• 14 July, 2024
Foreign Affairs, Geopolitics & National Security

Tumbling Evergrande Caged Tech Giants: China Much Desperate More Dangerous

Cdr Sandeep Dhawan (Retd) Tue, 28 Sep 2021   |  Reading Time: 9 minutes

“War is nothing but a continuation of politics with the admixture of other means.”
― Carl von Clausewitz, On War

An ancient Chinese stratagem advises military leaders: “Loot a burning house.” The trick is easy and self-explanatory — attack when your opponent is most vulnerable. China has given, this and many other hideous ancient wisdom, paramount importance in the quest for ‘Pax Sinica’.

After the 2008-09 financial crisis, Chinese firms ventured out to procure discounted bargains worldwide, especially those with strategic utility: iron & nickel ore, oil, and innumerable other commodities that the Chinese economy became dependent on. Thanks to the debacle in Afghanistan, China has successfully deflected the COVID-19 blame and taken a head start in manufacturing. They also have a mouthwatering proposition to exploit the vulnerable situations in Afghanistan.

But despite the world presenting such opportunities, China is staring at stagnant population growth, tumbling business models, and failed ‘Common Prosperity’ program. Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communists Party (CCP) have nothing to show to ordinary citizens before Party Congress in 2022. Is the world heading for another China-created crisis? After all, China loves Milton Friedman’s disaster capitalism.

Dictators love disasters

There is no loyalty in the heart of a traitor, only the false act of appearing trustworthy.
― Jesus Apollinaris

Milton Friedman was the twentieth century’s most prominent American economist. He was a distinguished leader of the Chicago school of economics. In 1951 Friedman received the John Bates Clark Medal honoring economists under age forty for outstanding achievement and Nobel Prize in economics in 1976.

In one of his well-known essays, Friedman stated, “Only a crisis​actual or perceived ​produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable”. He floated the idea of ‘Disaster Capitalism’.

China loves Milton Friedman

China’s 600 million people have two remarkable peculiarities: they are, first of all, poor, and second, blank. That may seem like a bad thing, but it is really a good thing. Poor people want change, want to do things, want revolution. A clean sheet of paper has no blotches, and so the newest and most beautiful words can be written on it, the newest and most beautiful pictures painted on it.”

– Mao on programmable Chinese people.

Friedman in China – Courtesy: Cato Institute

Friedman’s ideas were boon for communism. He got invited to China for the first time in 1980. His subsequent trips came in 1988, 1992, and 1993. In more recent years, the senior echelons of the Chinese Communist Party have renewed their interest in Friedman’s wisdom.

China loved Milton Friedman. They realized that his theory not only could be applied to other countries but with their citizens too. They understood that countries or citizens have to be taken to a feel-good level of economic achievements before a shocking event, like a war, coup, terrorist attack, market crash, natural disaster, or pandemic can be introduced. While the country or citizens are dealing with the event, it is very easy to manipulate their disorientation, restrain democracy, force through extreme free-market policies that enrich the select few in China at the expense of the poor and the middle class. China innovated and divided Friedman’s methodology into:

  • Economic Supremacy Phase
  • Shock and Awe Phase
  • Military or Political Supremacy Phase

At the end of completion of all phases, the previously unacceptable policies which were not to the liking of countries/citizens can be justified and made a permanent fixture, in the name of crisis. One prime example is the introduction of income tax in Canada as a temporary war measure in 1917, the war ended, but the income tax stayed.

Economic Supremacy Phase

This is a very important part of the whole strategy. Economic supremacy should give a feeling of empowerment to the countries/citizens. They should go into a kind of intoxication which gives them false excitement of being economically successful. Plenty of loans and free-floating capital should be available to countries/citizens. They should feel indebted and obliged to the provider of such prosperous times. At no given time countries/individuals should realize that they are making a select few very rich and successful, at their expense.

To accomplish this phase China has taken its citizens to a certain level of prosperity. It has also emerged as a saviour to many poor and financially unstable countries. China has been the biggest lender and investor in the recent past. Few facts about Chinese lending and investments from 2008 Financial Crisis to 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic:

  • Chinese lending surpassing more than 6% of global GDP.
  • $1.5 trillion in direct loans and trade credits to more than 150 countries worldwide.
  • Major lending banks – China Development Bank and Export-Import Bank of China.
  • Chinese lending surpassed the World Bank, the IMF, or all OECD creditor governments put together.
  • Chinese debt to other countries soared ten-fold, from less than $500 billion to more than $5 trillion.
  • 50 developing countries’ China debt has increased from less than 1% of their GDP in 2005, to more than 15% in 2017.
  • As of 2020, following are the most vulnerable countries stuck in Chinese predatory debt trap:
    • Kenya – US$6.5 billion,
    • The Maldives – US$3 billion
    • Ethiopia – US$13.5 billion
    • Cameroon – US$5.7 billion
    • Pakistan – US$6.2 billion, US$62 billion CPEC
    • Angola – US$25 billion
    • Laos – US$1.9 billion
    • Mozambique – US$2.2 billion
    • Republic of Congo – US$7.3 billion
    • Zambia – US$7.4 billion
    • Sudan – US$6.4 billion

This phase has another important component – deceiving stronger nations. In addition to the USA, China realized that it must harness European financial and technological might before it could get into the next phase. China’s strategy is simple – rob, replicate, replace. In case that is not possible then the last option is to invest in technologically advanced European companies. Some of the most astonishing takeovers in Europe by China in the recent past:

  • China has invested $180 billion in Europe since 2000.
  • German acquisitions:
    • Advanced Robotics company Kuka
    • 9.92% stake in Deutsche Bank
    • 10% stake in truck maker Daimler
    • Waste management EEW
    • Auto parts company GRAMMER
    • Private bank Hauck & Aufhaeuser
    • Metering and energy management group ISTA
    • Plastics processing machinery maker KraussMaffei Group
    • Forklift truck maker Kion
    • Offshore wind park Meerwind
    • LEDvance(OSRAM)
    • Engineering firm PUTZMEISTER
    • German government’s push for 23 percent stake in CureVac, a German company working on coronavirus vaccine, is probably to ward off China.
  • The UK acquisitions:
    • Hinkley Point C nuclear plant
    • Sizewell C nuclear power station in Suffolk (chance to build reactor in Bradwell, Essex)
    • China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), accounts for
      • More than 25% of the UK’s oil production
      • 10% of the UK’s energy needs
      • Firm’s chairman, Wang Yilin, declared to its employees that deep-water rigs around the UK are China’s mobile national territory and a strategic weapon.
    • Europe’s largest battery storage project in Wiltshire
    • 30% in South Western Railway
    • London Crossrail franchise
    • 10% stake in Heathrow airport
    • 9% stake in Thames Water
    • The sports car manufacturer Lotus & successful brand in India MG Motor
    • British Steel
    • London Black Cab maker Manganese Bronze
    • Wolves football club
    • Hamleys (until Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani bought it recently)
    • Currency exchange WorldFirst
    • Luxury fashion retailer Harvey Nichols
  • Italian acquisitions:
    • For $7.9 billion 17% of Italian tire maker Pirelli
    • Drone company Alpi Aviation 75% stake
    • Power grid firms Terna and Snam
    • Turbine maker Ansaldo
    • Luxury yacht maker Ferretti
    • Fashion brands
      • Roberto Cavalli
      • Mariella Burani
    • Systems and components company Ansaldo Energia
    • Shares of
      • Intesa Sanpaolo
      • Unicredit
      • Eni
      • Enel
      • Telecom Italia
      • General insurance
    • Develop and manage ports of Genoa and Trieste.
  • Greek port of Piraeus. Today China controls about one-tenth of all European port capacity.
  • Swiss agrochemicals manufacturer Syngenta.
  • Swedish Volvo Cars.
  • Finnish Amer Sports, Gaming companies Supercell and Midea.
  • A 13% stake in Norwegian Air, through Chinese aircraft leasing company BOC Aviation.

Shock and Awe Phase

The Shock and Awe Phase has two distinct parts. The Shock part follows a clear pattern. Once the other countries/citizens are completely entrenched in Chinese loans and investments, China waits for a crisis or helps foment one, suspends some or all governing norms, and then pushes the CCP’s wishlist through, as quickly as possible.

CCP learned it soon after the revolution that any turbulent situation if framed with sufficient hysteria by CCP, could further their agenda. It could be an event as radical as a military standoff, economic shock, budget crisis, or life-threatening situations like pandemic or bio attack. Taking advantage of a crisis, the CCP would be able to sell a panicked population/country the necessity for attacks on social protections, or enormous bailouts, forcing those entities to seek leadership from CCP (mark my words, Evergrande is heading in that direction).

The current COVID-19 pandemic has provided the right opportunity to CCP to present the Awe part of the Shock and Awe Phase. While the world cringed in isolation under a covering of intense media paranoia-peddling, China showcased itself as a big brother. It stated, “We have provided assistance to over 130 countries and international organizations to fight the coronavirus. We are working very closely with other governments, and we’ll be helping them through this patch.” It exported medical supplies including face masks, protective suits, thermometers, ventilators, test kits, and protective glasses under the full glare of media coverage. Countries and eminent personalities forgot grilling China, on the subject of the origin of the virus, rather they started singing paeans in China’s name. Chinese citizens were overawed by their leadership’s capabilities and wisdom.

The advantage of Shock and Awe was seen immediately. Fifty-eight countries and four international organizations signed contracts with Chinese manufacturers. In June 2020, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that China would write off interest-free loans for “relevant African countries”. However, these loans constitute only 2-3% of Chinese loans. China never came out to actually help the countries in distress, it just portrayed itself as a very benevolent nation. In contrast, the US Marshall Plan after World War II had 90% of the funds as grants and aid.

Military or Political Supremacy Phase

It is possible to turn the crisis into an opportunity, to increase the dependence of all countries around the world of Made in ChinaHan Jian, director of the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

Presently the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and the South China Sea (SCS) have become the most important aspect of Chinese strategy. China is strong enough in SCS, to undertake misadventures, however, IOR remains it’s Achilles’ heel. Eighty percent of its trade and energy needs are met through IOR. In the IOR, India is the country that challenges China and capable of choking its supply lines.

China with its $26 billion investment in India assumed itself to be in commanding position. Alibaba through its associate Ant Financial (Group) has invested $2.6 bn in Indian unicorns PayTM, Bigbasket, Snapdeal, and Zomato. Tencent and other companies have invested $2.4 bn in Ola, Swiggy, Hike, Dream11, and BYJU. China very skillfully killed the Indian manufacturing sector with its standard predatory practices. Today Indian manufacturing is 9 points below where it should be, considering the size of its GDP. India’s trade deficit with China had reached an astounding figure of $53.56 billion in 2018, demonstrating how Indian manufacturers closed their factories and became traders.

Once China was assured of completion of Economic Supremacy Phase, it waited for the Shock and Awe Phase, which came in the form of COVID19 (Chinese President Xi Jinping had cautioned its leadership in January 2019 that they must be on guard against “black swan” risks while fending off “gray rhino” events. Adding that the economy faces deep and complicated changes – Epiphany of Pandemic?).

When the world was reeling under the Chinese origin Coronavirus, China moved to the next phase, the Military or Political Supremacy Phase. It started taking unilateral military actions at the Indo-Tibet border, TaiwanSCSEast China Sea (ECS), East Turkmenistan, and Hong Kong. Unfortunately, the external aggression backfired on China.

India was a leviathan very happy in its slumber but, Xi Jinping, due to his domestic compulsions, woke up the giant. Losses of 111 Chinese soldiers at the hands of Indian soldiers in the Ladakh region of India and loss of face at home forced Xi Jinping to take a U-turn. In the SCS the American and other allied navies did not lower their guard and China had to do face-saving by asking its forces to stand down. However, it succeeded in enacting draconian laws in Hong Kong and subjugating Uyghur population.

In the melee what most analysts missed out were two important Chinese moves – Italy and Iran. With Iran in its fold, China reaches deeper into the Strait of Hormuz, letting Pakistan’s CPEC drift into cold storage. But the biggest achievement amongst all this is the subjugation of Europe’s 4th largest economy – Italy. Its port infrastructure in the Mediterranean has tremendous trade and military implications. Italy was already in severe financial distress, and post COVID19 it has been checkmated by China. The Italian government is taking steps to tide over the pandemic but they have no real plan to save their businesses from bankruptcy or takeover by China.

Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts

Five years ago, I was sure that China could rise peacefully, as it says it wants to. Now, I am not so sure” – Shi Yinhong, China’s most eminent foreign-policy commentator.

Two things are happening in parallel today. European countries Italy, the UK and Germany are waking up to the threat of China. Italy has launched an investigation into the acquisition of drone company Alpi Aviation and stopped sale of truck maker Iveco SpA. The UK is stopping the acquisition of largest semiconductor manufacturer, Newport Wafer Fab and partnership in Essex nuclear power station. However, in developing countries like Pakistan and Sri Lanka, Chinese activities continue unchallenged.

China may have partially succeeded this time around in what it had intended to do, but it has not backed out in any way. The clear and present danger is very much evident. Xi Jinping is desperate, running out of time, and getting reckless in his approach. If the world doesn’t come together and rise above its greed, then that day is not far when China would strike harder. It has already succeeded in setting a new normal.

Speculation is now prevalent in the media regarding potential permanent changes in the aftermath of COVID-19. Social media analysis implies there is a general endorsement by the population that things will never be the same again. This demonstrates, that in one sweep how the climate was created by China to implement the disaster-capitalism policies. Friedman must be turning in his grave, remembering Shakespeare’s words “The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones”.


A veteran of the Indian Navy, Cdr Dhawan served in the Navy from 1988 to 2009. He was a Maritime Reconnaissance Pilot and a Flying Instructor. He is a geopolitical analyst and writes for various online websites and organizations.


The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of Chanakya Forum. All information provided in this article including timeliness, completeness, accuracy, suitability or validity of information referenced therein, is the sole responsibility of the author. www.chanakyaforum.com does not assume any responsibility for the same.

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Oct 22, 2021
"After all, China loves Milton Friedman’s disaster capitalism." Thanks for educating me about this. As we sometimes said to one another during the heat of it, you are "doing God's work" young man. Stay in the fight!


Oct 09, 2021
A very insightful and interesting article clearly bringing out the evil designs of China. However, it is not to be forgotten that this has been possible only because of the greed and keeping individual interests over and above the nations' interest. The world is waking up and a number of decisions of the country ' so called political leaders iro China are being questioned by the citizens. It may not be a cake walk for China anymore

A jhaver

Oct 07, 2021
A well researched article which brings out the Chinese evil eye on the world. It is time that the world understands this clearly and stop trading/ business with china which will be sufficient to bring down Chinese economy as china is an export economy. If this is not done then the world will keep facing shock and awe kind of destabilizating events and world peace & prosperity will be the first casualty.

D'Nanda Dunham

Oct 02, 2021
Very insightful and informative - especially with respect to Milton Friedman: Eye-opening! Thank you, as always!


Oct 02, 2021
Good writing

Cdr Deepak Singh

Sep 30, 2021
Good write up as usual Sandeep. I remember what I studied in History (Hons) Finance Imperialism, reverse journey has been started by Chinese. Marx to Mao brings the change. Origin of COVID 19 will never be found. Well researched article. I always follow your articles. Good going and keep me posted.


Sep 30, 2021
Excellent Read. Knowing a threat and facing the same are two entirely different prepositions. Correctly brought out till we shed the greed we cannot face the situation and therefore, will not be in a position for a timely course correction. Well done, Sandeep.

Garry James

Sep 30, 2021
Excellent researched article and analytical presentation. Thank you for sharing

V Mohan

Sep 29, 2021
A brilliant and extensively researched article into the Chinese minds and the disaster-capitalism policies employed by China. Author's logical arguments with supporting datapoints, reveals the unfolding Chinese gameplan. Excellent effort. The shrewd Chinese thinking of creating new normals through actual world crisis is a one time use weapon. China has used it effectively during the pandemic. Now the world is undergoing a disaster/crisis management phase in dealing with China. However, China is good at throwing surprises; and does not allow its adversaries to predict its next move or modus-operandi of shocking the world in an unexpected manner. China vs rest of the world, in the absence of a global action plan to deal with China, merely remains a rhetoric. Who will draw the global action plan and lead the rest of the world to take on China unitedly? Are we heading for a World War? Is the world waiting for another actual disaster, to produce real inevitable changes and new alliances in dealing with China's new normal?

Rakesh P

Sep 29, 2021
Very interesting concepts, very informative, indeed. Thanks.


Sep 29, 2021
Much appreciated article. Thanks for this precious peice.

Wendell Bruges

Sep 29, 2021
You always surprise me, Commander, with your in-depth research and a very analytical presentation. The concepts you have discussed are unique and I haven't read or seen anywhere written by any analyst or intellectual. Keep up the good work.

S Roy

Sep 29, 2021
Well researched, articulated and presented. Your writings are make fine reading.

Arvind pande

Sep 29, 2021
Its always educative reading ur articles. Gives cunning, long term planning of Chinese 4th world War. They hv succeeded to gr8 extent. Unfortunately for them entire world has understood their game plan n united to nail them. In future u may expect world wide cyber crime, biological warfare, chemical warfare through cheap products....


Sep 29, 2021
An excellent and well researched articles Best wishes


Sep 29, 2021
Great Sandeep Excellent analysis. Superb article. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Honestly I am very impressed with your research and the writing skill you bring out the information. Regards

Dhirender Gaur

Sep 29, 2021
China is stuck in the deep end of the quagmire with the rising that fuelling the expansion of financial markets to the precarious levels across the global economy. What we are likely to witness over the coming months is an epic clash between a leader with Supreme powers determined to change the course of his nation and the economic constraints imposed by gargantuan debts. Congratulations to you for this well researched topic.

Col Thakur

Sep 29, 2021
Aptly explained China's real game plan to gain supermacy and dominate the world."Must read " for nations' policy makers .Anyone who has understood this game of China can now be well prepared for Chinese next move. Developed countries apart from preparing themselves from Chinese crooked game should help poor countries to come out of China's clutches Thanks and well done to Cdr Dhawan for putting up this article. Wishing good luck to him

Col M Thakur

Sep 29, 2021
Very informative and detailed analysis of the current situation in china

Atul Dewan

Sep 29, 2021
The world needs to be made aware of the Chinese designs. Brilliant narrative on the games being played by a rampaging Dragon in today's era.

Sukhjit singh

Sep 29, 2021
A very well researched and written article covering all aspects


Sep 29, 2021
Thank you for your detailed insight on the ongoings in China. I particularly loved the data points on its investments globally.

Ravinder Singh kahlon

Sep 29, 2021
Excellent analysis. Superb article. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Munish Paul

Sep 29, 2021
Excellent article, once again, Sandeep. I am just waiting for your next. Keep it up.

Raman Gupta

Sep 29, 2021
A timely and brilliant analysis. While it is normal for any country to try and reach se, China has exceeded all limits of aggression and predatory practices.


Sep 28, 2021
The mistake that China made while innovatively adopting Milton Friedman’s methodology was that, for successfully implementing the said methodology, it was imperative to ensure a state of ceteris paribus vis-à-vis the rest of the world which, in this case, we can loosely translate as the rest of the world behaving normally and not interfering in any Chinese endeavours be it inside China or anywhere around the world. About 50-70 odd years ago, Friedman or the Chinese couldn’t have envisaged such an inter-connected and inter-dependent world scenario or the presence of a highly powerful and dangerous tool called the Social Media. Yes, in the past many decades, countries like China, Pakistan etc. have managed to successfully brainwash a large proportion of their populace but once their people start undergoing immense hardships, it won’t be difficult for the outside world to get the Chinese people to rebel against their leadership. There is a high degree of disunity within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) which is evident from Xi Jinping’s desperate attempts to unilaterally maintain control over all centers of powers inside China. Another fact is that the Chinese completely based their economic success story on debt. Ok, the US government also runs on debt but unlike China, the US is a free market economy and the private sector is completely independent of government interference and the success of business enterprises is based solely on their ability to function and survive in a competitive market. In China’s case, the CCP wants to start controlling all major business enterprises and given the fact that all these businesses are highly leveraged, it’s an economic disaster waiting to happen. When such an economic disaster happens, the value of Chinese investments around the world will dip rapidly because if China tries to liquidate these investments, their position as a desperate seller in an open market will lead to the value of these investments crashing. As far as the infamous Debt-Trap policy is concerned, if there is a significant collapse in the Chinese economy, the international wolves, especially in the US and the west, will ensure that these indebted nations flagrantly dishonour all Chinese debt. Coming to the trillion dollars odd worth of scarce resources in Afghanistan, despite Afghanistan being under US control for over 20 years, I wonder why the avaricious capitalists from the US and the west didn’t go after these resources? In my opinion, the Chinese followers of Friedman badly miscalculated on how that methodology will work to their benefit.

Shaunak Muzumdar

Sep 28, 2021
Informative and a questioning article. But then as said in tie last paras of the article that Xi Jinping is running out of time, it suggests that a war is inevitable for China, for Xi Jinping to continue in power. And sadly, the easiest and the best targets are India and/ or Taiwan. No doubt the recent standoff with India was not to it’s liking, but then, a wounded tiger is more dangerous. Hope you can throw more light on this aspect. 🙏🏻

Atul D

Sep 28, 2021
As usual, Dhawan's article is succinct and sharp, breaking down complex and entwined issues into simple blocks which can be understood and comprehended by all.


Sep 28, 2021
Brilliant analysis Sandeep Loose the battle, win the war. I think they have bitten off more than they can chew

Ajay Sharma

Sep 28, 2021
A very well written article, giving details of three phases the Chinese Govt has adopted to execute its imperialist plans. Connecting their plans with Friedman's theories were good.

KS Uppal

Sep 28, 2021
Great reading as always! Educative and eloborate. Keep it up 👍

Sunil Dhawan

Sep 28, 2021
Very well write up

Udai Rana

Sep 28, 2021
The Chinese have definitely achieved in introducing to the world the ‘new normal’, to everyone’s chagrin! Cdr Dhawan, congratulations and thank you for a yet another very well researched and informative write up!

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