Columns, Opinion

FENG: Disentangling China

As George Washington stepped down as the first president of the United States, he advised the country with these words: “The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is… to have with them as little political connection as possible.”

It seems that a little more than two hundred years later, a country other than the United States heeded Washington’s words.

The People’s Republic of China is booming economically and closing its class gaps. Unlike the West, PRC has taken a different route toward expansionism. Its ideology is not grounded in military domination of foreign lands; Chinese history revolved around civil wars and internal struggles for power rather than colonization or foreign domination.

But China’s foreign policies have changed. Now, it is giving special attention to Central Asia, a region rich in energy resources. In the past, Russia and the United States dueled over the region’s resources. As became standard for China, it sat in the background and observed. With current Russian and American economy at a low point, China entered to seize the advantage. China’s presence is expanding into the Middle East.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization best displays China’s current expansionist ideologies. The SCO was created in partnership with Russia and Central Asian countries as a mutual security and business organization. I call it the NATO of the East.

As the main mover and dealsman of the organization, China has loosened its belt toward its close neighbors to the west. In recent years, China has signed energy policies and agreements with the Central Asian countries to provide oil and natural gas for its burgeoning economy. As a Jan. 30 article in The Economist explained, these countries were quick to accept such a partnership and welcomed it with open arms, as “it comes with no annoying political strictures.”

Such avoidance of certain political strictures has also developed into other deals with its neighbors. Kazakhstan recently signed a deal with China to lease three million acres of land for agricultural. Agreeing to supply energy is one thing, allowing a foreign country as powerful as China to step on your soil and to do with it what it wishes requires a unique trust. Kazakhstan is only one example of Central Asia. Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan follow suit. Chinese deals extend to Iraq and Pakistan, too &-&- countries influential to the fight against terrorism.

It is apparent that Chinese expansionism lies in the country’s conservative politics and ability to act quickly. Avoiding foreign entanglements has proven an exceptional practice for China. Even when it faces terrorism, humanitarian violations and border disputes, it is able to seize a foreign opportunity. China is in a position to greatly influence Middle Eastern politics &- now we must observe whether it will seize this opportunity to do good, or focus on its own gains.

Henry Feng is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences and a weekly columnist for The Daily Free Press. He can be reached at

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