The Rise of China and the New Silk Road

(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, Pool)

As the United States continues to be paralyzed by a consistent flow of scandals, China is silently taking advantage of the chaos in an attempt to take the place of the United States as a global superpower.

Although U.S. media attention has been fixated on the Trump administration and the campaign before he was elected, there have been other important developments across the world that have not received the attention of the media or lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

The most important of these developments that could potentially pose a threat to the United States’ superpower status is the continued rise of China. As we reported on Monday, the Chinese are continuing to act with aggression in the South China Sea without any pushback from the United States. This strategy may work in the short term in an attempt to get China to assist the Trump administration with the issue of North Korea, but may prove to be consequential in the long term. It is fair to assume, judging by its history, that China will escalate the situation in the South China Sea and push boundaries if the United States continues to remain silent on the issue.  

Although the South China Sea is one area of concern, there is another that should be much more troubling to the United States. This week, China kicked off their latest major initiative called One Belt, One Road. One Belt, One Road is a large-scale infrastructure plan that includes 68 countries and will cost, according to The Economist, $150 billion USD a year in each of the participating countries. The graphic below gives a more detailed outline of the different infrastructure projects that will be instituted with the implementation of One Belt, One Road.   

(Image from Roman Wilhelm/ MERICS)

This massive infrastructure plan by the Chinese is reminiscent of The Marshall Plan, which was enacted after The Second World War by the U.S. to give Western Europe $13 billion dollars in economic support to help rebuild their economies that were decimated by war. Aside from wanting to assist its European counterparts that they fought alongside during the Second World War, the United States also had some more self-interested reasons for providing Western Europe with this economic aid.

As George Kennan famously said in his “Long Telegram” from Moscow in 1946, Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union were obsessed with expanding wherever there was a power void in the world. Due to the fact that some countries, such as France and Italy, had large numbers of communist legislatures, they were possibly susceptible to being under Soviet influence and were therefore a threat to the U.S. In 1947 during a commencement speech for Harvard’s graduating class, Kennan said that Europe needs “substantial economic help” or it faces “economic, social and political deterioration of a very grave character.”

Less than one year after Kennan’s commencement speech, the Marshall Plan was put into effect by Congress. There is no doubt that the Marshall Plan was an effective tool by the United States to assert its soft power (attracting by cooperation rather than by coercion, which is described as hard power). This foreign aid is undoubtedly a reason why the United States was able to develop strong ties with Western European governments and create strong international bodies that still exist today, such as the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Many observers and historians say that the Marshall Plan is one of the primary reasons why the United States was able to establish itself as a global superpower. This is precisely why the U.S. should be worried about the One Belt, One Road initiative of China. If China is successful as it implements this initiative, they will gain not only a very strong economic impact, but they will also assert themselves as global leaders, a trait that has been missing in Washington lately.

Daniel Alonso is the founder and contributor of Politicsay. Daniel graduated from Florida International University with a double major in Political Science and International Relations, as well as a certificate in National Security Studies. Daniel focuses on American Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, and Human Rights Issues.

Daniel Alonso