Monday, September 3, 2007

Chinese Expansionism

China's leaders do not fully control their country. There are thousands of protests every week, in different places around China, and the pollution controls that the country needs are enforced (or, frequently, not enforced) by corrupt local officials. China is on a march to at least a minor meltdown, not too many years from now. One possible response will be to find more places for Chinese people to live abroad. China invests its money in beneficial projects throughout the developing world, and especially in Africa and Latin America. It presently does so to obtain even more beneficial arrangements. But it may also find, incidentally, that such projects provide a convenient opportunity for the relocation of large numbers of Chinese citizens who can find a way to get out of the country to live somewhere else. A hundred years from now, the Chinese may have become the world's first truly international race. A particularly attractive piece of real estate lies just to the north. There is a lot of empty Siberia up there. Of course, Russia is a major nuclear power. It would be extremely risky for China's army to march north, seeking to seize pieces of that empty land. But there are other ways. At present, Russia enjoys financial strength, due especially to its oil and gas. That revenue source will not last forever. Twin forces of conservation and consumption will have eaten into that funding stream within the next ten to twenty years. Russia has never managed to become economically or culturally competitive. This does not appear likely to change. That is, manufacturing or other sources of significant revenues do not seem likely to provide the sort of funding that Russia would need to excel economically. Thus, within a generation, a combination of factors may enable the Chinese to offer Russia a deal that Russia cannot refuse -- if not for the actual transfer of land, then perhaps at least for the resettlement of Chinese people. Russia's Putin has recently behaved arrogantly in the Arctic. He may have done so, not merely to grab its resources, but also to send a message that Russia is an aggressive place. He may have become anxious that China is aggressively expanding its military, not only to protect its interests in international waters, but also in case there does seem to be some need for a move north. Things are not presently at that situation. But there are desperate times to come; and desperate times calls for desperate measures.