Understanding China

Since the creation of the printing press, we recognize five locomotives that have driven the history of the planet: Italy, Spain, France, England, and the United States throughout the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries respectively.

China is emerging as the locomotive of the 21st century, therefore it is very important to understand the Asian giant and its peculiarities today, when the world works in real time and man has the ability to destroy it.

In just a few decades, the world changed profoundly regarding technological frontiers and interdependence, finance and trade, and the construction of national geostrategic powers. Since the fall of the wall and the preaching of the end of ideologies, we have seen the advance of the People’s Republic of China aggiornamiento based on party discipline, with an enormous flexibility to adopt economic competitiveness and, above all, with a perfect record of how to operate in the world.

We are living through a civilizational paradigm shift that is very difficult to interpret with categories from the past, even the very recent ones, to which extremely harsh global impact phenomena to manage such as climate change or the COVID19 pandemic are summed. And the interpretation becomes even more complex when the pretense of universality of Western values ​​transported by the preexisting engines finally collapses.

In the twentieth century, with acute syncretism, China has combined Confucius and Marx. It has amalgamated millenary values ​​of coexistence with effective socioeconomic formulas to integrate its people. It has balanced community and individual, with order and social harmony limiting individual freedom. It has upheld ancestral principles of loyalty to the family and respect for the ruler. It has developed the values ​​of work, discipline and containment of expenses. Progressively and very rapidly, it managed to raise the quality of life of its people.

Seen from our Western enlightenment, we are facing the Asian defense of order and the State over pluralism and human rights; just as they may characterize the West "in decline" as a consequence of individualism, lack of social discipline or lack of capacity for work and sacrifice.

In the present international board, with the crisis of the Bretton Woods system, China claims to support the historical trend towards multipolarity and democracy in relations between countries. Win-win cooperation is the proposed formula and is based on the fact that, in the era of globalization, all countries have become part of a community of shared interests.

From this conception, China unfolds the Asian regionalization and the New Silk Road. Regionalization is advancing despite critical border scenarios and tensions in the South China Sea. In my opinion, regionalization and the Road make up the centrality of the geopolitical strategy of the People's Republic of China. In less than three decades -ASEAN started in the 90s and the Road less than ten years ago-, the indicators in quality and volume mark a solid and promising course. A few weeks ago, we witnessed the signing of the largest trade agreement in the world, the RCEP, or Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

And it is worth pointing out the Road. This initiative consists of the establishment of two combined routes, one for land and the other for maritime infrastructure, which would improve Chinese connections both on the Asian continent and abroad, giving China more economic and political influence worldwide. The initial focus in 2013-14 was Europe, the heart of the West, then projecting itself even towards Latin America once Africa was quickly located.

Without naivety, we are facing a purpose of clear benefit for its promoter and this has always been the case throughout history. But note that this case goes beyond simple trade routes: it is a vast infrastructure plan that involves the construction of ports, airports, highways, and gas pipelines; collaboration in the fields of energy, finance, science and technology, and R&D; and even foresees the creation of an area of ​​economic integration. Without a doubt, it is superior to colonial extractivism.

The size of the proposal is immense, definitely planetary, and requires fine medium and long-term processes that must be addressed with Chinese perseverance without question. But above all, they must be approached with intelligence by the interlocutors because there is no script, there is a path and the path is made by walking it. For this to be achieved, nothing better than knowing the interlocutor very well.


Pedro Del Piero is Senator of the Nation and Secretary of International Relations of the Nation’s Circle of Legislators.

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