Today China’s ambitions are as aggressive as those of the United States a century ago, but for completely different reasons. China does not take a missionary approach to world affairs, seeking to spread an ideology or a system of government. Instead, its actions are propelled by its need to secure energy, metals and strategic minerals in order to support the rising living standards of its immense population.
Within the Chinese state, Xinjiang and Tibet are the two principal areas whose inhabitants have resisted China’s pull. In order to secure Xinjiang — and the oil, natural gas, copper, and iron ore in its soil — Beijing has for decades been populating it with Han Chinese from the country’s heartland.
The mountainous Tibetan Plateau is rich in copper and iron ore and accounts for much of China’s territory. This is why Beijing views with horror the prospect of Tibetan autonomy and why it is frantically building roads and railroads across the area.
China’s northern border wraps around Mongolia, a giant territory that looks like it was once bitten out of China’s back. Mongolia has one of the world’s lowest population densities and is now being threatened demographically by an urban Chinese civilization next door.
Having once conquered Outer Mongolia to gain access to more cultivable land, Beijing is poised to conquer Mongolia again, albeit indirectly, through the acquisition of its natural resources.
North of Mongolia and of China’s three northeastern provinces lies Russia’s Far East region, a numbing vastness twice the size of Europe with a meager and shrinking population and large reserves of natural gas, oil, timber, diamonds and gold.