Is China the new Britain? | Abdul Haq

Is China the new Britain?

In previous article I wrote how the powerful Chinese government is guiding its country towards global dominance. Today in this article I will try to imagine how it would be to live in a world dominated by the Chinese. Especially for people like me who live in countries where China is making huge investments. Pakistan, through CPEC may get around $100 billion in investments from China. Will it be beneficial or is it a trap? We have seen our ancestors living under a world dominated by British, which was not very pleasant. Will China be any different or are we heading towards a similar fate? Let’s find it out.

Reasons for the Chinese overseas expansion

Why a country makes overseas investments pretty much tells what the impacts of these investments would be. Intentions of the investor determine the outcomes of the investments. China clearly does not invest just for the sake of helping poor countries. They, unlike IMF, do not claim to be the well-wishers of the world on a holy mission to eradicate poverty. When China invests, they invest to solve their own problems.

Despite being the second largest economy of the world, China faces some serious challenges. One of them is unemployment. There are less jobs available then people who need employment and there is not much room for further development in its already saturated economy. This is the government’s biggest worry to settle rising number of unemployed people before they become a threat for them.

Secondly, in last 40 years China has seen huge industrial growth that has damaged its environment so significantly that climate in Beijing has reached dangerous level. Thus they have to be very cautious when going for further development. But if they do not continue economic growth, consequences can be even worse. China’s government need its economy to grow 7% each year to maintain its unemployment rate at current position. To tackle this problem, China has opted for overseas expansion.

But hold on! Was Britain also facing similar problems when they decided to make foreign expansion few centuries ago?

Reasons for the British overseas expansion

Britain clearly had different intentions for expanding overseas. With population of just 10 million, they had everything to live peacefully within its borders. But it was the mindset of European countries in that era that they wanted to rise above each other. This was their motivation for overseas expansion. Britain wanted to defeat its rival such as Spain and France, for which they needed more capital and military power. Thus they looted countries like India and Africa, and enslaved their people to fight wars on their behalf.

While China is expanding overseas to provide employment to its people who can’t be employed at home, Britain never sent its people to work abroad. They sent them to rule! For example, when China invested in Australia, they also sent in their workforce. One in twenty people in Australia today are Chinese. But when Britain went to India, only 200,000 Britishers were send to rule over 400 million Indians. That makes one in two thousand Britishers to Indians.

In fact Britain required a lot more people to manage its vast empire then they had back home. This was the reason they took slaves to work for them. It will be fair enough to say that China’s expansion is need-based, British expansion was greed-based.

British vs. Chinese

Until now I have discussed the motivation behind overseas expansion for both of these countries. Now let’s compare their treatment towards the people of the countries they move to. We will take the example of Zambia. It is an African country where China has made huge investments to mine copper. China now accounts for 2/5 world’s consumption of copper and only way to satisfy this insane demand to keep China’s economy growing, is to seek those resources abroad.

Britain also came to Zambia 100 years ago to mine copper. But they colonised it and were there to rule. They build clubs, rest houses and everything to provide a lavish lifestyle to its people living in Zambia. They lived like the rulers and made Zambian people work like the slaves.

Apparently, China has a different approach. They are communist and not imperialist and here in Africa only to do business on mutual well being. China gets copper and in return Zambia get goodies like a football stadium built for football crazy Zambian people. And a new hospital in Zambian capital Lusaka that also provides employment to thousands of workers working on its construction.

It’s like a win-win situation. China secures its stability in economic growth by occupying raw material while countries like Zambia get productive investments instead of aid handouts the west has been offering. If that is the case, maybe a world dominated by China will not be as bad as we think. But then again that’s what all empires say in the beginning.  Win-Win!

Conclusion

China’s intentions for investing overseas are evidently different from Britain. They are doing this to solve problems they face at home. And their behaviour towards countries they invest in seems not as arrogant as of British. They want to do business on mutually beneficial terms and form friendly relationships in the process. A practise we could never expect under British rule. But how things will go only time will tell. We can’t forget that East India Company also came to India to do business on “mutually beneficial terms” in early 16th century.


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