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In order to practice my English speaking skills, I’ve been looking for some online partners, but who can I ask? Chinese people are too cautious, normally they have quite a lot of concerns with strangers. In addition, those who are not good at English are too shy to speak, while those who speak good English don’t bother to practice with another Chinese person. Similarly, Germans are too conservative, normally it takes long time to become familiar with a German. What I need is just a speaking partner who can talk to me anytime. In fact, it is not easy to meet my requirement, so I did not find a suitable English speaking partner for a long time.

Last week, I suddenly found a solution from a global perspective. Actually, the richest English-speaking human resources in the world today are in South Asia, India and Pakistan have countless English-speaking people. In this era of globalization and digitalization, why don’t I learn from the global division of labor of many multinational companies and use popular communication tools to achieve my little goal? Actually I can talk to Indians and Pakistanis! Although they speak English with strong accent, it is not important for me because what I am looking for is not an English teacher, but a fluent speaking partner. So, I joined a few Facebook groups whose members are mainly Indians and Pakistanis, and I posted several Zoom meeting notices in these groups with the intention of trying it out. To my surprise, a number of people quickly responded to me that they were willing to talk to me in English. Now, at any time, I can find a few Indians and Pakistanis who are fluent in English to talk about any topic. For me, these English-speaking partners are free and inexhaustible natural resources.

Although my approach is only a small attempt, it is in line with the global division of labor of many multinational companies: Europe, the United States and Japan are where the “board of directors” is, and India, because of its rich English speaking IT human resources, is the ideal software workshop of the world. Indians often boast of being the “world office”, which is above China--the “world factory”. It is true that China has become the “world factory” favored by multinational companies too, thanks in large part to its demographic dividend of a huge pool of skilled and highly disciplined cheap labor.

This reminds me of China’s global strategy and foreign policy, which are actually similar. The most significant foreign strategy since the founding of the People’s Republic of China is the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) launched in 2013. Strategy is the purposeful match between ends and means. BRI mainly covers the Eurasian continent by land and the Indo-Pacific region by sea, both of which are mainly occupied by developing countries. From the economic perspective, China’s intention is to leverage its advantages in technology, capital and human resources, which are ahead of most developing countries along the BRI, and to use the “five links” centered on infrastructure construction as a means to serve the ends of securing the supply of natural resources and opening up a wide market space, so as to reduce its over-dependence on developed markets of Europe, the U.S. and Japan, especially the U.S. market. From the geopolitical point of view, Eurasian continent covered by BRI is the so-called “heartland”, which determines the fate of the world according to the classic geopolitical theory of land power, while the Indo-Pacific region is the central hub of the world’s sea power today. Thus, the BRI is a grand strategy to support contemporary China’s ambitious strive for achievement.

In some sense, the BRI is somewhat similar to Mao’s “Three Worlds” strategy, which is about making friends with poor Asian, African and Latin American countries while fighting against two superpowers--the U.S. and the former Soviet Union. Mao’s strategy was successful to some extent, as China has gained widespread political support to join the United Nations. China, which was quite poor at that time, invested a considerable amount of resources into Asian, African and Latin American countries. While it has benefited from this strategy in political terms , it suffered a huge loss in economic terms. Mao’s successor, Deng Xiaoping, realized that the key issue was its domestic economic development rather than foreign strategy, and the foreign assistance without economic consideration was unsustainable. Deng also recognized that the allies and partners of the U.S. had become rich because they have chosen side of the U.S. For Deng, opening up to the outside world was mainly to the U.S. Deng believed that, as soon as the U.S., the leader of the Western world, accepted China, other developed countries such as Europe and Japan would follow it. In fact, Deng’s strategy was a great success, under which China has become the biggest winner of globalization since the 1990s rather than one of the biggest winners.

However, when the wheel of history came to 2013, Deng’s strategy also quietly came to an end. Now, “striving for achievement” has replaced “keeping a low profile”, and the unprecedentedly ambitious BRI has emerged. However, it is worth noting that although Asia, Africa and Latin America are China’s important sources of natural resources as well as markets of Chinese products, the huge capital and key technologies needed for China’s continued development are still in the hands of developed countries such as Europe, the U.S. and Japan. China’s ambitious push in Asia, Africa and Latin America can not replace the key role of Europe, the U.S. and Japan, just as although I can talk to my Indian and Pakistani language partners in English very conveniently, only native English speakers can provide correct and high-quality tutoring.