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Although China has grown militarily, economics underlies many of its military gains. As Ferial Saeed noted in a recent commentary :. Yet America remains focused primarily on improved lethality and conventional confrontation. Though the document does incorporate some necessary discussions of additional means, such as interagency and regional partnerships, these discussions are not as detailed as the ones about lethality and preparedness for conflict.

To effectively counter Beijing, the U. Michael J. In the Vanuatu incident, China boldly attempted to explore basing in a British Commonwealth member nation within the Australian sphere. These investments are not being competitively matched by the United States or non-Chinese regional development funding. Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, recently joined the chorus of concerned leaders warning of the risks of accepting Chinese loans.

Research interests

Recipient countries are transferring infrastructure projects back to the Chinese, either directly or through long-term leases, because of inability to pay the loans back. Sri Lanka and Pakistan have accepted loans from Chinese state-owned banks and are now dealing with consistent project delays, spiraling deficits, and sovereignty issues.


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Chinese private investment has been flowing into the Solomon Islands on Guadalcanal for a commercial fishery, airport, resort, and a re-opened gold mine. The attention from Chinese investors and their efforts to solicit Australian businessmen, coupled with the strategic position of these developments between Australia and New Zealand , created substantial worry in Canberra.

Measuring the burden

The Australian government, spurred by security concerns , was pushed to invest in the delivery of an underwater internet cable in the Solomons to pre-empt Huawei from doing it first. China is obscuring the degree to which this expansion is fueled by unsustainable debt, and herein lies an opportunity for the United States. Domestically, the Chinese government is underwriting its private industry development in artificial intelligence, telecommunications, robotics, biotech, and aviation as part of the Made in China plan.

Yet this robust debt-fueled plan has not resulted in improved market penetration of domestic products or efficiency and productivity.

Taylor & Francis Journals

The debt could be offset if the renminbi became a fully convertible currency , but until then , China is betting on achieving its goals in time to produce a return that can pay the debt or negate the cost. To further mitigate the debt problem, it is transferring the burden of development onto countries who have accepted Chinese offers of credit.

When these countries cannot pay, China assumes the project, in effect writing off the debt. In either case, if China is paid back or extract new terms that transfer control back home, it wins the financial and influence fight. Exploiting Chinese debt is a vastly undervalued way in which the United States and its partners can asymmetrically engage China on its own terms. The United States should create an environment in which industry in the Indo-Pacific region can diversify away from China.

strategic and international studies

Economic and trade engagement can deny opportunities for Chinese investors to conduct the economically exploitative tactics, which presage military overtures. The United States in fact has a marked advantage in this realm. The Chinese government is in the business of picking winners in its technology sector to enable its domestic manufacturers to be competitive in the world market.


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The U. Since America does not need to play catch-up, the U. This is one of the few areas in which the United States still has the edge over the Chinese model — perhaps ironically given that the language of security, rather than economics, continues to dominate the discourse on how to counter China. Sorry, but we can't respond to individual comments.

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Measuring the burden

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