China's growing influence in Africa is the result of Chinese companies increasingly offering aggressively priced goods and services, as well as credit and no political strings. The Chinese are willing to deal with corrupt governments, and cut corners to get deals done. This gives them an edge over Western firms, which are restricted, in how dirty they can operate, by laws back home.
January 15, 2006: China has become Cuba's second largest trading partner (Venezuela is first). China has achieved this by extending credit to Cuba, despite a long record of unpaid trade loans.
January 14, 2006: China is now the second largest automobile market in the world. China's domestic automobile production gives the country a valuable military asset, with the capacity to switch to military vehicles (including aircraft or boats) on short notice.
January 12, 2006: More money and attention is going into military logistics. While personnel are being cut, automation and commercial practices are being introduced. Apparently military planners have realized that any major operations against Taiwan, or anyone else, would require the rapid movement of massive amounts of supplies. China has not fought a major war, or even campaign, in over 25 years, and logistics was neglected over that time.
An agreement with India enables the two countries to cooperate in acquiring oil and gas supplies world wide.
January 11, 2006: Kim Jong Il, the dictator of North Korea, is visiting China. For years, Chinese leaders have been trying to convince Kim to undertake economic reforms in North Korea, lest famine and economic collapse lead to revolution or worse. Kim has made some reforms, and enjoyed some growth, but refuses to open up North Korea to the same extent as China. Calming down North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear weapons program is expected to work best if North Korea prospers.
December 31, 2005: Government researchers report that rural unrest is growing, and that the biggest cause of demonstrations and riots is anger at corrupt government officials. The central government orders local officials to clean up their act, but the temptations are too strong. With over twenty years of 10 percent annual economic growth, there are two many people eager to buy access and advantages from local politicians. The crimes, the popular reactions, and the police violence against demonstrations, are made known to all via the Internet. Inexpensive video cameras put vivid images of all this on the web, where government efforts to suppress it have not been successful.