Sara Bongiorni, a business journalist in Baton Rouge Louisiana, made an unusual New Year’s resolution in January 2005. She and her family decided to boycott all the things which would carry the label, Made-in-China. They resolved to avoid Chinese goods such as birthday candles, lamps, toys, and shoes. This one innocuous decision turned the family’s daily life upside down. After one year, they realised boycotting the Chinese products was impossible and ended the boycott. Her book, “A Year Without Made-in-China”, which is the chronicles of her one-year experiences, explains how deep Chinese economy has integrated into the global economy. Another key inference from this book is how dependent American economy has become on the Chinese economy that when an American citizen tried to find out replacement of Chinese tennis shoes, she had to search it for two to three weeks. And after the exhausting search, she located Made-in-Italy sneakers worth $70, which were way more expensive than ordinary Chinese tennis shoes and cost only $15.

America is too dependent on Chinese economy to severe the Sino-US ties. In 2016, the bilateral trade ties reached the volume of $519 billion, making them each other’s largest trading partner. Over the past decade, Chinese goods and services for America increased by 98 and 134 percent respectively. They are an integral component of daily life in America and bind the families to the global economy. These statistics and the chronicles of a modern American family, One-Year without Made-in-China, are a window to the extent of Chinese influence in the lives of ordinary citizens. This is not just an example of economic interdependence but of Chinese influence as well. The global economic influence of China has three main dimensions: hope, international relations and social and economic alternatives. Economy is the vital component of the Chinese worldview. For Chinese political elites, economy comes first. A country which has managed to create such a level of economic dependency doesn’t need hard power to bring down its rival.

It is not the case with the US only. Economic dependence on China has created such a trap for the other countries, which is hard to escape. India, which has been vying for regional and global influence with China, is also trapped in a catch-22 due to this factor. China has provided the world with social and economic alternatives. More than that, it has given the peoples hope. The country is hungry for success and eager for adaptation. Change and adjustments to the changes are the two most important ingredients of its domestic and international policies. Combined together, it becomes recipe of its unconventional success.

Before the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was discarded, the US enjoyed a greater degree of influence there. But now that TPP is discarded, they are looking up to China only because of economic opportunities and incentives. Philippine parted ways with the US and Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong questioned the US credibility, “How does anybody (in the region) can believe in the US anymore?” Australia, Japan and South Korea are also worried over being treated as “not even close to allies.” Other than leaders, the investors, government officials and trade experts are stunned at the US indifference. Eminent columnist of New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman quoted senior Hong Kong officials in his article saying, “After America stopped TPP, everyone is now looking to China.” Carrie Lam, the new chief executive of Hong Kong said that countries like Australia are reaching out to Hong Kong for forging deeper trade ties after America has pulled TPP down. She said, “It’s a pity that Americans are leaving but this will give our country the opportunity to lead.”

All these developments suggest that economy is not only a means to growth and development but to influence also. Not military but economy is the key to Chinese influence.

Most often, it is claimed that China’s future behaviour is uncertain and it may follow the trajectory of an aggressive power. This thinking stirs doubts and nurtures uncertainty about China’s use of hard power. Especially, skirmishes in the South China Sea lead many to believe that Beijing is flexing its military muscles. Interesting it is that the US which is no geographical proximity with the Southeast Asia and has no territorial disputes to settle with China keeps its military forward deployed in the region. More interesting it is that Beijing doesn’t claim its territory lost to Russia in the Qing Dynasty but asserts its sovereignty in the tiny islands scattered in the sea. The islands are considered as a part of national identity which the Chinese Socialist leaders wished to conserve after the Red Revolution. It is more of defensive in nature than offensive. No country stands challenging its sovereignty in its immediate neighbourhood. The concern arises only when it asserts its jurisdiction in other countries, which China has none so far. So the use of military might not only go against common sense but the Chinese rationale of success and development also.