The Chinese century

Robert F Kennedy Jr has highlighted the loss of the US’ power and prestige in a tweet in which he has lambasted the Neocons for persisting with a “strategy of maintaining US global hegemony with aggressive projections of military power”. China, he says, has displaced the American Empire by deftly projecting economic power, instead. Further, he feels that where the US has spent trillions in bombing people and infrastructure to bits all over the globe, the Chinese have spent an almost identical amount in creating modern infrastructure across the developing world.
He is convinced that the Ukraine War will be the final collapse of the Neocon’s short-lived American Century. He says, “The Neocon projects in Iraq and Ukraine cost US $ 8.1 trillion, hollowed out the American middle class, made a laughing stock of US military power and moral authority, pushed China and Russia into an invincible alliance, destroyed the dollar as the global currency, cost millions of lives and has done nothing to advance democracy or win friendships or influence”. This is a rather brusque albeit realistic analysis of the US’ current global standing.
A geopolitical battle of gargantuan proportions is thus on the cards as an ostensible Chinese Century threatens to eventually replace what might have been an American one!
President Xi Jinping’s third term has made a phenomenal start. It projects China in a newer, more dynamic avatar as it moves imperiously into the geopolitical spectrum.
Employing a judicious mix of diplomatic prowess and economic power it is now proactively addressing seemingly intractable geopolitical disputes at the regional-global levels. It has literally wrested the initiative from the US and is coming across as a credible global player, peacemaker and the honest broker that the US could never become. China is now being accepted as an alternate global power to the US!
In the geopolitical domain, China has initiated peacemaking processes in the Greater Middle East Region (GMER), and Europe and is also making bridgeheads into South America and the Indo-Pacific rim states. It has caused an endemic paradigm shift in the geopolitics of the GMER.
It has successfully created peace between the two most hostile and belligerent powers, Iran and KSA. This has had a positive, ripple effect on other intractable issues in the GMER too. KSA and Yemen are already talking about bringing their dispute to an end. Syria is being re-introduced into the Arab League. Turkey and Syria too appear to be less hostile to one another. Lebanon is bound to calm down too. Disastrous proxy sectarian wars affecting the entire region including Pakistan will now subside.
US hegemony in the region is no longer ubiquitous or still taken for granted. Its protégé, Israel appears to be the biggest loser in this geopolitical upheaval. The Abraham Accords have stalled, the KSA-Iran bonhomie undercuts its operational strategy of divide and rule, and its military preponderance suddenly seems less threatening and overwhelming. A united Arab-Israel front against Iran is now out of the reckoning.
Rather, a China-supported joint Arab-Iran front could emerge very quickly to define and control all geopolitical, geoeconomic and geostrategic imperatives of the GMER. Israel could yet find itself further isolated in the region. It will have to readjust to the emerging geopolitical realities and could actually feel compelled to a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian issue - on a two-state basis. The Chinese have already made overtures to both belligerents to that end. Clearly, the GMER is now listening to a power that is not the US!
So, having created the required peaceful environment in the GMER, the BRI-CPEC can now rapidly become the link for regional interconnectivity and economic interdependence.
In Europe, China has offered to mediate between Russia and Ukraine and has laid out a Twelve Point Plan to stop the war. President Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia, talks with President Putin and contacts with President Zelensky have been met with less than enthusiasm by the US. However, Chinese ingress into European geopolitical affairs is now established. President Macron and Chancellor Scholz have already visited China. Furthermore, China has moved into South America, the US’ backyard, by engaging Brazil quite emphatically. The US will see this as an infringement of its hallowed Monroe Doctrine and is bound to react.
On the economic front too, the Chinese drive to resort to international trade in currencies other than the USD is having a very strong impact. Its bilateral trade with Russia is in Yuan with KSA, Iran, Brazil and many others likely to follow suit. Three members of BRICS are already using the Yuan for bilateral trade. The SCO could be next. India is conducting trade with Russia on a Rupee-Ruble basis and has made similar arrangements with eighteen other countries.
Were it to transform its USD 125 billion bilateral trade with China into a Rupee-Yuan arrangement, it would further weaken the USD’s international reserve currency status. The switch to currencies other than the USD for international trade is catching on rapidly. Alternate systems to the SWIFT and IFIs like the IMF, WB, ADB etc are already being discussed. So, gradually but surely, the Chinese juggernaut is encroaching into what were earlier the sole geopolitical and geoeconomic domains of the US!
Are these the tell-tale signs of a Chinese Century in the making?
The US has tried to pre-empt it by slowing down China’s rampaging economy through trade and tariff wars, sanctions, embargoes on the transfer of dual-use technologies, (semiconductors, for example), supply chain(s) management, relocating manufacturing units out of China, etc. China has weathered these moves well. However, it is already a formidable economic and military-nuclear-missile power. It is now flexing its diplomatic clout worldwide.
The only way the US can possibly stunt, stop, delay, disrupt and eventually destroy China’s phenomenal rise is by taking it to war. Nothing destroys an economy faster than a drawn-out war. However, both the US and China must realize that this is not the age of wars; especially mutually destructive wars. Sanity must prevail. Regardless of whose century it eventually becomes, both powers must learn to co-exist at the apex!

The writer is a retired brigadier of the Pakistan Army. He can be reached at and tweets @K846Im.

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