A worker watches cranes at the port in Qingdao, China, on Feb. 15.
Experts who compare China's 21st-century rise to Bismarck's Germany miss a far more appropriate historical analogy: the 17th-century Dutch. While the Spanish and Portuguese crowns were the first truly global empires, they physically subjugated large swaths of Latin America, Africa, Asia and Oceania through violent conquest and even genocide. The Dutch, by contrast, operated in a less brutal and more commercial fashion.
There are remarkable similarities between Amsterdam's strategy 400 years ago and Beijing's today. It is the Dutch model of infrastructure for resources that China follows, not British or French colonialism that sought to administer and socially engineer entire societies. The Dutch were about trade, not territory: They were an empire of enclaves. China has followed much the same path, recognizing that in today's supply chain world, it matters less who owns (or claims) territory than who uses it. ...
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