China is a first world country

The People's Republic of China on the way to becoming a world power : The Asian Century

Asia shapes us - first economically, then politically and now also in terms of health. The interdependence of Asia with the rest of the world has finally arrived in people's minds with the global spread of the coronavirus. So what can we expect from Asia in the future?

Parag Khanna tries to answer by looking from this very future to the present: If we were to look back from the year 2100 to the point in time when the foundation stone for a world order led by Asia was laid, we would be at the year 2017 pause. Here, Khanna looks at the first summit of the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI), China's project for a new silk road. 68 countries, which make up two thirds of the world's population and half of the world's gross domestic product, met on this occasion.

The New Silk Road

For Khanna, this gathering of Asian, European and African leaders symbolizes the start of the largest coordinated infrastructure investment plan in human history. Indeed, the governments gathered there pledged to spend trillions of dollars in the decade now begun to unite the world's largest population centers in a network of commercial and cultural exchange - a new era is about to begin.

Khanna is not one of the alarmists when looking at Asia. His bestsellers are not based on sensational theses. Rather, the political scientist who teaches at the National University of Singapore today has made a name for himself with his extremely realistic view of the current global conditions in politics and business. Khanna became internationally known in 2008 with his clairvoyant book "The Battle for the Second World", for which he undertook a world tour, primarily to research the USA for his geopolitical analyzes. Most of all, Khanna had come back with one insight about the United States itself: that the Americans needed some kind of Marshall Plan in order to remain a First World country. Barack Obama seemed to have internalized Khanna's thesis deeply before his election.

If the motto of his successor Donald Trump's administration is "America first!", Khanna contrasts "Asia first!" comparable to the founding of the United Nations and the World Bank in the middle of the 20th century, including the Marshall Plan. The decisive difference in his eyes: "The BRI was designed in Asia, started in Asia and will be led by Asians."

Here he recognizes the beginning of a process that goes far beyond the gigantic dimensions of the BRI: The Asian century will begin when Asia merges into a whole that is greater than the sum of its innumerable parts.

Where will this development lead? Khanna takes a historical and therefore classifying perspective: Asia dominated the Old World, the West led the New World - “and now we are coming together to a truly global world”. However, whether there really will be “no turning back” from today's multipolar, multicivilizational order is doubtful: First, history has never been linear. Second, the present is not shaped by order but by disorder. Third, it is Khanna himself who does not believe in a return of the Western world order, since it was just as conditioned by the circumstances as any other era. He therefore recommends striving for a more inclusive and stable order.

How is it to be dealt with? Yu Zhang assigns not only China but also Germany a key role in the search for answers. The President of the Society for Sino-German Cultural Exchange describes her “motherland” China and her “fatherland” Germany as two of the most important nations in a global context, economically in second and fourth place. Their mutual relationships also had a significant impact on the rest of the world. Like many other observers, she sees Germany as the leading nation in Europe, and China as the new rising power from Asia.

Germany's relationship with China is deteriorating

Zhang not only highlights the challenges that both Beijing and Berlin have in trade issues with Washington - not to mention the opposing objectives of “America first” and “China's renaissance” and their effects on Europe and thus on Germany.

Zhang also clearly mentions the deteriorating mood between Berlin and Beijing: In the West, China is being accused more and more of "behaving in a world power". More and more voices in Germany criticized China's geopolitical goals: There is a serious risk that technology and jobs will be lost as a result of Chinese purchases in Germany. Zhang cites the failed deal between the German transmission system operator “50Hertz” and the “State Grid Corporation of China” as an example of the fact that economic projects are no longer only viewed in terms of market economy, but are increasingly understood as geopolitical measures.

Japan is critical of the Federal Republic

With a view to Germany, Zhang also gives voice to voices that are largely unknown to the German public and therefore seem all the more valuable. It is reminiscent of the guest contribution “Germany leads us into the abyss” by Frank Rövekamp in the “FAZ” in the summer of 2018. He conveyed the new image of Germany in Japan: The country is losing a lot of respect there. Japanese experts on Germany reported on the "downfall of Germany and the EU through the leadership of Germany".

It was also fitting that Norihide Miyoshi, long-time Germany correspondent of the ten million largest Japanese daily newspaper “Yomiuri Shimbun”, received the renowned Yamamoto Shichihei Prize for outstanding journalism with his book “The Risk in Germany - From the Chaos of a Dream Dance Politics” Politics, Society and Culture in Japan. Thus, even after Zhang's judgment, his theses reached a broad readership in the leadership of politics and business. He stated that “the German mentality and the German politics that reflect it show the fundamental tendency to orientate themselves towards world-improving ideals, but to lose sight of the realities and other views in the process. This leads to systematic overestimation of oneself and moral arrogance ”.

China's strength, endangered from within

Zhang also sees China facing major challenges and growing domestic pressure to reform. Like Germany, China is facing a reform of social policy to reduce social inequality. China is also facing an aging society. According to Zhang's analysis, there are also enormous environmental problems. In some regions, it also identifies looming real estate crises.

Zhang describes the gradual loss of social norms and values ​​as another immense challenge for China. At the same time, the People's Republic wants to create a huge industrial change - from the manufacturing structure as a workbench for the world to a service and technology nation.

Internal problems impede a global role

How, however, Germany and China, each dominated by national problems, should also contribute to solving global problems, is not clear even with Zhang. It is all the more likely that a world disorder will continue to persist than that a new order will begin. But Asia is already shaping us in this respect - and not just the West for a long time.

Parag Khanna: Our Asian Future. Translated from the English by Norbert Juraschitz. Rowohlt Berlin, Berlin 2019. 493 pp., € 24.

Yu Zhang (Ed.): China and Germany: 5.0. Opportunity, challenge and prognosis. Verlag Walter De Gruyter, Berlin 2019. 257 pp., € 34.95.

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