The tiny desert town of Abeche, in eastern Chad, offers a curious sight: Sandwiched between the mud huts that most people call home and the compounds belonging to international aid workers is a humble Chinese restaurant catering to Chad's growing population of Chinese engineers and managers. Significantly, no equivalent American-style restaurant is to be found.
The same holds true across the resource-rich, institution-poor developing world, in countries as remote as East Timor and as dangerous as Somalia. While much of the military establishment in Washington continues to plan for a possible conventional war with China, Beijing is studiously avoiding a direct confrontation, instead expanding its influence through means other than traditional warfare. Principal among them is the deployment of Chinese technocrats abroad on profit-seeking missions for the world's third-largest economy.
China is expanding through aid and trade.
Russia has not become an energy giant by war; it has become an energy giant through trade agreements, and without firing a single shot at anyone.
Call me silly, but perhaps the US may just have something to learn from this.
IF the US can ever learn from its mistakes, which appears to be only a distant dream right now.