China is not so tough after all, geopolitical strategist says

CLEVELAND — China is far less the globally threatening bogeyman it projects as its 40-year economic boom cycle ebbs, geopolitical strategist George Friedman says.

And all the saber-rattling about China invading Taiwan needs to be taken with a grain of salt as well.

“The United States has done something really cool that very few people have noticed,” Friedman told FreightWaves CEO Craig Fuller in a fireside chat on the opening day of the two-day Future of Supply Chain event. “In the past month, we signed a treaty with the Philippines that gives us four bases right off the Chinese coast.”

Separate deals with New Guinea and Fiji provided missile bases. Together, those arrangements that effectively give the U.S. control of China from the Aleutian Islands to Australia.

“And that’s changed the balance of power dramatically. China’s basic fear has always been that the United States would blockade their ports and make it impossible for them to trade,” Friedman said. “Now that fear is really a fear.”

Friedman is an internationally recognized geopolitical forecaster and strategist on international affairs. He is founder and chairman of Geopolitical Futures, an online publication that analyzes and predicts the international system. 

Friedman is a New York Times bestselling author. His 2009 book “The Next 100 Years” remains relevant because his geopolitical predictions are unfolding in many countries. 

Evidence of a fast thaw in U.S.-Sino relations

Friedman said the recent “very pleasant meeting” between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and China Premier Xi Jinping is evidence of a fast thaw in the U.S.-Sino relations.

The U.S. and China need each other as trading partners, not engaged in brinkmanship over Taiwan, which China has considered to be a rebel region since the unofficial end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

Despite its claim of sovereignty over Taiwan, if China could successfully invade the island nation without attracting an American military response, it would have, Friedman said. After policy missteps over COVID and a declining economy, Xi cannot afford a military failure.

“What’s happening here is that American power is asserting itself. And most of the players, including India, are shading to a pro-American stance. This has China extremely worried. If the United States chooses to freeze China out, there’s a chance they could do it.”

The U.S. is also cozying up to India. Premier Narendra Modi wants to supplant China as a U.S. trading partner. Air India on Tuesday firmed an order for 470 Airbus and Boeing aircraft with a list price of $70 billion.

“They’re very hostile to China,” Friedman said. “If we also had India in the American relationship, now China’s really worried. India very much wants to take China’s place in the U.S. markets. Taiwan just doesn’t reach that level.”

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