China’s response to COVID-19 cover-ups should be to speak softly and carry a big wallet.

China has been accused of covering up the start of the COVID-19 pandemic for months, giving the virus time to spread globally.

Lu Shaye. Image: National Post

China’s response has been to come out swinging, angrily reacting in a manner not fitting a superpower. While irrational outbursts have been characteristic of the leader that other superpower, China should take the higher rhetorical ground.

China has lashed out at a number of countries critical of its handling of the crisis, including Australia. After Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for an independent review of the spread of the virus, China’s ambassador to Australia questioned whether a country that is so “hostile” to China is the best place to send Chinese students for education, or whether Chinese consumers would want to buy Australian wine and beef, (Globe and Mail, May 1, 2020).

Canada has felt similar peevishness from China after the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies after the U.S. had requested her extradition. The shrill tone of China’s ambassador in Canada was followed by the blockage of our exports of pork and canola to China. Lu Shaye, China’s ambassador to Canada was decidedly undiplomatic last May in Toronto when he harangued Canadians and said that we have a “psychological imbalance towards China’s economic and technological development” caused by “West-egotism.”

Lu Shaye is now spouting familiar rhetoric in France. He has released a series of attacks on the “malevolence” of the French media, calling them lapdogs of the U.S.: suggesting that Le Figaro was trafficking in “lies,” and “Some Westerners are starting to have no confidence in liberal democracy,” with one of his favourite themes that the French were “psychologically fragile.”

It’s all so unnecessary. To call us psychologically imbalanced is an obvious insult.  There is no need to mimic Trump’s childish outbursts to demonstrate your status as a superpower.

The mature reaction of a superpower to accusations is to calmly carry on with global dominance and be diplomatic in areas of dispute.

China’s global influence needs no psychoanalysis of critics. That rising superpower is spreading its influence globally with the Belt and Road Initiative with projected spending on infrastructure of $1 trillion in 71 countries. The initiative involves one-half the world’s population and one-quarter the global GDP.

Sure, China’s worry is that its soft power being eroded by accusations of a cover-up. But that will pass, especially if China can clean up the breeding grounds of pandemics, the disgusting “wet markets” of slaughtered wild and domestic animals.

The U.S. superpower’s foreign policy hasn’t always been characterized by a whiney leader. Theodore Roosevelt’s foreign policy in 1900 was: “speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” The components of the policy were the possession of a strong military, never to bluff, and to strike only when prepared to strike hard.

China’s foreign policy should be “speak softly and carry a big wallet.” China has chosen to dominate the world through the investment in infrastructure.  That policy will deliver the resources needed to keep their industrial machine rolling out the world’s goods in a peaceful, albeit colonial, way.

China should resist the inclination to feel grieved at perceived historical humiliations over the past century. Lashing out is unbecoming of a rising superpower.

 

China “understands” the developing world

China is taking a page out of the American playbook in their massive global investment called the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Image: Wikipedia

“Belt,” is short for the Silk Road Economic Belt and refers to the overland routes for road and rail transportation; “road,” is the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road referring to sea routes.

In America’s version, the Marshall Plan, they invested $100 billion in the war-torn regions of Europe after the Second World War. The stated goals were to remove trade barriers, modernize industry, and improve European prosperity.

The unstated goals of the Marshall Plan were to establish an economic presence in Europe. The Soviets understood this. Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, in opposition to the plan in 1946, said: “If American capital was given a free hand in the small states ruined and enfeebled by the war [it] would buy up the local industries, appropriate the more attractive Rumanian, Yugoslav … enterprises and would become the master in these small states.”

According to China’s official newspaper, the People’s Daily, the goals of the Belt and Road Initiative are: “To construct a unified large market and make full use of both international and domestic markets, through cultural exchange and integration, to enhance mutual understanding and trust of member nations, ending up in an innovative pattern with capital inflows, talent pool, and technology database.”

It’s the largest infrastructure project ever with $1 trillion designated for South-east Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa. The plan is expansive. It includes 71 countries that account for half the world’s population and a quarter of global GDP.

Western countries worry about ulterior motives. Jonathan Hillman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington says: “It’s a reminder BRI is about more than roads, railways, and other hard infrastructure. It’s also a vehicle for China to write new rules, establish institutions that reflect Chinese interests, and reshape ‘soft’ infrastructure.”

Martin Jacques, former editor of Marxism Today is less suspicious. He thinks China is developing sources of commodities in Africa so developing nations can improve their economies and be less dependent on Western demand.

“Secondly,” says Jacques, “and this is why I deeply resent the argument that China is the new colonial power in Africa, China understands the problem of developing countries. One of the big problems is developing infrastructure that delivers transportation, energy and the necessary building blocks of a more developed economy (New Internationalist, July/August, 2018).”

Maybe China can do global supremacy better than the Western world. Resource extraction by Canadian mining giants in Africa has been less than stellar. At a tantalum mine in central Mozambique owned by Pacific Wildcat Resources based in Vancouver a man was shot and killed, inciting community members to set some equipment ablaze. At the Montréal-based Kiniero mine in Guinea, the military killed three in a bid to drive away small-scale miners away. Soldiers also shot a woman and burned her baby

While American foreign policy amounts to bluster and bravado, China is climbing to superpower status by integrating itself into local economies. China will inevitably make mistakes but the Belt and Road Initiative is more systematic than the Western World’s haphazard corporate colonialism.

The U.S. talks tough about China but they can no more stop China’s ascendancy than they can stop the sun from rising.