Giri: China’s pursuit of global domination is larger and faster than we really think

Saurav Giri, Contributing Columnist

The last century or so has seen the United States dominate world proceedings and earn the title of the most powerful country on Earth. It has the largest economy, it involves itself in all sorts of conflicts and its elections are watched by millions around the world. Just this year, Black Lives Matter, which began as a domestic movement, caused the whole world to turn its head towards the U.S. 

But could this be about to change? China has been gaining ground on the U.S. in economic areas, but what about in global influence? Unfortunately for the U.S., Chinese global domination could be closer and stronger than we think.

The U.S.’s path to global prominence can be largely attributed to its participation in a few key wars at the turn of the 19th century. Beginning with the Spanish-American War and extending into World War I, the United States established itself as a military power. It also began exercising that power more frequently, taking over islands scattered across the globe that had once been dominated by Spain.

World War II only added to the U.S. stature as a global power, as it not only helped turn the tide against the Axis powers, but were also primary actors in the establishment of numerous new organizations and treaties, including the United Nations.  

Now when we compare this to today’s China, one could conclude that it provides no threat as no wars or annexes of this sort have taken place. However, their approach has been more subtle. A few years ago, a Chinese company leased an Australian port for 99 years, one that lies right next to a port containing U.S. Navy ships. China also controls ports, airfields and military bases ranging from the shores of Myanmar to Sri Lanka and Kenya. 

Even further out, China has also been eying the Panama Canal, which sits right on the doorsteps of America. Even the Oceanian island of Kiribati switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China after China built a fish processing plant on the island. This sort of pocketbook diplomacy has gradually allowed China to surround its major rivals in India and the U.S. This power becomes especially concerning when we consider the fact that these geo-political moves are not as publicized in the media as they should be.

Although subtle, physical footprints like this can be easily traced and measured by rivals. Far more concerning are the advances in soft power the Chinese government has deployed in the last decade or so. The software and application industry, once dominated by U.S. firms, is slowly being taken over by their Chinese counterparts. 

Most recently, we saw the TikTok controversy, where the U.S. government looked to ban the Chinese-made app on the basis of data privacy concerns. Although one can question the timing of this announcement as it was suspiciously close to the election, there is some truth to the matter. 

The Chinese government adopted the National Intelligence Law in 2017, which mandates that citizens and companies assist with espionage efforts if they are requested by the government to do so. It must be noted that TikTok has vowed that it would not give up user data to the Chinese government under any circumstance. But what is to say they would refuse to cooperate if significant pressure was applied by the Chinese. 

Along with Tiktok, applications like Zoom, used by CEOs of the biggest companies of the world, are also built by China-based companies. Information from these platforms, if in the wrong hands, could spell devastation.

It might be exaggerated to equate some Chinese entrepreneurs trying to make money to its government trying to take over the world; however, it would be naïve to suggest that the Chinese government does not have a grander scheme in mind. In 2012, when President Xi Jinping was first appointed president of the Chinese ruling party, he talked about his “Chinese Dream” where he wished for the “rejuvenation of the great Chinese state.”

So why should we care? Would it be so bad if global power was wrestled from America, a country who has had its fair share of power mishandlings? 

It is not really who the power is getting taken from, but rather who it is going to: The Communist Party of China, known notoriously for their control on the Chinese population through censorship of the internet and the keeping of a “social credit”—a metric that measures social conformity. 

Although the impacts on the U.S. may not be as severe as this, we can already see subtle examples of Chinese control seeping into the U.S. mainstream when athletes like Lebron James, who is sponsored by a Chinese firm, spoke against the Hong Kong protests or when Hollywood censors and curates its movies to satisfy strict Chinese censorship regulations. 

But not all is gloom, as the U.S. government is slowly waking up to this. Tiktok is being sold to Oracle, and hopefully this spells the beginning of some measures to counter China’s plan for global upheaval.