China Expands Global Reach as U.S. Slumbers

      October 03, 2009 07:34

      The American "hegemony" is receding, leading economist Jeffrey Sachs said Tuesday in an article for the Financial Times on the G20 Summit held in Pittsburgh. The article was titled "America has passed on the baton." In mid-September, 16 U.S. intelligence agencies released a document which pointed to Beijing as one of Washington's main global challengers in the future. All this shows that the U.S. is on the ebb in the 21st century, while China's international standing and influence are rising rapidly.

      Since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the U.S. has concentrated foreign policy attention on the Middle East, which it pointed to as the source of terrorism, but has paid less attention to Asia, Africa and Latin America. By contrast, China has been expanding its influence and raising its profile in those areas.

      Citing Asia as an example, Newsweek said Asian nations are being asked to decide where they stand between the U.S. and China, as these two powers are building their respective alliances and engaging in fierce competition. All this was sparked by two military exercises staged in Asia in 2007. One was Malabar 07, an exercise initiated by the U.S. and joined by Australia, India, Japan, and Singapore. The other was the Peace Mission 07 under China's initiative and joined by members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization such as Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

      The SCO is a group formed by Beijing and Moscow in 2001 ostensibly dedicated to combating terrorism. With the exercise as momentum, weaker Southeast Asian nations such as Burma and Cambodia as well as Central Asian countries came under China's influence, experts say.

      Another event also caught the U.S. on the back foot. Australia, a long-time staunch ally and part of the U.S. security network in Asia, showed signs of leaning toward China. Kevin Rudd, who became Australia's new prime minister in November 2007, said Australia should be "the closest Western country" to China in the future.

      China's President Hu Jintao (fifth from left) flanked by former President Jiang Zemin (fifth from right), top legislator Wu Bangguo (fourth from left), Premier Wen Jiabao (fourth from right), and other leaders, applauds as they watch the celebrations for the 60th anniversary of communist rule on the Tiananmen Gate in Beijing, China on Thursday. /AP-Yonhap

      China is also paying closer attention to much-neglected Africa. In November 2006, China invited the leaders of 48 African nations to the African Development Forum in Beijing, where it promised them US$9 billion in aid, including soft loans and development funds. There is even a prediction that China will overtake the U.S. to become the largest trading partner with Africa, with trade between China and Africa expected to reach US$100 billion in 2010.

      Latin America, the front yard of the U.S., is no exception. BusinessWeek reported on Aug. 13 that China is turning Latin America into a base of resources by investing about $10 billion each in Brazil and Argentina in a bid to develop oil fields.

      However, some experts point out that there is a limit to China's global reach, given that unlike the U.S. it has almost no close allies. China is also under pressure because anti-Chinese sentiment is growing in protest against the country's commercial supremacy in several regions like Africa.

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