Robert Tyler is a Project Manager for the Alliance of Conservatives & Reformists in Europe.
Much attention has been given to the role that Chinese Communist party has played in failing to report on the spread of COVID-19 in its own country – thus allowing it to spread around the rest of the world.
Misinformation and manipulation from Beijing are nothing new. We already know about how they refused to admit that anything was amiss in Wuhan until February 2020, despite having been well aware of it as early as November 2019.
We also know that they have continued to prevent foreign investigators from the World Health Organisation (WHO) or American Centre for Disease Control (CDC) from entering the region – where it is likely that 40,000 people died as opposed to the 3,500 reported.
It should be no surprise to anyone who understands the way the Communist Party works that it is also targeting a campaign of subversion and misinformation against our allies. Especially those in the Commonwealth.
As the United Kingdom departs the European Union, we have placed a great deal of emphasis on a return to close relations with our allies in the Commonwealth. In many cases, China is already working to try and hollow them out – from Asia through Africa to Australasia.
In Hambantota on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, for example, the Chinese have built a giant new container port. The port was built by Chinese contractors and paid for by a loan from a Chinese investment bank. During the first years of its operation, the harbour only made a profit of $1 million. despite having cost $361 million to build.
Because the port failed to make a profit that would allow the Sri Lankan state to repay the loan, the Chinese Merchant Ports holding company moved in, and leased 70 per cent of the harbour in a debt-for-equity swap that ultimately saw Sri Lanka lose out twice.
This has created what is tantamount to a Chinese colonial holding in Sri Lanka – and is costing the latter’s government even more, as Chinese trade vessels dock in the Chinese held port rather than the country’s main harbour in Colombo.
This style of ‘debt trap diplomacy’ isn’t an exception so much as a rule. In Africa, the Chinese have engaged in equally nefarious funding schemes. Kenya, another commonwealth country, owes the Chinese State $7.9 billion. Nigeria and Ghana both owe $4.8 billion and $3.5 billion respectively.
The loans are often used on infrastructure projects – but with little evidence of them ever materialising, and so leaving the countries with high debt burdens. Many states in Africa fear that the arrival of Chinese companies risks undermining delicate economic growth and losing companies that have struggled for years to be established.
And it’s not just Commonwealth countries in the developing world that have been victim of the Chinese Communist Party.
The Australian Government launched a probe last year into Chinese interference during their recent elections. Reports had suggested that a suspected Chinese espionage ring had offered to pay large amounts of money for a luxury car dealer, Bo ‘Nick’ Zhao, to run for a seat in Australia’s federal parliament.
Zhao was subsequently found dead after these reports emerged, with no cause of death established. The Australian Government has itself long warned of the risk that China poses.
It is clear that once this Coronavirus crisis is cleared up, we must do more to ensure that the Commonwealth works towards a common strategy for countering the spread of Chinese influence. Our allies around the world have already had to face off this challenge: it’s time that we all stood shoulder to shoulder, and kept them safe from outside interference. We need a united Commonwealth front against Communist China.
Part of this new coalition must look at ways in which all Commonwealth countries can shift their dependence away from China and towards manufacturing in Africa or other parts of Asia, creating new jobs in countries like Nigeria, Kenya and Sri Lanka, and ending their dependence on China for economic support. We could go beyond just a global Britain and embrace a Globalist Commonwealth.
Please join the European Conservatives and Reformists at 14.00 this Thursday, for their webinar: Is China is the new global threat? Featuring Anna Fotyga, Herman Tertsch, Mattias Karlsson & Carlo Fidanza.