The main economic power of the world reveals the danger posed by the Middle Kingdom, which increases the export of its marketable goods and does not want to open up for proportionate imports. Growing trade deficit undermines financial stability. The rival country is urged to urgently review the principles of trade. Having received a refusal, they proceed to military pressure.
This scenario is surprisingly reminiscent of the “turn to Asia” strategy announced by US authorities in November 2011, and the events that preceded this decision. At the same time, it does not relate to our days, but reflects the affairs of almost two centuries ago.
"Civilized" answer "Western barbarians"
In the 18th century, China, as at the beginning of the 21st century, was among the world's leading exporters. Tea, silk and china were snapped up in European markets. At the same time, the self-sufficient economy of the Celestial Empire practically did not need a counter-flow of goods. The deficit was paid in silver. The main importer especially suffered - the UK. After the decision in 1784, in order to eliminate smuggling, to reduce customs duties on Chinese tea, illegal trade really subsided, but the outflow of silver from England took on unprecedented proportions. The government viewed this as a real threat to the country's monetary system. At first the British tried to solve the problem in an amicable way. In 1793, ships with samples of English products sailed to China. He headed the trade mission of Lord George McCartney, an experienced diplomat who had recently served as ambassador to St. Petersburg. McCartney on the 66-cannon flagship vessel was accompanied by merchants, scientists, artists. Two more ships were loaded with product samples. A British diplomat with the rank of Extraordinary Ambassador was admitted to Beijing, where at that time there was not a single foreign embassy (with the exception of the quasi-diplomatic Russian spiritual mission). Emperor Qianlong graciously accepted McCartney and his retinue, brought goods were credited as a "tribute from Western barbarians", but the establishment of bilateral trade on a permanent basis and the signing of relevant treaties were denied. The emperor said that in the Celestial is everything you need, there is no need for overseas wonders. In this opinion, he was not alone. Even several decades later, the Englishman R. Hart, who served as the head of the customs service of China after his defeat in the opium wars, wrote: “The Chinese have the best food in the world - rice; the best drink is tea; the best clothes are cotton, silk, furs. Even a penny, they don't need to buy anywhere. ”
The then “world workshop” could not reconcile with the dangerous and degrading situation that had been created. After several unsuccessful attempts to export English cloth and Indian cotton, specialists from the British East India Company came up with an extraordinary solution - to flood the Celestial Empire grown in India. By that time, this potion had already begun to spread in its southern maritime provinces through the efforts of the Dutch, operating in Formosa (Taiwan). The East India Company gave the opium trade an impressive scale. If in the middle of the XVIII century 400 standard opium boxes were imported into China per year, then by the 40 years of the XIX century 40 thousand boxes were already imported. Profits from opium exports exceeded the cost of buying tea and silk, net income in 1836 reached 18 million lians silver and gave the East India Company one-tenth of total profits. At the same time, the British “knew what they were doing,” the spread of opium was strictly forbidden in British India. In China, opiate fertilization quickly spread from the south to the whole power, degradation affected even the military command and courtiers in Beijing. The anxious emperor issued several decrees (in 1796 and 1800), but this did not solve the problem. Then the Son of Heaven brought closer to the throne the general governor of one of the inner provinces, Lin Zesyuya, who with rigorous measures eradicated opiyevrenie in his possessions, and gave him carte blanche to fight potions throughout the empire. The English trading post in the only open to foreigners port of Guangzhou (Canton) in 1839 was surrounded by Chinese troops and the British were forced to surrender stocks of opium - more than 20 thousand boxes. Their destruction at the stake took three weeks.
First unequal treaties
Since the “workshop of the world” was at the same time the “mistress of the seas”, the solution of the trade dispute was transferred to the military plane. In the spring of 1840, the British Commons approved such a plan: without officially declaring war on China, send a military squadron there. 20 warships, supported by dozens of auxiliary vessels, blocked Canton and marched north along the coast, capturing the fortified port of Dagu, from which the direct road to Beijing ran. The British outnumbered the Chinese in firepower, maneuverability, training of sailors and foot soldiers. Rifled barrels from afar struck the Chinese, armed with wick and silicon guns. The Chinese did not even have ships, which, in the words of the surprised chronicler, "can navigate through the water without wind or upwind, downstream or upstream". In the spring of 1842, the British, with the support of the Sipai regiments from India, captured Shanghai, Ningbo, Zhenjiang, surrounded Canton, bombarded Nanjing and could occupy Beijing in a matter of days.
The first “opium war”, which lasted two years, ended with the signing of the 26 August 1842, the year of a difficult and humiliating peace treaty. China paid a gigantic contribution, the ports of Canton, Shanghai, Amoy, Fuzhou and Ningbo were opened for English trade, the island of Hong Kong was transferred to the eternal possession of England, the minimum tax rate for English goods was 5%. First in stories China's unequal Nanking Treaty in 1844 was duplicated by France and the United States.
Forcing China to the rules of international trade written in London was interrupted by the Crimean War (1853 – 1856), which diverted the main forces of England and France. Not so long ago, the ships that had shot the Chinese ports went farther north and began attacking military and civilian ships under the Russian flag, fired upon and even tried to seize Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. The Russian command seriously feared the advance of the Allied ships to the middle reaches of the Amur, the establishment of hostile control over the Russian possessions. In the future, these fears accelerated the territorial delineation in the Far East, the inclusion of lands with an uncertain status in the Russian Empire. That was the first example of the mutual dependence of the security of China and Russia in the Pacific basin.
The defeat of Russia in the Crimean War allowed the Allies to return to the shores of the Middle Kingdom. Finding their way into the arrest of a pirates ship based in Hong Kong, the British resumed hostilities in 1856 year, which lasted until 1860, and were called the second “opium war”. Shelling of ports began again, seizures of coastal cities. The Anglo-French landing force even entered Beijing, forcing the Son of Heaven to flee the capital. It was then that the Yuanmingyuan Palace was ransacked and burned, the treasures of which occasionally surface at Sotheby's auctions and which became the basis of the plot of several adventure films. The agreements signed in Beijing with the “pistol attached to the temple”, in the words of the English diplomat Lord Elgin, imposed on China another very heavy contribution, for the sake of payment of which customs were placed under foreign control, opened new port cities for trade, gave Western merchants and missionaries freedom of movement and activity. China was turning into the semi-colonial periphery of the West. The unequal treaties were canceled only during the Second World War, when the Republic of China became a stronghold of resistance to the Japanese forces, which defeated the British, American, Dutch and other Western garrisons in Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines and other countries of Southeast Asia in a matter of weeks.
170 years after the start of the “opium wars” the United States, which lost the status of a “workshop of the world” but still considers itself “the lord of the seas”, repeated the attempts of its Anglo-Saxon cousins to force China to “civilized trade”. High-quality and cheap Chinese export goods filled not only supermarkets, but also boutiques between the East and West Coast. The US deficit in trade with China in 2011 exceeded 300 billion dollars with a volume of trade slightly more than 500 billion. True, Americans are not paying with silver bars or even cheapening green paper with presidential portraits. In Beijing, the US Federal Reserve has accumulated treasury bonds of a fantastic amount - almost 1,2 trillion dollars, which is a virtual substance and is unlikely to be once exchanged for real money or goods. Nevertheless, the US authorities have been trying to stop, for some decades now, and even better, reverse the trade offensive of the Middle Kingdom. This happens mainly in the form of demands to raise the yuan against the dollar and thereby stimulate US exports and reduce the competitiveness of Chinese goods.
Neither "harakiri" nor "tandem"
Such a combination was successfully carried out in the 80-s of the last century with another "Eastern tiger" - Japan. With the start of the “Japanese economic miracle” in 1970 – 1980-ies, the yen began to terrify its competitors in Japan, primarily the Americans. Their deficit in trade with Japan grew rapidly and reached frightening numbers, while the Japanese Ministry of Finance acquired the most US debt obligations, helping to keep the dollar afloat. Japanese corporations bought American businesses, skyscrapers and even Hollywood studios. After many years of twisting the hands of the Japanese forced to raise the exchange rate of the yen. In 1985, a document was signed that went down in history as the “Plaza Hotel Agreement”, according to which the yen rate increased from 1985 to 1987 over the year by more than 50%. Already in 1990, the “bubble” of the Japanese economy finally burst and the “Japanese miracle” thundering all over the world was replaced by the stagnation in the economy, pessimism and apathy in society that had been going on for two decades already. The Japanese were forced to make themselves economic hara-kiri because of the special military-political relations with the Americans, which stem from the defeat in the Pacific War and the fears of the “Soviet threat” and the “Chinese threat” in the post-war years.
In contrast to the Japanese, who have long been adamant, the Chinese gradually raise the yuan. From 1994 to 2005, the rate of the Chinese currency was unchanged - 8,28 yuan for a dollar. Then the yuan was allowed to rise in price by 21% in the period before 2008, when the revaluation was suspended. In June, 2010-th gradual growth resumed, and by November 2012, the yuan rose by another 12,6%. However, Washington is demanding that Beijing make a “big leap” by raising the yuan rate directly to 20 – 40%. Of course, the Chinese leadership will not do this. In Beijing, they like to study the mistakes of their neighbors and are well aware of the consequences of the “Plaza Hotel Agreement” for Japan. At the same time, the position of Chinese leaders is economically more difficult than their Japanese counterparts a quarter of a century ago. The Japanese export potential consisted mainly of consumer goods manufactured using the same Japanese technologies and therefore having high added value. The Chinese “world workshop” for the most part is still engaged in assembling semi-finished products imported from around the world, receiving limited value added. In such conditions, a sharp appreciation of the yuan will make Chinese exports uncompetitive. The “workshop” will stop and stop, and the artisans will take to the streets. This would mean the ruin of entire industries, mass unemployment in large coastal cities, increased instability up to uprisings and the loss of power of the Communist Party.
Not being able to force Beijing to change the rules of the trading game within the current party, Washington sent its own “mission of Lord McCartney” to the Celestial Empire. In 2009, Beijing was visited by President Barack Obama. He did not bring samples of American export goods, but the project of the American-Chinese world hegemony in the form of the "big two", or G2. In this tandem, America would play the role of "elder brother", and China - the younger. The proposal was rejected, and in the diplomatic circles of Beijing, the quotation from an unofficial speech by one of the party curators of the Foreign Ministry became popular: "It does not matter what color the cat is, white or black, it is still an American cat." Washington clearly did not take into account that modern China is not going to renounce sovereignty within the framework of any geopolitical structure.
Turn to confrontation
The response to Beijing’s intractability was the “Turn to Asia” strategy, outlined in November 2011 of the year in an article by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Foreign Affairs. Soon followed by a statement by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta that 60% of US Navy warships would be concentrated in the Pacific. As in the days of the "Opium Wars", the main pressure will be put on the economically developed Chinese coast from the sea. Over the past months, the US military bases in Japan and South Korea connected with the US military treaties received a second wind. Military exercises have become more frequent with these countries, which are designed not only to increase pressure on the Chinese coastal defensive infrastructure, but also to conduct its deep reconnaissance. A new marine base in Australia has been created, and a basing of a new aircraft carrier group on the US West Coast is being discussed.
As part of the “new opium wars,” the United States is creating an increasingly tangible threat on the trade and transportation routes for raw materials from China from Africa and the Middle East. “The suppression and entourage of China is the strategic content of the“ turn towards Asia ”policy, wrote in an article under the eloquent heading“ America is able to block China’s vital sea routes ”in the pages of the Chinese English-language newspaper Global Times analyst at the Institute of Naval Research of the PRC Li Jie . “The priority of this policy is to be surrounded by the sea.” Another military expert, Major General U Guifu of the National University of Defensive Technologies, recently stated at a forum organized by Rodina magazine and the China Federation of Patriotic Projects that in the next four years the United States will try to create a “chain of bases” to block China. This chain begins in Japan and South Korea, passes through the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea, the Philippines and Singapore and ends in Australia.
In August last year, Hillary Clinton made a tour of African countries, during which she criticized the growth of China’s trade with the countries of the Black Continent (166 billion dollars in 2011) and offered loans and military aid as an alternative. The increasing flow of oil, gas and other strategic raw materials from the countries of Central Asia can be reoriented as a result of the unfolding diplomatic offensive of the United States, which only at first glance is associated only with the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Increased pressure from the West on Iran is already leading to a reduction in the supply of China’s much-needed oil. The marked warming of US relations with India over the past few years has been associated with Washington’s desire to darken the rapidly developing Indian-Chinese trade ties (70 billion dollars in 2011), as well as political contacts within BRICS and the SCO.
The Chinese were strongly impressed by the appearance last year off the coast of the Celestial carrier group led by the aircraft carrier George Washington. At the Futenma base in Okinawa, new MV-22 Ospreys have been deployed, capable of carrying out vertical take-off and landing, including on small islands. The deployment of the first four ships of the coastal zone of the US Navy in Singapore threatens to clog the bottleneck of the Strait of Malacca, connecting the Pacific Ocean with the Indian Ocean. Washington drew attention to the “land bridge” created by China to circumvent this bottleneck over Myanmar, which is designed to ensure the transfer of raw materials through Chinese-built pipelines and highways from the coast of the Indian Ocean to the south-western province of Yunnan. The ruling of Myanmar’s regime hastily removed the stigma of the military dictatorship and the long-term economic blockade, and during the first after the re-election of President Obama’s foreign visit to civilian suits, the military offered a set of incentives to weaken China’s orientation.
Already in the foreseeable future, access to the natural wealth of the ASEAN countries may be called into question - with not too hidden support from Washington, tensions in the South China Sea are growing. But this regional group of countries, which established a free trade zone with China as early as 2010, is China's third largest trading partner (363 billion in 2011).
Worsening the situation for Chinese civilian and military ships are disputes over the islands of the South China Sea between China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and also Indonesia and Brunei. The foci of disagreement that had lingered for decades began to approach ignition precisely after the start of the containment of China. The United States began to offer new and expand existing military assistance programs to these countries. For the first time after the end of the war with America, the US Navy ships appeared in the deep Vietnamese port of Cam Ranh. The joint exercises of the Americans with the naval forces of Vietnam and the Philippines took place.
Shut up America!
About 90% of China's foreign trade is carried out by sea. Therefore, Beijing’s harsh reaction to the US intervention in the situation in the South China Sea is not surprising. At the end of July 2012, the administrative level of a small settlement on an island in the Sishatsundao archipelago (Paracel Islands) was upgraded to a city called Sansha. A permanent garrison was also established there. Soon, the US State Department issued a protest statement. The Chinese Foreign Ministry made a response statement, and after a short pause the newspapers published by the Chinese Communist Party published articles with sharp attacks on Washington. “Sansha city is created. China will not change its decision because of some statements by the United States, the Global Times newspaper wrote. - The value of the last US statement is zero. America has influence in the South China Sea, this is true. Vietnam and the Philippines have recently been active, provoking China, which was not without American influence. But Washington’s influence in the South China Sea is diminishing ... The United States should understand that there is a big difference between the South China and the Caribbean Sea. ” The People's Daily, the official organ of the CPC Central Committee, went even further.
In her editorial, she wrote: “The statement of the American side is misleading the public and should be ruthlessly refuted. We have every reason to shout out to America: “Shut up!”
As a lever of pressure on China and a litmus test to test its determination to defend its strategic interests, the authors of the “Turning to Asia” strategy are considering another crisis around the Diaoyu Islands / Senkaku. This is understood in Beijing. Most recently, the Global Times newspaper wrote: “If the situation around the islands leads to conflict, American troops stationed in Japan will put pressure on China. We must be psychologically prepared for this. Some elements of the Sino-Japanese confrontation over Diaoyu will become elements of the Sino-American confrontation. It all depends on whether the United States is ready to contain China by military methods. While this is not observed. In the case of military provocation, no one should have any doubts about China’s readiness to counterattack. ”
It is characteristic that the origins of the current crisis over the Diaoyu Islands come from the end of the nineteenth century. Then, as a result of the lost war with Japan (1894 – 1895), China lost Taiwan and the Penghledao archipelago (Pescadore Islands), to which Diaoyu Islands are also adjacent. At the 18th congress of the Communist Party of China held at the end of last year, the “Chinese dream of the great revival of the Chinese nation” was announced. Dreaming of future greatness, China does not forget about the period of national humiliation that lasted more than a hundred years. It began with the "opium wars", with the attempts of the West to solve economic and financial problems by military means. Repeating the experience of their Anglo-Saxon "cousins" and starting a new stage of deterring China under the slogan "turning to Asia", the US is stimulating the growth of nationalist sentiments in the Celestial Empire, the acceleration of military preparations, the arms race and increasing tensions throughout the Pacific basin. As in the 19th century, such a development would inevitably affect Russia's strategic interests. It is unlikely that the program of accelerated development of Siberia and the Far East was accidentally proclaimed by the Kremlin at the same time as the American “turn towards Asia.”