Today we look at the classical approach to geopolitics in relation to China. There are those who would very much like to contain this growing geopolitical power, but there are very real impediments in the way – e.g., an economy expected to become the world’s largest in the coming decades, a lengthy coastline that cannot be ‘landlocked’ by containment-minded foes, and a growing ‘blue water’ naval capability. The latter development, of course, is of special interest to those nations that populate the broader Indian Ocean area. In the following STRATFOR conversation, it is also of interest to George Friedman and Robert Kaplan, who discuss China’s far reaching bid for sea power and its geopolitical implications.
While Kaplan and Friedman agree that China is trying to challenge American power in the Western Pacific, they disagree on whether that challenge is succeeding. For Kaplan, a power shift is already occurring: although still a long way from having a genuine blue water navy, China’s asymmetric “area-denial” capabilities are already affecting other nations’ deployment decisions. This military development, together with China’s growing demographic and economic clout, makes it a player to rival the U.S. and its allies in the area. Friedman, on the other hand, sees a much weaker China that could not prevent a crippling blockade of its ports in the event of open hostilities. Its economic model, moreover, may be on the verge of an ‘Asian Tiger’-style crisis and its demographic context is a constellation of liabilities. While Kaplan sees China as a growing geostrategic threat to the status quo, for Friedman the real story is how little the strategic balance has shifted despite China’s efforts at military self-empowerment. Behind the disagreement, however, is a shared belief that geopolitics continues to apply in the Indian Ocean and further to the east – not only as an analytical tool, but also as a concrete political reality.