Last week, the 10th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition served as a backdrop for high-level meetings between China and Pakistan discussing greater military (especially air force) cooperation between the two countries. Although widely ignored in the mainstream media, IVN has reported on the Chinese government’s strategy of increasing its sphere of military influence throughout Asia, Africa, and South America. Now, the country is increasing its influence closer to the American and NATO-dominated Middle East.
U.S., Pakistan Relations Cool at Best
The U.S. has had on-again and off-again military relations with Pakistan since the end of WWII.
In exchange for Pakistan’s support for the American led invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan was given $4.2 billion in military aid. Even with this huge aid package, issues relating to sovereignty and airspace violations have caused many within the Pakistani government to see the relationship as too costly.
The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) currently fields about 450 combat aircrafts, mostly built around the American F-16 jet variants. As soon as 2015, the PAF expects to deploy the new JF-17 aircraft in large numbers — an aircraft designed jointly by China and Pakistan. The PAF has been testing the first 50 of these fighters since 2010, with 300 of the improved fighters expected to be purchased in all.
This move would almost totally eliminate the PAF’s dependence on American military aid for technical upgrades and repairs.
Expanding the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor
This move is largely seen as an effort to continue support and development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Currently under construction, the corridor is an ambitious project that combines highway, railroad, oil/gas, and technology conduits into a direct route for Middle East and Chinese trade.
The current trade route from China to the Middle East is the 7500-mile sea route around India to Chinese ports. Once completed, the corridor will be just under 2,000 miles long — with pipelines carrying oil instead of ships.
A direct land route between China and the Pakistani port of Gwadar will substantially increase China’s economic influence in the region.
The U.S. Must Improve Economic Ties Throughout the World
China aggressively added to its number of economic and military allies in 2014, while it seems that the U.S. has largely alienated and angered most of its current allies in the Middle East and Africa.
While a growing number of Americans have isolationist attitudes, the fact remains: if you have the world’s largest economy, you will always have to defend it politically and, at times, militarily.
America needs to build better relations abroad, because if we don’t the Chinese are ready to swoop in with open wallets.