4 July 2019
A chained dragon
Chinese strategists urge Westerners to understand that their country’s rise as a naval power is guided in part by deep insecurity
Geographical good luck gave Wu Zhaozong a front-row seat as China opened to the world. As a boy he watched his grandfather steer a horse-drawn cart through the docks of Tianjin, on China’s northern coast. Poor neighbours, living in courtyard homes shared with four families, would follow carts to pick up horse dung and fallen coal-lumps for fuel. Coal was a Tianjin export, as was garlic for Japan. “I very rarely saw cars,” Mr Wu recalls.
Today Tianjin is one of the world’s ten busiest ports, and Mr Wu is operations director of a ship-supply company. The firm’s work includes securing giant wind turbines on ships bound for Chinese partners in Africa. Earlier this week Mr Wu gave Chaguan a lift in his bmw to Tianjin’s passenger terminal. There he oversaw crisply uniformed Filipino sailors loading fresh produce onto a cruise ship, before it carried newly affluent Chinese tourists to Japan. The changes witnessed by Mr Wu—driven by Tianjin’s location as a gateway to Beijing and other northern cities—have been both dramatic and astonishingly rapid. For Mr Wu, an amiable father of two little girls, is just 38 years old.