The People’s Republic of China’s global investments have grown dramatically in recent years, surpassing the United States as the largest trading partner with many countries in Latin America and Africa and challenging America’s strategic influence across the globe. From official investments in key industries like infrastructure, aerospace, and power to investments by Chinese state-owned companies in new technologies like 5G, China has pledged to become a world economic leader by 2025 through global manufacturing. Under its “China Standards 2035” plan, China aims to set the global standards for the next generation of technologies, from telecommunications to artificial intelligence, a move that may have enormous implications for tech industries worldwide.
The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted China’s efforts to increase its global influence, from bilateral humanitarian response at the outbreak to vaccine diplomacy. China sent medical teams and donating medical equipment to over 150 countries and joined COVAX, the global initiative to ensure an equitable distribution of a vaccine, before the United States. Estimates indicate that China’s economy has already recovered from the downturn driven by the pandemic, growing by 4.9% in the third quarter of 2020, marking it as one of the few economies likely to show an overall positive rate of growth for 2020.
Chinese President Xi Jinping released his vision for China’s global leadership at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, saying, “major country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics aims to foster a new type of international relations and build a community with a shared future for mankind.” In 2019, China surpassed the United States in the size of its diplomatic network, citing 276 diplomatic posts—including embassies, consulates, and permanent missions to international organizations. In 2018, China increased its budget for foreign aid by 7%.
The Communist Party of China approved China’s 14th Five-Year Plan in March 2021, an economic roadmap with a goal of raising the country’s per capita output levels up to that of “moderately developed countries”—nearly three times the 2020 level—by 2035 such as Spain or South Korea, through an expansion of the state’s role in the economy, dual circulation, and secure supply chains.