and Western consumerism, amid an apocalyptic conflict over world hegemony, a new Catholic China may come to light. And this new China will not be an oriental imitation of Western civilization. Rather, it will reflect the plan that God had in mind when creating the poetic, gentle and industrious Chinese people.
In an article for the cultural journal Catolicismo in January 1956, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira explains the reasons for this. Below are some excerpts, adapted to the case of China:
“The doctrine of the Gospel is immutable. But in order to be put into practice, it must act upon countless and extremely variable concrete circumstances, ordering, correcting and elevating them. And since a Catholic civilization — considered on the historical plane — is always a realization of the immutable principles of the Gospel in changeable historic circumstances, and on the other hand the Church is bound only by Revelation, it follows that she does not identify herself with any culture or civilization, however much she may have served as its source of inspiration….
“Consequently, although [western culture] has been a Catholic culture, other Catholic cultures equally faithful to the spirit of the Church but nourished by different saps are possible….
“As long as they convert, there can be in [China or] Persia a Catholic culture that assumes, purifies, elevates and orders all the traditional values of those countries. Needless to say, in that case, in this historic meaning of the word, ‘culture,’ a new Catholic culture will have been born, one profoundly akin to that of the West in its Catholicity but profoundly different in its Persian [or Chinese] characteristics….
“The Church absolutely does not wish to ‘de-nationalize’ or westernize the Gentile peoples. While truly Catholic, the Church nevertheless is not cosmopolitan….
“Thus, just as long as they allow themselves to be guided by her doctrine and become entirely imbibed with her supernatural life, all cultures, with their naturally good and acceptable features, fit into her bosom.”
Let us pray to Our Lady of Dong-Lu, Empress of China that Chinese Catholics resist persecution, convert their fellow countrymen, and thus give rise, in the ancient Middle Kingdom, to the greatest Catholic nation in history. When that day comes, China will no longer be a threat but a great ally of the West to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the last confines of the earth.