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[00:00:00] Yusuf: Welcome to geopolitical horizons, the podcast from geopolity.com. Now, if you remember from last time, our podcast, we talked about the geopolitics of Russia. And we’re gonna continue this series. So today we’re going to talk about China. Now, China is always making headlines. Whether it’s about their technology, their aircraft carriers, AI, Smart Cities or even space. The world really can’t get enough of China. Now to make sense of the Middle Kingdom. I’ve got geopolity founder, Adnan Khan, here with me today. How are you keeping Adnan?
[00:00:44] Adnan: I’m good Yusuf, I’m good how are you?
[00:00:46] Yusuf: I’m very well, it’s just hay fever season, besides that. I’m good.
[00:00:51] Yusuf: So Adnan, what is the Geopolitics of China? What are her imperatives? What are her constraints? Let’s start there.
[00:01:00] Adnan: Okay. So China, very different to the discussion we had last week or the week before on Russia. The Chinese people they obviously, as we know, in the modern era, they reside in Southeast Asia and they emerged on the edge of the Asian continent. Over 4,000 years ago, the Chinese people, they have a 4,000 year civilization and where they emerged on the edge of Asia. They emerged there for two reason. Firstly, they emerged around two key rivers. They emerged around the yellow river and the Yangtze river. And why this is important is without water, you will not have agriculture. You can’t survive. It’s a basic necessity. And although China is a large country territorially today, where the core of China is where these rivers are. This is also the area where sufficient rainfall takes place to support agriculture. So where they emerged, the actual geopolitics is absolutely critical because without these rivers, the Yangtze river and the Yellow river, and without sufficient rainfall, China, as we know where it wouldn’t exist today. So the Han people, these are the ethnic Chinese people as we know them, this is where they emerged from this is where they began farming. This is where they became merchants. This is where their civilization prospered. And over time they grew in size. Uh, they grew very rapidly in size and what they found was around this core area. So this core area is probably a thousand miles from the cost of China today into the interior. What they found was they’re surrounded by mountains by jungles, by desert, by stepps and these areas around their heartland, they were sparsely populated, but where they were populated they were populated by non-han people. And what they found over time was any enemy or any foreign invader. These were the routes they took to invade the Heartland of China. So if you look at China today on a map, you’ve got the Heartland, which is a coastal area going about a thousand miles in interior. Then you’ve got Tibet, you’ve got Xinjiang you’ve got inner Mongolia and you’ve got Manturia. These are in effect buffer zones for China. So when China is strong, China expands into these buffer areas, a and it controls them and they act as buffer zones as protectors against their Heartland. When China is weak, what you find these areas are lost, they become independent, or they are taken over by foreign invaders. So the Mongols, they actually ruled over China for, for a century. And then eventually later on, the Russians would use these buffer regions to come into China. So in nutshell China’s imperatives over 4,000 years are free key things.
[00:03:55] Adnan: 1. It’s to maintain unity in the han areas,
[00:03:59] Adnan: 2. It’s to expand and control these buffer regions and
[00:04:03] Adnan: 3. It’s to also ensure they protect their coastal waters of any foreign maritime invasion.
[00:04:10] Adnan: Now their constraints, so the obstacles through these or the challenges, these are really two. Firstly, economic development. What China has found is it has a large population and to feed them more, has always been a struggle. So for that, they need economic development and they have gone through periods of a lot of wealth. And they’ve also gone through periods of a lot of poverty. Their second constraint is population. China along with India historically have the largest population in the world. And this has been a positive thing and a negative thing it’s been positive because it means they can produce a lot of agriculture, which they can export to the rest of the world. But it’s also meant that China has gone significant periods of its history through extreme poverty, because there were too many mouths to feed. So in a nutshell, this is the geopolitics of China. They’ve got free imperatives, which is protecting their core heartland area and their main constraint really to achieve these have been their population size and economic development.
[00:05:08] Yusuf: Adnan, you mentioned that China, it has a 4,000 year old civilization and they’ve, they always believed that they were the power to be reckoned with, but in the last century and a half, they’ve said that they see it as a humiliation in Chinese history. Uh, why is that?
[00:05:26] Adnan: As far as the Han people are concerned. They are a civilization that’s for millennial. They were enclosed for a lot of that because they didn’t need to engage with the rest of the world. They had all the agriculture they needed, they had all the technology they needed for the short periods where they did open up. They made a lot of wealth, but it wasn’t actually needed. So they’ve always seen themselves as the Middle Kingdom and around them you’ve got loads of barbarians. Then it all went wrong. Beginning the 1800s, when the Europeans turned up. When the Europeans turned up they, wanted to trade with them and the Chinese were a bit indifferent. Do they really need foreign trade or not? In fact, when the Europeans turned up, China was actually going through one of its isolationists periods at the time. Eventually, as we know, the opium wars took place. The Chinese insisted on payment for goods in silver and the British East India company realised they were giving up a lot of silver to buy Chinese goods, but the Chinese weren’t really buying any of their goods. So eventually they took a lot of the opium from Bengal and began selling that to anybody they could find in China. So eventually China had a big drugs problem. And the emperor effectively ordered all the British ships to be burnt to the ground. So eventually the empires army turned up and from 1839, for two years, they bombed them back to the stone age. And what the Chinese realised is they’d fallen behind the barbarians, they’d fallen behind the rest of the world. And what began in 1839 onwards was one by one, the Europeans, all. They took over their coastal areas. And then they made their way into the interior of China. In the end, the Chinese emperor was forced to sign many unequal treaties. So the British came, the French came, the Belgium came, the Germans came, the Americans came, the Russians came and then eventually the Japanese even came as well. So in 1911, the dynasty that was ruling over China was overthrown and various war-lords took over the country and really from that period onwards up until world War 2, China considers 1839 up until WW2, their period of humiliation. They were the world’s premier nation. They fell behind the west and what they went through was a humiliation. So that’s why even today, the Chinese see as they just getting back to where they always were. So the last 100 years is a blip in their 4,000 year civilization. That’s why you hear a lot of 2049. China wants to be a power, wants to be where it always was and that’s because the Chinese people see themselves as a great civilization and this great civilization of there’s, it is a key part of their identity. It’s a key part of the national narrative of China. It’s a key narrative XI Jinping pushes that China needs to get back to its rightful place. So for them the century of humiliation, which is the colonisation of China, this is a period of humiliation for them. Just on a final point, it was so bad for China that many people believed in the early 1900s that China would be Balkanised. The term Balkanised didn’t exist at the time, but many believed that China would be broken into small pieces taken over by various European countries. That didn’t happen in the end. Eventually it happened to the Middle East. It happened to the Muslim world. In the end, it was Balkanised, new nations were created. But that’s why they look at this period in a very unique way. It was a period that was completely at odds with their long history.
[00:08:52] Yusuf: If you do look at China today, you probably can’t imagine a history like that just a hundred years ago. What was their strategy to get out of that situation.
[00:09:01] Adnan: So initially Yusuf, their hop-hodge strategy was to push back, fight back the European colonialists. And WW2 in the end, it led to the collapse of the Japanese empire that had occupied a lot of territory and when the communist took over, they saw it as them ending their period of humiliation. However, China was poor. China had a population of half a billion people, the largest population in the world, China lacked industry. So as far as they were concerned, there was still a long way to go for China to get back to where it should be. So initially they embraced communism because they thought communism would get them back to where they feel they needed to be. So you find that communism was really a means to an end. The Chinese people didn’t embrace communism because they believed in this utopia, they embraced communism because they believed that was the quickest way for the Chinese people to get back to where they wanted to.
[00:10:00] Adnan: It was the best way for the Chinese people to become a strong nation. So the chairman Mao period from 1949, when he announced the people Republic of China, until he died 1976, that was the communist period in China. And looking back now it was a complete disaster, two strategies that Mao had The Great Leap Forward in 1958, which was an attempt to industrialise the country by leapfrogging the process that led to mass famine in the country.
[00:10:28] Adnan: And then because of that, Mao was isolated from the leadership of China. And then he hit back with the Cultural Revolution in the sixties, where effectively the Mao supporters targeted the Communist party members and anyone who wasn’t really in line with Mao. These two periods led to great instability. So when he died, Chairman Mao in 1976, China were still poor. China was still underdeveloped and really what had happened had been a mitigated disaster. And eventually what that led to was the Open and Reform era beginning 1978. This is where Deng Xiaoping and his supporters, they took over the Communist party and they realised a number of things.
[00:11:09] Adnan: They realised, firstly, China is poor. I think China had a population at that point of just under a billion, it was so poor it would ration bicycles and fans to its people. It couldn’t even produce enough agriculture. And what Deng and his supporters realised is that the communist party’s gonna get overthrown unless they do something about this. And what they effectively realised is they needed to open the economy. They need to attract foreign investment and then use that foreign investment to get the necessary technology and expertise that they needed. And obviously this has paid dividends now, China went from being, um, it had a GDP, the size of Finland and Sweden to today I think it’s, uh, what is the 18 19 trillion dollar monster. So that’s how they were able to reverse it. So they they’re gone through a lot to get to where they are even there today.
[00:11:59] Yusuf: Now that economic development is actually unprecedented. I don’t think anyone else in the world has had such a crazy amount of economic development in such a short period of time. But how did China’s economy get to that situation that it is today? Is it really a communist or a capitalist model? What would you actually say is there economic structure or model.
[00:12:22] Adnan: So yeah, Yusuf , I think there’s still a lot of discussion even today. Is China a communist? Is it capitalist? What is this economic model? Can the model be imitated by others? Now for the Chinese, they don’t really look at it like that. and I think the famous statement Deng Xiaoping made is “it doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.” And what he meant was we tried communism. It was a complete disaster. It’s not about communism or capitalism and whatever works we will do, we will even use both if it comes down to it. And that really sums up the Open and Reform period that really has led to what we see today of China’s economic development. What China realised when Mao passed away was they have got a large population, their population isn’t particularly skilled at anything and they lack technology and expertise. So what they did was they set up loads of Special Economic Zones (SEZ). They built the infrastructure in these zones, so telecoms, ports and infrastructure. The foreign companies could come here and use an unlimited supply of labour to make their goods, cheaper than anywhere else in the world. And they had a whole host of other strategies that aided this. And now you see a lot of this technology has been transferred to China. China’s labour force has gone up the capability ladder. So for China, it’s not really about capitalist or communist it’s whatever work they don’t look at it from an ideological lens, for them building and developing the economy is just a plan. It’s a strategy. It’s a set of actions. They don’t get hung up by should it be communist should be capitalist. In fact, when they look at their history, what they see is when we went down a communist route, what a disaster that was, so what you find, if you look at China’s economy, it does have a mixture. So you find China has State Owned Enterprises (SoE), which is very communist, but China has free market, it has a lot of champions in different industries. You find China’s political system, which we’ll probably discuss is, is a one party system. Very communist. However, a lot of decision making is made by consensus and lower down at a council level, which is very democratic as well. So China doesn’t really present a model of economic development. Probably the closest thing you could get it to is the tiger economies you had, which is countries like South Korea, Taiwan, where they became export driven economies, where they produced electronics or products the west needed and they depended upon these goods being imported by them to develop their economy. So probably the closest model China comes to is that, but the Chinese don’t look at it like that. What this is also created is I mentioned before China has three imperatives, the economic development they’ve had is now created a fourth imperative.
[00:15:00] Adnan: China now today, for the first time, it is history. It has an imperative which is beyond its borders. So if you look at its three imperatives: maintaining unity in the Han areas, controlling the buffer zones and controlling its coastal waters. These are all internal to China. Today, china relies on strategic trade routes. It relies on resources and it relies on foreign markets. The China today has a fourth imperative, which is foreign strategic trade routes, foreign resources and foreign markets for its survival. Now China has never had this in its history where it relies on far away lands, China relies on the energy of the world. It relies on the commodities of the world. It converts these into goods in China, and then they get exported to foreign markets. But today China has a big dependency on what happens beyond China’s borders. And this is quite unique. So China, it’s not hung up about ideology. What type of ideology it needs to follow. As far as it’s concerned, they just want to develop and whatever works is what they do. And that’s what they’ve done.
[00:15:59] Adnan: Just a question on the imperatives, Adnan, when you mention these imperatives, are they, so yeah,
[00:16:05] Adnan: imperatives means what does a country or a people need to do to survive. So you find Russia’s imperatives are different to China’s imperatives compared to America’s imperatives. It’s not necessarily, they come up with it due to the need to live, survive, what resources they have what’s available. This is why geography is quite central to geopolitics because where you are, what resources you have, whether you have access to water will determine what you need to do to survive. So these imperatives they are there because of where the Chinese people are, where they emerged. They had two rivers there. They gotta protect these rivers. Those rivers led to agriculture and increasing population that led to economic development and the Chinese people need to protect this. And that led them to engage with people beyond their borders. So this is, it’s a natural evolution of where you are and what you do to survive.
[00:16:56] Adnan: It’s not something you just come up with, but it’s all determined by the land, the area, the geography that you’re in.
[00:17:02] Yusuf: Now the other aspect of China, which no one can get enough of , is China’s technological advancements with 5G coming on. It gets a lot of global attention. What is its role in China’s geopolitics.
[00:17:13] Adnan: Technology actually plays a very important role. The Chinese view technology is quite integral to their civilisation and geopolitics. So as far as they were concerned, they were technologically advanced. The whole world would come to them for trade and technology, but they fell behind industrial Europe. They missed the industrial revolution and because they fell behind the west, they experienced the century of humiliation. So getting technology back, being at the cutting edge of technology is actually quite central to ending the century of humiliation and getting back to where China believes it should be. So if you look up until now, China’s development has centred around low cost, low value. Low in the value chain goods that they produce, they’re producing cotton, component parts, but now what China’s realised is it needs to move up the value added chain. And that’s why you’re seeing now China leading in AI in Smart Cities, in Quantum Computing, in 4G and even 5G. Technology is quite central to how they look at themselves and their narrative is they fell behind technologically to industrial Europe. And that’s why technology is playing a very important role, in the future of China.
[00:18:33] Yusuf: Now, alongside technology, is the military they’re constantly advancing in the military. They have new aircraft carriers, fighter jets, missiles, drones, you name it. They’ve got it. How has China developed so quickly militarily and where does its military stand today?
[00:18:49] Adnan: So most of China’s recent history, so after world war II, China had a large ground force who were generally equipped, quiet, rudimentary weapons. And their strategy was we’ve got more people than you’ve got bullets. And really that was their military doctrine up until the 1990s, because their strategic strength was people. Their view is in any war, we will just outnumber you. We will have a people’s war where we will force you to come into our land. And then we will, surround you with the share weight of numbers that we have. So up until the 1990s, at least China’s main enemy will Soviet union. They completely fell out with the Soviet union in the Sino-Soviet split. And that was the war they prepared for. Then the Soviet union obviously collapsed in 1991 and what we saw was a number of things in the 1990s that showed China, you gotta make significant military changes. They saw the Iraq war in 1991, where America used modern technology to destroy and defeat an army that was also structured on Soviet lines, which is what the Chinese were also structured on. What am China also realised is American submarines could easily come between the Taiwan Straights without them even realising. And I think one of China’s jets was taken out in the Yugoslav wars by accident. And that’s when China realised it’s fallen behind should completely changes military doctrine. But what China realised it needs to move away from having a large ground force to having a more compact ground force, but where China really lacked, where it needed to develop was it needed to really build its Navy and its air force because China was such a large ground force and they neglected its air force and its Navy. So what you find the areas they’ve developed the most in the last few decades has been its Navy, its aircraft carriers, its ships and its fighter jets. This were the areas that were the worst part of their army, their military, and they were rock bottom. So they could only really go one direction. So now if you look at China, its biggest threats are along its coastal waters. It’s further out in its waters. So China had these dash lines that go from Japan down to the Philippines. That’s the first area. And then you’ve got further out from the north of Japan all the way down to Indonesia. China’s strategy is that they want to be able to control these areas. They want to be able to give area denial in these areas, and that requires them to build submarines, build ships that can go further out. China has also modernied its uh, nuclear weapons as well. Now because the west have for the last decade been reducing or consolidating their military. When people look at China, they just see more jets, more ships, more submarines. So the image is China’s expanding its military whilst the west are not, but you have to remember what China’s been doing for the last two or three decades. It’s been replacing its old out of date platforms and replacing them with more modern ones. What China realised in the year 2000 is, is still using jets from 1950s, is still usually ships from the 1950s. So now that it has economic developed, a lot of money’s gone into its military just to replace a lot of its aging older platforms. And then what China’s trying to do is develop in other areas, such as Missile Defence and missiles, and trying to establish export markets as well. The main thing for China is your fourth imperative of foreign markets, foreign resources, supply chains. The only way to protect these is to have the correct military. So these supply lines that go to Africa to go to Latin America, go to Europe, they need to be protected. And this is why China’s military has developed in parallel to its economic development. The only way to protect your supply lines is to have adequate military capability. And that’s why rightly so this gets a lot of media coverage and yeah, it is definitely, probably one of the key areas where China has made the significant strides.
[00:22:43] Yusuf: Now we, we can’t talk about their technological advancements, their military advancements without really talking about their political system. You mentioned earlier that China is a one party state. Ultimately A dictatorship , has this bene been the main reason its been able to develop so quickly. Has this helped their development or hindered it?
[00:23:01] Adnan: So think there are a lot of stereotypes about China, When we look at their political setup, what you tend to hear is their authoritarian, the west is democratic
[00:23:07] Adnan: It is authoritarian. It’s a dictatorship, the Western democratic and their dictatorship. And even what you hear from America is, is democracy versus authoritarianism. Now, this is quite far from the reality. When you look at China’s political system. It is a bureaucratic one party state. It is in principle, highly centralised, but in practice it’s substantially decentralized decisions are not made by a one man it’s actually made through consensus and authority actually resides in no single individual in the communist party, but it actually resides with the various committees in the communist party. That set atop the political system. They select their leaders. They have a transition in China rather than elections. So yes, China is a one party state, but rather than a tiny cabal of secretive leaders, it’s actually a vast organization of around 92 million members. And it reaches into every organised sector of society. This include the government, the courts, the media, companies, both private and State owned, universities and other academic institutions as well. Now, top officials in this organisation are appointed by the Chinese Communist Party, to give you an example Yusuf if a similar party existed in the UK, this party would appoint the prime minister. They would appoint all the cabinet members. They would appoint all the heads of the government departments and their deputies. They would appoint the chairman’s and the CEOs of the top 100 companies in the UK. So HSBC, Glaxo-Smithklien, they would appoint all the heads of ITV, the Sun, the Daily Mail, all the satellite channels and also all the heads of the universities. So what you find is the Communist Party unique that it’s the sole party of China there’s no other party. There’s no opposition. But that party, its hands going to every organised part of society. Now China, can’t be dictatorship, it’s too large. You’ve got 1.4, 1.5 billion people. It’s a huge country. It’s too large for one man or even a group of people to rule over. So the communist party consists of 92 million members. 92 million members seems like a lot in a country of 1.5 billion. It’s not actually a lot. So for practical reasons you have a one party state. And that party sits on atop of the system. And also a chunk of that party is the system. It’s the universities, it’s the professors, it’s the at a council level. In fact I was reading this research a few years back by the IMF and what they found was over 90% of decisions in China are made at the council level, Whilst at the highest level of government in the west, most of the decisions are made at that level. Technically speaking, uh, it seems the west is more closer to being a dictatorship compared to China. So the central thing that has allowed China to develop is that there was one party that organised society to economically develop. There was no opposition, there was no conflict of interest. That’s how they’ve got to where they are. It’s not about in fact, they’re very far from being a dictatorship
[00:26:19] Yusuf: You mentioned one of the China’s imperatives now is looking externally outside of China. How would you describe China’s foreign policy in regards to this?
[00:26:27] Adnan: I think the best way to look at this is if we take the cold war, you had a battle by two competing power the Soviet Union and the US who both were leaders of their blocs. And they were both competing over value systems for the world. So the Soviet union was advocating communism a utopia and the west was advocating the Free Market and Democracy. Now, this is not what China is doing. This is not a battle china is in. China’s foreign policy is not built for this. I think in the case of China, we need to differentiate between power and influence when China looks at the world. China believes it’s a great civilisation historically and it needs to get to its rightful place. It should be respected it should be seen as a power. So China’s foreign policy does include a lot of showing that we’re powerful. We’ve got technology, we’ve got big military. It doesn’t include influence. China is not looking to get other countries to be part of its foreign policy. China is not looking to get them to embrace Chinese culture or embrace communism. That’s not what they’re doing. Their foreign policy is we want to engage with you economically because we need your resources. We need your commodities. We need your markets. Beyond that, China’s not looking to reshape the world. It’s not looking to militarise the world and have military bases and colonise the world. It’s not looking to even export its culture. That’s not the struggle it’s actually involved in. I think the other thing we’ve gotta look at also is China has a very different view to its region. And then the rest of the world in its region China wants to be the dominant power. In Southeast Asia China wants to weaken America. It wants to weaken America’s hold on the region. And it’s even challenging America by laying claim to different islands and using its economic strength to weaken the relation between the regional nations and America. But beyond this region it does none of that. It engages in economic deals. It engages in setting up power plants. It engages in wanting to mine your resources because it needs it for its own, uh, economic development. So there’s a lot of talk, China wants to replace America but what you find is China’s not presenting a Chinese global order. There are no institutions china is trying to present. China is not trying to make its currency the global currency. Thinkers in the west may say that, but China’s not undertake any of the actions in order to do that. And that’s why you find, if you take Iran’s nuclear weapons, the two state solution in Palestine, you take the migration issue in Europe, what’s China’s position. What is China trying to do? What, what is it doing to get its view heard? It’s not, it has no views on these issues. So China’s foreign policy really is geared a lot to what’s happened to it historically, it’s trying to develop, it’s trying to become strong. It wants to have power and wants to be respected at the moment it has long and beyond that, it’s not trying to reshape the world as much as people in the west say that there are no actual ways reshaping the world. What China wants to be seen is as a powerful, respected nation, that can’t be blackmailed because of what happened in the century of humiliation and what you find that is what largely drives , China’s foreign policy currently.
[00:29:44] Yusuf: It’s interesting you say that because when you do watch the news, global media and the west, especially. It papers that China is challenging America’s global position and that it will eventually replace it. So I’m guessing you disagree with that position?
[00:29:53] Adnan: I think what happens is because we’ve not really, I mean especially the last 30 years, we’ve not had a country emerge so quickly and so powerfully.
[00:30:04] Adnan: So China has been identified as a future power and if you are a future power, you are going to bump up against America’s global order, America’s architecture. So you find under Trump and I think now China is the future threat America and that’s fine. I think from an American perspective, that’s a prudent way of looking at the world. It probably wouldn’t be sensible to say China is developing so quickly. It will never be threat to us. So if you are a power, you’ve gotta be looking at where your threats are gonna come from. But from the Chinese perspective, they don’t actually see like that. So China, it has no global ambition. It has a regional ambition and the reason why it has a regional ambition is because it wants to be protected in its region. It went through a century of humiliation. The best way to protect yourself is develop yourself economically and then protect yourself in your region. By being the dominant power in that region, beyond that, China has shown no political will. It’s not trying to establish an alternative order. It’s not trying to establish alternative institutions as much as some people say it is, what are these institutions? So really China, it has a regional vision, it engages globally, but everyone does, even Finland engages globally. We wouldn’t say Finland is a global power. China engages globally because it consumes so much resources naturally will engage globally. But in terms of ways, trying to reshape that you only see in its region. So yes, it is challenging America in Southeast Asia. It’s not challenging America’s global position. It doesn’t even have the capability to do challenge America’s global position, America’s global position, takeaway its economy and its military might, its based upon values. It’s based upon a Capitalist Democratic Order, Free Markets, Human Rights. China has none of that. China’s not offering any alternative to these. It may do in the future one day at the moment, it’s actually not. So for America, the loss of one region is a reduction in American power. So that’s why even losing one region, America can’t afford. So no other country is in a position to challenge America, even in one region. But because China is doing that, that’s why China gets a lot of media coverage. It gets a lot of the headlines.
[00:32:16] Yusuf: Now if we just pick out some specific examples. It seems like Pakistan, especially under Imran Khan was more closely allied to China. Is that one of the challenging aspects? The challenge that is presenting to America? And the other one is are we seeing an almost Russia-China axis developing against US.
[00:32:33] Adnan: Pakistan gets a lot of headlines due to his relationship with China, but I think we need to put this into perspective that Pakistan-China relations are built fundamentally on one country and that’s India. Take India out of the equation relations between Pakistan and China would be very, very different. Pakistan and China actually were at loggerheads after WW2 because China was Communist and Pakistan joined the Western led order. Then in 1962, India and China went to war over the Himalayas. And for Pakistan, that was perfect because Pakistan’s also at war with India over Kashmir. So from there blossomed a relationship between China and Pakistan, because they have a common enemy, which is India. So China, gave a lot of military equipment to Pakistan and Pakistan used as a cover against India that we’ve got China on our side. Who’s a huge country, but what you’ll find is Pakistan has never gone to war with India when China’s at. China has never gone to war with India when Pakistans at war with India over Kashmir. In fact, both countries have never opened up new fronts in the Himalayas when each of the others at war, but at the moment, China is at war with India in the Himalayam area, they’ve got significant troops up there and Pakistan hasn’t an open ed up a front in Kashmir. I mean, that will be the worst thing for India for a new front to be opened up in Kashmir So it really begs the question. How close are these two countries? When on the strategic issues, they have not really helped each other. And this is where, , China knows Pakistan’s key relationship is really with America, despite all the talk, despite all the rhetoric, Pakistan is very close to America. The military top brass has always been very close to America. Now Pakistan will always take funding and it will always take military equipment from China. Why not? If China’s given to you at cost price, it was given to you cheaper and it’s not coming with strings attached. Why not? These deals obviously kickbacks happen for Pakistani officials. So sometime this is presented by the media are some elements of Pakistan to show Pakistan has options other than America, but the Chinese know they can’t really rely on Pakistan. Pakistan is too close to America. And on the key issue where they could align, which is India, they haven’t over the last 60, 70 years. So really, I think a lot of that relationship’s really on paper. It’s not really blossomed into a strategic relationship. The other country you mentioned Russia. So obviously Russia and China have a very difficult history. Today, there’s a chunk of Chinese territory that Russia still has, which Russia took off China when China was going through a century of humiliation. However, since Soviet Union collapsed, they’ve managed to make quite a few deals, China and Russia, where they’ve moved forward and what both countries realise is on their own they’re not powerful enough to take on America. Combined is a different story. So they present their partnership as an alliance, as something new on the global scale, a new global system. However, what you find is there’s a lot of talk around this relationship, which is just talk is not beyond that. And the simple example I’ll give you, Russia’s at war Ukraine, where is China, its best ally. In fact China criticised Russia for invading Ukraine originally. And actually China has a very deep relationship with Ukraine. It’s been selling it steel for this time. So much for the Alliance that they both countries had. They’ve both been trading with each other. Same in the Far East, Russia has deep deals with Japan. Russia has an economic relationship with Taiwan. These are all countries china has significant territorial disputes with, but I think, there’s a lot said, but in practice what’s going on is very different or very far from what’s being said. And what they say really is to project an. China is not alone. China has Russia. We’re in Alliance. We have an economic alliance. We have a security alliance. We have an energy alliance where countries should be reckoned with. But you’ve seen now, even if China goes to war with Taiwan, it knows it can’t rely on Russia. Russia will not come to its aid. Even Russia now knows that on the Ukraine, which is a strattegic issue for Russia, China was never gonna get involved. So, you know, so much foreign Alliance where on strategic issues each country’s not even prepared to help the other.
[00:36:51] Yusuf: I know we’ve asked quite a few questions, but I’ve just got one last question for you Adnan. All the geopolitical constraints that you’ve mentioned, all the different factors that we’ve discussed. How do you see China’s future now?
[00:37:04] Adnan: So Yusuf, this is actually a very important question because when we look at China, everyone looks at what China’s doing in its region, in Africa, in the middle east, in Europe. And China’s main challenges are actually internal. They’re not external. We’ve talked a lot today about China’s 4,000 year civilisation, century of humiliation, it’s attempt to develop economically and the disaster that took place. Internally, China’s still dealing with a lot of that history. its still dealing with the fallout from a lot of this history and China, in my opinion, has significant domestic challenges, which will always be the priority and potentially could even get in the way of what is trying to do externally. Last year, 2021, China’s population grew at the slowest rate in its history. Now, why is that important? China’s always had a very large population. It even had a one child, two child policy for a significant period. The reason why this is important is China is now getting to a point where it’s population it’s not gonna grow. It’s actually gonna start to shrink. And when your population starts to shrink, it causes significant challenges, the most important one for China is they’re trying to change the economic model from being export driven to a domestic consumption model. And if your population is gonna start to shrink, your consumer base is gonna start to shrink. The number of people in your labor force will start to shrink, the number of people that pay taxes will start to shrink. So China’s one child policy is now coming to haunt them. The other problem they got with the demographics is China’s population is moving more towards being older, rather than younger. What China’s gonna find involved in having lots of young people who are consuming, they’re gonna have more and more older people that are gonna take up more government resources to be taken care of. So China’s demographics is actually turning out to be very similar to what we see in Germany, Russia, and the west, where the populations are shrinking are already declining. So this is a major issue for China going forward.
[00:39:10] Adnan: The other area, China has a major problem with minorities. Although China is a large country. think about two and a half thousand miles from one side to the other has a large population, but China also has significant number of minorities. It has about 150 million, I think. What makes minorities important is where they are. So most of Han Chinese people, they live in the Heartland of China. So they live in Guangdong, they live in Shenzen, they live a thousand miles from the coast to the interior. But most China’s minorities they make up 60% – 70% of the population that live on the exterior of the Heartland, but they live in Tibet, they live in Xinjiang they live in Inner Mongolia and Manchuria, and these are the buffer areas of China. These are historically very unruly areas. And these are areas that China must control if it wants to protect its the Heartland and China has developed extensively of the last two decades, but China’s struggling to maintain effective rule in the areas the minorities are. Look at Chinese rule in Xinjiang. Look at the Communist Party’s rule in Hong Kong. Look at their hand over Taiwan. They’re struggling. What you find is you can’t just throw money at these problems. Dealing with minorities requires a culture requires effective ruling requires a level of Finese in how you organise and rule over people. And what you’re seeing in Hong Kong, especially is the very heavy hand of the Communist Party. In Xinjiang is completely awful. They’ve got effectively concentration camps to try and control the population. So this is something to watch China’s relationship with minorities, I think is a taking time bomb going forward.
[00:40:52] Adnan: The other thing we never see from China is China is a huge country and it has massive social cohesion challenges. China has apparently on average 500 demonstrations, a day, 500 a day in a country of a , billion people. That is a significant amount. Although you can understand amongst that many people you’re gonna get demonstration. Every year, they have around a hundred thousand organised strikes, demonstrations where whole neighborhoods, the whole areas are brought to a standstill what’s happened. There is, is China’s development has not been uniform across the country. What you have is about a billion to 1.1 billion people who work pitful hours on low pay and they support the 300, 400 million people who rule the country. That’s why China has massive social cohesion issue. And that’s why China’s military historically was used for domestic, stability. In fact, China’s military still is largely used for domestic stability rather than external. So that’s another one to watch.
[00:41:56] Adnan: And I think the last thing to really watch for is poverty in China. China is always said, it reduced the most amount of people we’ve had in poverty in history. China, I think 800 million people, 40 years ago were in poverty. Today is less than a million. However, the criteria for poverty is very low. It’s about $1 20. So how many people earn $1 20 in China is very small, which is great. However, 800 million people live on $3 a day. So they’re not exactly in poverty, but $3 a day. You’re not exactly raking it in. What’s actually happened is China produced a lot of wealth, but that wealth is going into hands of just a few people. Most of China has not seen the wealth in massive increase in wealth China has experienced over the last couple of decades. So you find, when you go into the interior of China, many of these towns are still 30, 40 years ago. What we see of China today is Shanghai. We see Beijing, we see the coastal areas where the developments happen. What we don’t see is further in the interior of China, and that’s why China controls the information. It controls what the world sees about them. So demographics, minorities, social cohesion, poverty, these are major issues China’s gonna have to deal with. So the China’s communist party, it celebrated a centenary last year. And the Communsit Party has always been very clear that its main challenge is internal rather than external its large population has always presented the biggest challenge to the communist party and its rule. And whilst China has developed its economy, it still faces significant domestic challenges. If it wants to be a global power in the future. So. In the case of China, their major challenges are actually internal domestic rather than external.
[00:43:49] Yusuf: Thank you for your time today Adnan, if you want to learn more about geopolitics, please check out our website, www.thegeopolicy.com. You can also learn more on other issues by accessing our website where you’ll find comprehensive insights on different issues. Thank you for listening.