China rising

Dünya Executive - - FRONT PAGE - Ilter TURAN

The new world disorder should help China spread its influence,

but is it ready?

China has stepped up its pace of global expansion. Whether economical­ly, politicall­y, or militarily, in recent months the world’s most populous nation appears intent on spreading its influence by any means necessary, and to places traditiona­lly considered outside of its sphere. Is the Sino Era upon us?

►Is there anyth ng about th s part cular moment n h story that s conduc ve to Ch nese expans on sm?

This may be golden times in a number of way for the Chinese to expand their influence. This golden opportunit­y derives from the fact that the United States is challengin­g and underminin­g the world order, while, in many ways, Chinese president Xi Jinping has come out as the defender of that order. But this opportune moment comes at a time when China is also experienci­ng difficulti­es itself. China faces a banking and overborrow­ing problem that is stifling its ability to act more strongly. On top of that, as they try to reach out to the world, particular­ly through investment­s, they are running into cultural problems other expanding powers have run into earlier. The Chinese appear to be less sensitive to cultural difference­s and display higher levels of arrogance in the environmen­ts they operate than most other countries.

►G ven th s golden opportun ty, why doesn’t t sh ft ts way of deal ng w th the world?

We have to recognize that China has a system of governance that is not consonant with its economic system. The Chinese government views the world in a particular light which is complicate­d by its increasing­ly competitiv­e relations with the outside world. For example, it is trying to expand its power and project it toward the Pacific. In addition, it is engaged in a highly competitiv­e relationsh­ip with India and with the United States. Its view of the world, on the other hand, is shaped not only by economic and security considerat­ions and its political ideology but also by its historical culture, China is discoverin­g that it is met with a not wholly unjustifie­d suspicion when it tries to expand into other parts of the world. Let us, for example, examine how China is trying to expand its influence in the Pacific region. There are a number of islands in the Pacific - the Spratley and Paracel Islands are examples – on which the Chinese had no claims earlier. Now they put forth claims. In some cases, the status of the islands had already been decided by treaties that were signed a long time ago. But now the Chinese want to extend their claim over them. There seems to be no neighborin­g country with whom they share waters that they do not have a debate on ownership of islands, territoria­l waters or economic zones. It is by now an establishe­d fact that they have been building runways and landing facilities on some islands and sand bars. Simultaneo­usly, they have been expanding their navy. Something interestin­g for Turkey: several years ago, a Ukrainian semifinish­ed aircraft carrier – just the hull - went through the Bosporus and the Chinese got their first aircraft carrier. Now they are also building their own. When you put all these things together, China seems to be engaged in an expansiona­ry period. Most people respond with suspicion to Chinese motives.

►Ch na seems to be sh ft ng ts econom c focus as well. Dur ng the f rst half of th s year compared to last year, Ch nese fore gn d rect nvestment n the U.S. plummeted by 92 percent. There was a rec procal sp ke n FDI n Europe but now Europe seems to be tak ng a closer look at Ch nese trade pract ces as well. Is th s a response to Trump or s there someth ng else go ng on?

I have to speculate on this question, but it seems that many countries, and certainly China should not be an exception, find American behavior rather unpredicta­ble. In the past, the Americans have introduced restrictio­ns on some Chinese investment­s, treating them as security concerns. One might remember that the Chinese wanted to take over the management of the Port of Los Angeles but eventually this was not allowed because it was considered a security risk. I think one reason why the Chinese might be cutting down on their investment­s in the United States is because they are having difficulti­es predicting the direction in which the relationsh­ip will develop. On the other hand, the Chinese are trying to pursue the One Belt One Road policy which aims to connect China to Europe by various routes. It’s not surprising that Chinese investment­s are also headed in that direction. Mistrust in the United States and economic and political difficulti­es in Europe affect Chinese trade, but it’s too early to tell if it is going lead to any major shifts in Chinese policy.

►Ch na appears to be deepen ng ts relat onsh p w th Turkey.

Cons der ng Turkey s a NATO ally, and perhaps one of the most exposed of the all es because of ts geostrateg c pos t on, t seems to be a pr me target for NATO’s compet tors. Ch na has been accused of buy ng pol t cal nfluence n Austral a and s currently be ng nvest gated for s m larly surrept t ous act v t es n the U.S. Should Turkey be concerned about, shall we say, the sneaky ways n wh ch

Ch na operates?

Turkey is probably happy to expand its relationsh­ip with China from a variety of perspectiv­es. In terms of geostrateg­ic considerat­ions, a good Chinese relationsh­ip would be a counterwei­ght to Russia. The second factor pertains to America’s trade relations with the world: As the world trade order becomes less predictabl­e, the economic relationsh­ip with China acquires greater importance. Turkey also hopes that when the Chinese try to penetrate the European markets, Turkey might prove to be a good location where they would make investment­s to produce for the European markets. In fact, the idea that some Chinese cars might be produced in Turkey has already been discussed. Now obviously, as with all other countries, when China projects its economic power, it will also try to derive political benefits. But I don’t see that this is going to be very easy. I think on the whole, Turkey looks upon an expanding Chinese-Turkish economic relationsh­ip as a good thing.

The employment of so-called sneaky measures, on the other hand, is by no means unique to China. I think all countries try to use this. Let me remind you that during the Cold War the Americans tried to inject money into the Italian elections to prevent the Communists from winning. But this is just one example; there are many other examples. Obviously, I would not be surprised if the Chinese, like other countries, try to acquire greater political influence through a variety of means. I think any country should be sensitive about this possibilit­y, and not only with regard to China.

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