Beginning with its entry into the World Trade Organization in December 2001, China has rapidly transformed its economy from a low-cost “factory to the world” to a global leader in advanced technologies. Along the way, it has transformed global supply chains, but also international diplomacy, leveraging its success to become the primary trading and development partner for emerging economies across Asia, Africa and Latin America.
China’s rise over the past two decades has remade the landscape of global politics. Her “quiet rise” has given way to more vocal expressions of great power aspirations and a more assertive international posture, particularly with regard to China’s territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Combined with Beijing’s military modernization program, that has put Asia, as well as the United States, on notice that China’s economic power will have geopolitical implications.
Now the global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has opened up opportunities for China to expand its influence, even as it has called into question both China’s credibility as a responsible stakeholder and the future of the supply chains that have fueled its economic success story.
Foreign Policy & the Belt and Road Initiative
China has a long history of aid and investment in the developing world. Now its Belt and Road Initiative of global infrastructure investment is making inroads not only in Asia and Africa, but also Europe.