I’m writing to you from 33,000 feet somewhere above the Midwest of the United States on a flight from Havana to Toronto. Below is flyover America. These are the states that voted for Trump, driven by amongst other things a fear of China.

On this Air Canada flight there are seven rows in business class. As we are coming from communist Cuba, where my son is doing transition year, the vast majority of the plane are Canadian tourists and a smattering of Cuban migrants who’ve had the opportunity to work in Toronto. But what is fascinating is that business class is full of Chinese businessmen. China is gradually buying the world and nothing reflects this more than the fact that the business class on an Air Canada flight from Havana to Cuba is entirely Chinese. This is because China owns Cuba. Chinese businessmen provide the cheap consumer goods that the desperate Cuban punters crave.

Interestingly, it is Canadian tourist dollars that finance this trade. Canadians are Cuba’s largest tourist source. They provide the dollars, the hard currency. This is then converted into Cuba’s makey uppey convertible currency. This is then used to pay for the Chinese goods and then the Chinese reconvert this into US dollars. This is how the world works now. Poor countries buy cheap Chinese consumer goods, while poor governments depend on Chinese contractors to build infrastructure in exchange for commodities or market access. The Chinese then “own” the poor countries’ private and public sectors. This is real power.

China isn’t interested in fighting to occupy countries like an old superpower. Its more sophisticated that that. It believes in
chequebook diplomacy rather than gunboat diplomacy. It is extending its power thought commerce not force. Ultimately
countries are paying China to increases Chinese influence. Now this is clever!

Meanwhile America rails against China and votes for Trump who says he will protect American jobs against the Chinese, but he can’t. The Chinese are simply getting on with the business of business. And in the same way as the Chinese businessmen are bypassing the United States today by flying over it to Canada, the Chinese government is doing the same, as it bypasses America and its outsized rhetoric, towards ultimate superpower status.

All the while the Chinese businessmen beside me plug numbers into their spreadsheets totting up this week’s Cuban profits. Who else could make money in a communist country???