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Are we witnessing the end of the “American age”? It depends whom you ask. But one thing is certain: Thanks to the near-bankruptcy of the American welfare state, Washington is losing both the means and desire to project power across the world. Inevitably, nations with deeper pockets — China, most notably — will fill the void.
This process already is underway in many parts of the world. That includes large swathes of Central Asia, where Beijing’s billions are beginning to revolutionize regional infrastructure and alliances — in dazzling but potentially dangerous ways.
Analyzing Beijing’s foreign policy is a relatively simple exercise. That’s because, unlike the United States and other Western nations, China doesn’t even pretend to operate on any other principle except naked self-interest.
On one hand, China has courted Israel as a partner in developing Mediterranean gas fields — but it also has been happy to do business with Israel’s arch-enemy, Iran, and has sold weapons that ended up in Hezbollah’s arsenal. In South Asia, meanwhile, China has cynically helped Pakistan check India’s regional role, even as China’s state-controlled press has warned Pakistan that Beijing may “intervene militarily” in South Asia if Pakistani-origin jihadis continue to infiltrate Muslim areas of Western China.
In the east, China’s policy has been to claim every square inch of the South China Sea, and intimidate every smaller country that dares to oppose its claims. China also props up North Korea, the most totalitarian nation on earth, for no other reason than that China’s leaders dislike the prospect of a U.S.-allied unified Korean peninsula on their doorstep. China has sunk military and commercial roots into countries as far-flung as Sri Lanka, Nepal and the Maldives. Even when Sudan’s government was butchering its own people in Darfur, Chinese energy companies were happy to do business in Khartoum.
China’s foreign policy ambitions are growing in unexpected directions. As John Hopkins University scholar Christina Lin argues: “Paradoxically, while the U.S. is pivoting eastward to contain China in the Asia Pacific, the resurgent Middle Kingdom is pivoting westward on its new Silk Road across the Greater Middle East.”
Unlike the United States and its NATO allies, China never had any desire to see its soldiers patrolling the streets of Kabul and Kandahar, or to sacrifice lives and money in furtherance of “nation-building.”
For the rest of this column, click here: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/04/29/jonathan-kay-chinas-ruthless-foreign-policy-is-changing-the-world-in-dangerous-ways/