China and the concept of Global Strategic Positioning
By Frederick W. Stakelbeck, Jr.
China is taking careful, deliberate and well-coordinated action on a global scale to advance relations with strategically positioned countries possessing both the natural resources and influence to support its ascension in the international community. To accelerate the growth of its power and influence on the world stage, China has eagerly embraced the concept of Global Strategic Positioning or GSP, as the "gold standard" of its foreign policy for the 21st century.
The concept of GSP can be defined as,
Experts in the U.S. defense and intelligence communities, who were once hesitant to concede the existence of a coordinated global strategy by China, now readily acknowledge that the country is in the midst of a protracted push for global authority, control and influence. Few of these same analysts, however, have taken the necessary time to define or label this process bringing China's economic, political and military actions together under one "theoretical umbrella."
A Historical Perspective of GSP
China is not the first country to employ some form of GSP. Over the course of human history, ancient empires, as well as modern civilizations, have used GSP to broaden the scope of their global influence.
Ancient Egyptian kings and pharaohs such as Sety I and Ramses II adopted, in principle, an early form of GSP by securing fertile lands well beyond the Nile basin. Trade and political associations were fostered with countries at strategic locations in the Middle East and Africa for the purpose of extending Egyptian culture, influence and power.
The Roman Empire used GSP to control natural resources, ports and sea lanes ensuring free trade and the spread of Roman ideology related to government, law, architecture and the military. Hitler's Third Reich briefly practiced GSP in parts of Asia, Africa, South America and Europe making dubious pre-war political and trade agreements with Britain and Russia.
The Soviet Union used GSP for over forty years after World War II, until the fall of the Berlin Wall signified an end to Moscow's global aspirations and influence. Moscow's relations with Syria, Vietnam, North Korea and Cuba were nurtured using a combination of economic incentives, military guarantees and political indoctrination. In exchange, Russia received valuable intelligence, gained technological expertise and expanded its global influence -- all necessary components for the spread communism.
Finally, the United States continues to use its own proprietary GSP strategy to develop economic, military and political alliances with countries located at strategic locations throughout the world to increase its power and influence.
China and GSP: No Turning Back
Like its powerful predecessors, China is employing a unique GSP strategy specifically designed to expand its global influence and power. Energy contracts with Iran, Sudan and Venezuela; mineral and oil sands extraction contracts with U.S. neighbor Canada; intelligence and military cooperation with Cuba; seaport agreements with Panama and mining contracts with South Africa have all furthered the global aspirations of the Beijing government.
The depth, pace and scope of Beijing's economic, political and military agreements is astounding and merits close attention and evaluation. The need for scrutiny is evident, since each signature by a high-level dignitary; each visit by a foreign head of state; and each agreement signed by a Chinese state-owned enterprise, plays an important role in supporting China's larger GSP strategy.
If history is a reliable predictor of future events, one by-product of China's GSP strategy could be external conflict. China, an ancient civilization with a history dating back 5,000 years, has shown a tendency to use force to settle boarder disputes with neighboring countries such as India, Vietnam and Russia.
Is China now on an irreversible path to global conflict, as a result of its current GSP strategy?
Better Analysis Needed
It is extremely important for U.S. and Western analysts to identify emerging geostrategic alliances and trends in a timely fashion to provide a solid basis for the formulation of meaningful hypotheses. This process allows for the targeted development and implementation of a unified response to confront any menacing GSP strategy.
This proactive approach requires individual, group and organizational analysis, research and interaction using a blend of creativity, intuition, and imagination to connect the "global dots" allowing a clear pattern of China's global behavior to emerge.
In any evaluation of China's unique GSP strategy, analysts must ask several questions. First, why are particular countries or organizations involved with China? Second, what does China gain or lose by entering into a specific agreement and how does it impact the country's overall GSP strategy? Third, what is the historical context in which agreements are made? Fourth, is the political climate; leadership ideology and overall sentiment of a particular country or organization involved with China favorable toward current U.S. foreign policy initiatives? Finally, what does a country cooperating with Beijing possess, such as natural resources, seaports and technology that could assist China?
Asking such targeted questions must be undertaken by the U.S. intelligence community with absolute dedication and enthusiasm. Lacking such focus, the U.S. and its allies will likely face lamentable repercussions that could reverberate for generations.
Using the concept of GSP as a pillar of its foreign policy, China will continue to explore economic, military and political options with countries located at strategic locations around the world. To address this potentially hazardous development, the U.S. must strengthen strategic relationships with long-standing allies such as Japan and Taiwan in the Pacific, and explore unique synergies with new allies such as India in Southeast Asia and Poland in Europe. Washington must also work to develop strong alliances in Africa and South America to counter those already made by China in countries such as the Sudan and Venezuela.
Finally, the U.S. must use the historical mistrust that exists between China and Russia to its advantage and continue to encourage Moscow to abandon recent autocratic tendencies and adopt a system of government that promotes greater individual freedoms and democratic ideals.
Frederick W. Stakelbeck Jr. is an expert on Chinese foreign policy. His writings address the implications of China's emerging regional and global strategic influence and relationships upon U.S. national security. The author can be contacted at
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