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back to index backCHINAtalk May,  2016


Opinion: China’s grand strategy: Use the world as one large supply chain

In 2010, Canada hosted the G7 finance ministers in Nunavut, the country’s frigid Arctic province that is home to a mere 30,000 Inuit people.

Canada’s Northern Strategy” for the Arctic was a centerpiece of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s tenure, resulting in a larger coast guard, new icebreakers, military logistics centers across the Northwest Territories, regular drone surveillance flights and a fleet of stealth snowmobiles code-named Loki. When asked why Canada was placing such strategic emphasis on the Arctic, Harper responded with a simple phrase: Use it or lose it.”

There is no better expression to capture great power maneuvering in the 21st century, especially when it comes to China. In contrast to the legalistic and nation-based approaches that dominate Western thinking, China views the world almost entirely through the lens of supply chains.

As Chinese growth and consumption surged in the 1990s, it became a huge importer of raw materials from countries that the West began to ignore as the Cold War ended. The saying Power abhors a vacuum” is itself a synonym for Use it or lose it.” China is now the top trade partner of 124 countries, more than twice as many as the United States (52 countries). China sees New Zealand as a food supplier, Australia as an iron ore and natural gas exporter, Zambia as a metals hub and Tanzania as a shipping hub. The Argentine scholar Mariano Turzi calls his country a soybean republic” in light of the shift in its agribusiness to serve Chinese demand. Supply and demand, not sovereignty, is the governing law of the 21st century.

The supply chain world

The long-standing mantra of the de jure world is This land is my land.” The new motto of the de facto supply chain world is Use it or lose it.”

In a supply chain world, it matters less who owns (or claims) territory than who uses (or administers) it. China is harvesting minerals far from its own borders in lands it cannot steadily rule. It thus prefers de facto maps to de jure ones — the world as it can rearrange it, rather than the world as international law sees it.

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Source: MarketWatch
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