Launch Into Power
Until recently, only the United States and the former ussr could boast of sending a man to orbit the Earth. That changed late last year, when, in October, the People’s Republic of China launched the manned spacecraft Shenzhou 5 into space. After orbiting Earth 14 times, Shenzhou (“divine vessel”) landed safely on the plains of northern China. China now plans to build on this success and land a man on the moon within two decades.
What is the significance of this event? Its implications go far beyond the realm of science into that of global politics.
Shortly after the launch, the Economist wrote, “The first manned space shot will, China hopes, also advertise the reliability of its commercial satellite-launch services … strengthen its claim to a seat at any future space-negotiation top table; reinforce its influence in Asia; and through such heavenly exploits, put China firmly on the terrestrial great-power map” (Oct. 18, 2003).
In today’s technology-oriented world, launching a man into space is one of the most dramatic demonstrations of a nation’s power. Space travel is about far more than science and exploration. It’s about power. An advanced space program indicates an advanced nation. Thus, the net geopolitical gains of space travel are well worth the costs.
Through its highly advanced space program, China is not-so-subtly informing the world that it desires more global respect—militarily, geopolitically and economically. China is now a force to be reckoned with.
So what does China’s mounting regional and global influence mean for Asia—and for the world?
Trade and Economic Expansion
Traditionally, China has been a politically abrasive, isolated nation, reluctant to join the game of international diplomacy. Twenty years ago, to many nations, China represented famine, poverty, widespread unemployment, poor human rights, Mao Zedong and Tiananmen Square.
Chinese officials have spent the last two decades trying to dig China out of this hole. Although great economic strides have been made and conditions for the Chinese people have improved, this mission continues. Beginning with Deng Xiaoping in 1978, followed by Jiang Zemin in the early 1990s and now Hu Jintao, a new China is rapidly rising. These days, for many urban Chinese, famine and poverty are being progressively transformed into abundance and wealth.
Chinese leadership has primarily used two mechanisms to foster this resurrection. First, over the past two decades the Communist government has progressively privatized many government-controlled institutions and encouraged capitalist ventures by its citizens. Thus, private enterprise has increased significantly. Second, Beijing has strenuously engaged itself in international affairs, particularly trade and commercial negotiations. Even private companies have been encouraged to strike up relationships with other nations in almost every sector, including trade, finance, military, security, tourism, transport and agriculture. Abandoning the isolationist mentality, Deng and succeeding leaders have thrust Chinese diplomats into a range of international organizations, agreements, committees and bodies. China is now represented at most prominent international events and meetings. Bilateral and multilateral relationships are now a key part of China’s foreign policy.
All this fancy diplomatic footwork is paying off in the form of growing economic and trade relations with other nations—particularly China’s Asian neighbors. With a gigantic labor force, and an insatiable thirst for knowledge and advancement, China has become a net importer of technical expertise and grown into a massive exporter of a wide range of products from technological hardware to agricultural goods.
Foreign Affairs summarized China’s economic and trade advancement in its November/December 2003 issue: “The world’s most populous nation has radically liberalized its economy and gone from producing low-quality and simple exports to sophisticated high-technology goods, while nurturing a vibrant private sector and attracting nearly $500 billion in foreign direct investment (fdi). The country has turned into a formidable exporting machine: China’s total exports grew eightfold—to over $380 billion—between 1990 and 2003; and its exports in the electronics industry now account for 30 percent of Asia’s total in that sector. China’s share of global exports will reach 6 percent in 2003, compared to 3.9 percent in 2000. [In 2002], China accounted for 16 percent of the growth in the world economy, ranking second only to the United States” (emphasis mine throughout). No nation or group of nations compares to China in terms of the rate of recent growth and expansion.
China’s increasing international influence was demonstrated again last October when China and the European Union signed two important agreements: China’s pledge of 200 million euros to support Galileo, the EU’s satellite navigation project; and the relaxation of visa restrictions for Chinese tourists visiting Europe (www.EUobserver.com, Oct. 31, 2003).
At a joint news conference, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said he hoped the EU would become China’s “biggest partner in economic and trade relations” (ibid.). As it stands today, China is the EU’s third-largest trade partner—behind only the U.S. and Japan—with annual trade worth 86 billion euros (us$106 billion). If the EU displaces the U.S. as China’s major trading partner, this would not bode well for the American bond market.
European newspaper Deutsche Welle said this about German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s visit to China in early December: “The chancellor’s main purpose in touring China is to promote business ties between the two countries …. Economic relations between Germany and China are flourishing. German exports to China doubled during the first half of 2003. While China has replaced Japan as Germany’s most important trade partner in Asia, Germany has become the biggest European investor there” (Dec. 1, 2003). Schröder is even calling on the EU to lift its arms embargo on China so it can sell weapons to the nation.
Because of China’s huge export-based economy and numerous trade agreements, red-carpet treatment can be expected by Chinese officials as they traipse the globe negotiating and meeting with fellow world leaders. Chinese President Hu Jintao was inducted into office less than a year ago and has already traveled outside Chinese borders more times than both of the presidents before him combined.
Backed by its burgeoning economy and trade, China’s political clout has increased significantly over the past decade. Since the mid-1990s especially, Beijing has been working overtime to develop stronger relationships, particularly with those nations closest to its own borders. In 2001, the geopolitical success stories under China’s belt included accession to the World Trade Organization, signing the Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation with Russia, and establishing the Shanghai Cooperation Organization with its central Asian neighbors. In 2002, Beijing uncharacteristically made overtures to nato,initiating communication with the American-led alliance. In October last year, China announced its Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity with the Association of Southeast Asian nations (asean), focused on developing long-term peace and sustainable development in the region.
This is a China the world has never seen before.
Although much more covertly developed, China’s military program is expanding. With more than 200 million males fit for military service and an extensive inventory of military hardware, China has the potential for one of the largest militaries in the world.
A concern for China, however, is that much of this hardware is growing obsolete. Thus, Chinese officials have been upgrading, particularly naval hardware, over the past few years, including adding submarines and destroyers from Russia.
China’s ability to put its military into action was made evident at the end of last year, although on a small scale, when it conducted joint naval exercises with India in the seas off Shanghai.
China’s rapidly developing space program is possibly the most important of its recent initiatives, simply because of the strategic implications to the nation’s security and prosperity. In war or peace, nations that control space control the world. (See “Space Wars” in the December 2003 Trumpet). “… China’s objectives in space reflect broad commercial and military interests. [T]he prc views the exploitation of space as an integral part of its modernization drive, a top priority on Beijing’s national agenda” (Washington Quarterly, Fall 2003).
Through its highly sophisticated space program, and by working with the EU in developing the Galileo navigational system, China is now ready to be launched onto the global security scene.
Most news analysts are viewing China’s systematic rise to power far too naively. Not that it is going unnoticed—this success story is being reported worldwide. Yet, too few understand the implications of increasing Chinese dominance for the rest of the world.
What plans does China have for Asia? How will China’s increasing global influence impact the United States and the global balance of power?
As China’s prestige increases, American power is being challenged, especially in Asia. Since World War ii, the U.S. has had strong allies in Asia, particularly Japan and the Philippines. Even today, many Asian nations, including Thailand, work closely with America—especially in the war against terrorism. But for how long?
Concurrently, China is also working more intimately than ever with these same nations. The Far Eastern Economic Review presented the likely outcome of this Sino-American mêlée: “China’s feverish economic diplomacy has forged closer ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [incorporating 10 Asian nations], Japan and South Korea, stimulating trade and investment that the United States warmly welcomes. But behind Beijing’s ‘win-win’ rhetoric of gains for everyone lies another agenda that Washington may find less palatable in the long run. In a little-noticed ‘Strategic Partnership’ agreement, which China and asean quietly signed in Bali in early October, are buried the seeds of closer security cooperation that analysts and officials say China aims to use to dilute American influence in the region” (Nov. 20, 2003).
The article quoted a senior aseanofficial: “They want a situation in Southeast Asia that automatically takes into account China’s interests. The whole objective of the policy it to avoid strategic encirclement by the U.S.” (ibid.). China is finally acting on its long-held ambitions to unite East Asia and is squeezing out U.S. interests there.
Beijing’s plans for its Asian brothers extend beyond the south and east. “China’s ambitions stretch farther than asean. … China has a road map that envisages a Northeast Asia Free-Trade Agreement encompassing Japan and Korea, and a pan-regional East Asian fta. Chinese commentators, reflecting official thinking, envisage an East Asian economic and security community with institutions like an Asian Monetary Fund and an Organization of East Asian Cooperation within five years” (ibid.).
Foreign Affairs wrote, “China is rapidly emerging as the engine of growth in Asia, which affords it increasing influence and leverage. Although the United States remains the strategic incumbent there, Washington needs to pay consistent attention to managing relations with regional friends and allies if it hopes to maintain its pull” (op. cit.).
Make no mistake: China is quickly becoming the nucleus of Asia, and an attractive alternative to America as an ally. From Kazakhstan to the Philippines, Japan to Thailand, and every nation in between, Beijing is forging a foreign policy aimed to increase passively its influence in the region. On its western borders, China has made such uncharacteristic gestures as conceding long-disputed tracts of land to historic rival India and other central Asian nations. Through warm gestures such as gigantic trade and commerce deals, Beijing is causing Eastern nations to grow more reliant on China.
The groundwork is being laid for Asia to grow into a tremendous coalition of nations that will rival the U.S. and Europe. China is at the vanguard of this movement.
Prophecy Being Fulfilled
America’s loss of global influence, together with China’s rise as the regional Asian hegemon, are both events that prove we are near the end of this age. These events were prophesied more than 2,500 years ago in God’s Word—the Holy Bible.
God prophesied that He would break the pride of America’s power (Lev. 26:19). The U.S.’s waning influence in Asia is a sign of this reality. Asian nations are beginning to realign themselves with their Chinese neighbor and away from the U.S. Washington is losing its grip on Asia—at a time when, in terms of trade and its war on terrorism, it needs Asian support more than ever.
In the Bible, God foretold of the Day of the Lord, a time when He will cause the Eastern blocs of nations to coalesce into an overwhelming army of 200 million personnel (Rev. 9:16), which He will then allow to attack a united European power (Dan. 11:40-44). In Ezekiel 38, God reveals who will be a part of this Eastern bloc of nations: Russia, China, Japan, India and the Southeast Asian nations. (To prove the identity of these nations in Bible prophecy, please write for our free booklet Russia and China in Prophecy.)
In verse 3, God tells us that China will be one of the leading nations in this great Eastern army. Groundwork for this army is being laid right now! On the scene is a China cleverly gaining influence and control of its East Asian neighbors and growing closer to its northern neighbor Russia. Just as prophecy revealed it would, the Far East is uniting. Continue to watch this region!
The fact that the prophecies about America’s demise and China’s rise as an Asian hegemon are coming to pass not only proves the validity of God’s Word; it also tell us that Jesus Christ is about to return (Rev. 11:15). The Bible reveals that the timing of these prophecies is just moments before the return of Christ. Their progressive fulfillment should spur us into preparing for the return of Christ. It is not enough to simply hear and understand these prophecies—we must act on them to prepare for the future!