It is Sun Tzu, the Chinese military strategist of China's Spring and Autumn Period, who is often attributed with the phrase, "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer". Two-thousand six hundred years later, in the days following President Xi Jinping's visit to Manchester, it seems an apt time to reflect on these words.
China's borders have proved contentious right the way through history. The Great Wall of China is testament to that. But — unlike with the Ming Dynasty's legacy — its current actions are not preventative measures. Take its border disputes with India. India's Arunachal Pradesh, twice the size of Switzerland, is claimed by China. Further west, China's annexation of Indian land beside Kashmir is indicative of its militaristic aims. The Senkaku Islands of Japan are a more relevant issue at present as China continues to hound them with naval force. Elsewhere in the South China Sea, China is locked in dispute with Vietnam over several island chains, such as the Spratley Archipelago. China has missiles trained on Taiwan, and states that they must one day accept Chinese sovereignty. We won't even discuss Tibet.
But it's not just in Asia where China is being expansionistic. Their investment in African infrastructure borders on neocolonialism. Are they so keen to build roads in communities devoid of natural resources? Add to this the nation's abominable human rights record. Never mind, we'll roll out the red carpet for their leader. This colonial attitude has seen the Chinese engulfing Central and South America, too. They are the main backers of the Grand Canal of Nicaragua, which started being built in 2014.
Do I disagree with President Jinping's visit being hailed as one of our country's most important in this millennium? No, actually. America is a waning force. A Donald Trump victory — or even a Bernie Sanders victory — in 2016 could see the US become increasingly introverted. The referendum on Britain's EU membership is looming. ICM polls show the 'Out' campaign is making headway. Should we leave the EU, where will we stand? Trade with the EU will suffer. Stood beside China, though, we remain strong. Friend or foe, it is better to have China by our side.
Reuben Cutts writes about student life for The Manchester Magazine. He is a first-year Geography student at the University of Manchester.