China doesn’t want to conquer the world, says Renaud Girard in Le Figaro, but to become the undisputed ruler of Asia. It’s already there economically. Now it wants political supremacy too: for there to be no US military presence between the Bay of Bengal and Hawaii. Until the 2008 Beijing Olympics it played a smart game, presenting itself as a modest, underdeveloped nation “without great political ambition” that sought nothing more than to join the world market. Touched by this, the West let China “plunder” its technology and become the “workshop of the world”. Slowly, other Indo-Pacific countries became economically dependent on their powerful neighbour.
But China didn’t have the patience to let this strategy quietly run its course. To boost popular support, the Chinese Communist Party ramped up nationalism: it claimed sovereignty over uninhabited Japan-administered islands and built military airfields on reefs in the contested South China Sea. “Faced with this expansionism, all the countries of the Indo-Pacific took fright” – and they asked America’s military to hang around. Now Australia has signed the Aukus treaty with the US and Britain. “Xi Jinping’s China has forgotten that in Asia arrogance has always hurt power.”
Why it matters At a military parade on Sunday, Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, emphasised the nation’s “determination to defend ourselves” against pressure from Beijing. Chinese state newspaper The Global Times hit back, saying China “will have little choice but to take Taiwan to the battlefield” if the island continues to resist “reunification” with the mainland.