China’s Grand Strategy
Weaving a New Silk Road to Global Primacy
Sarwar A. Kashmeri
Praeger, Santa Barbara, California, 2019, 171 pages
Book Review published on: November 15, 2019
Since the conclusion of World War II, America has enjoyed unprecedented political and economic growth resulting in unmatched global influence. The United States has accomplished much through the vehicle of democracy by limiting government and encouraging privatized innovation, development, and investment. During this period, the United States met adversaries with the successful strategy of containment. This blueprint has worked for over sixty years. Will it work for the next sixty?
Sarwar Kashmeri is an adjunct professor of political science at Norwich University and an established author. In China’s Grand Strategy: Weaving a New Silk Road to Global Primacy, Kashmeri attempts to share China’s grand strategy from the perspective of the East, keeping the Western audience in mind. China began its three-step strategy in 1978 by opening its communist/socialistic-driven economy to market forces. In the second step, China focused military spending and modernization on securing its coastline and on its economic interests in the South China Sea region. “In the space of two generations, China has transformed itself from one of the poorest countries on Earth to one of the richest.”
Kashmeri focuses a majority of the book on the third step of China’s grand strategy, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Simply put, the “belts” are overland economic corridors, and “roads” are maritime routes. The author uses the following definition: “The Belt and Road Initiative is a 1.3 trillion USD (yearly) Chinese-led investment program creating a web of infrastructure including roads, railways, telecommunications, energy pipelines, and deep-sea ports that would serve to enhance economic interconnectivity and facilitate development across Eurasia, East Africa, and more than 60 partner countries.”
Although China’s President Xi Jinping has stated the inspiration for BRI was the economic and political success of the Silk Road, there are examples in American history that closely resemble the third leg of China’s grand strategy. Kashmeri relates the actions of the United States in the wake of World War II to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The Marshall Plan earmarked reconstruction money for the Europeans. These funds did not come in the form of direct payment. Rather, the United States distributed funds as a credit to use for purchases to rebuild their countries. “These funds came with one provision. Europeans were required to spend aid money in the United States. Under the legislation, no money would flow across the Atlantic. Instead, Europeans would buy from American companies and receive payment from the U.S. Treasury and the dollars would timely flow to U.S. workers in the form of a payroll check. The equivalent investment today would be 110 Billion USD. The Marshall Plan investment has resulted in a transatlantic economic relationship between the U.S. and Europe that is responsible for 5.5 Trillion USD or one-third of the global domestic product.”
Kashmeri skillfully uses the Marshall Plan to illustrate the scale of the BRI. In today’s dollars, the Marshall Plan represents a tenth of the BRI monetary investment. BRI not only strengthens China’s geopolitical influence and economic growth but also addresses identified tactical military weaknesses. Kashmeri carefully explains why the Straits of Malacca are critical to China as it continues to require extraordinary levels of natural resources. Any disruption in this sea lane would significantly interrupt China’s growth. One of the cornerstones of BRI is to finance major deep-sea ports to circumvent the Straits of Malacca and expedite the transportation of natural resource imports and the exports of goods and services. Kashmeri details the billions China has invested through BRI in Pakistan’s Port of Gwadar, Kenya’s Kilindini Harbor, Sri Lanka’s Port of Hambantota, and Greece’s Port of Piraeus. Kashmeri effectively argues that these investments will ensure the flow of exports and imports continue efficiently and effectively.
How might America compete with China’s grand strategy? In his final chapter, Kashmeri examines the efforts and concerns of the current U.S. administration. Kashmeri suggests that U.S.-imposed tariffs on China have affected the U.S. economy and U.S. workers far more than the Chinese. Additionally, the newly founded United States International Development Finance Corporation has a mere $60 billion in lending authority. He also suggests that the U.S. GDP will steadily decrease without trillions invested in continental U.S. infrastructure demands.
Kashmeri suggests that within ten years, China is destined to become the world’s most influential economic power while maintaining regional military dominance. This prediction, along with Kashmeri’s compelling argument, suggests that the United States should no longer try to contest China’s grand strategy, but rather it should collaborate with China and become part of the BRI!
Book Review written by: Lt. Col. Michael R. Bundt, U.S. Army, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas