In recent days, two pieces of news related to China have widely caught the eyes in Sri Lanka. Early this month, after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s sneaky visit to China’s TaiwanMore
Over the weekend, a baseless story, created by Falun Gong linked twitter accounts, went viral on twitter. Without any evidence whatsoever, the rumour stated that there had been an internal coup in China and the Chinese leader was under house arrest, citing an out-of-context video clip of military vehicles in an unspecified location. Despite the fact that the story was complete nonsense in every aspect, it was still widely shared throughout the platform and even trending. Several mainstream media outlets, including CNBC and Newsweek, even reported on the phenomenon. To anyone with a serious knowledge of China, the experience of this saga was, to say the least, frustrating.
But it shouldn’t surprise anyone. This might be the most explicit example of such, but it is by no means the first completely fake story about China that has gone viral on social media, rather it is just one of many that regularly occur. Western audiences are frequently indulged in sporadic fake news and misinformation across social media when it comes to China, exposing their lack of basic knowledge, quick prejudices and critical thinking on the subject. Western media and governments like to try and frame China’s own government as a source of misinformation, but the reality is in fact the exact opposite.
To understand how such fake news proliferates, without going into detail on the various groups and organizations responsible, we should take a look at a neighbouring country as an example: North Korea. Although it is of course an extreme example given its isolation from the outside world and much smaller scope, it is nonetheless a pivotal demonstration of how a country that is poorly understood by the west, abjectly demonized and vilified, and of course, few objective and impartial sources of information exist, becomes a breeding ground for absurd, unverified and even ludicrous rumours which would never fulfil basic standards of reporting for anything in the west itself.
In fact, western audiences literally believed that Kim Jong-un died in 2020, that everyone had to “get his haircut”, that they pretended to win the world cup in 2014, that people get executed for the most minor of misdemeanours and so on. There is no serious fact-checking mechanism whatsoever, which makes the country an easy target for low-information threshold tabloid journalism which exploits the country’s seeming absurdity for readers and clicks. This has only been more deeply compounded in the social media era. When it comes to such countries, western audiences will truly believe anything.
China of course, is a different case altogether but also has many similarities. Despite the fact that it has the world’s largest population and it is otherwise deeply integrated into the world, its government nonetheless becomes a useful target for conspiracy-led reporting due to its opacity and the perceived “secret” nature of the country, which although not like the DPRK, nonetheless attracts western cynicism and prejudice. This has always been present, yet it has got aptly worse with the open US and media-led demonization of the country and media campaign against it which sought to openly frame it as culpable for things such as Covid. The Anti-China agenda has legitimated and emboldened, deliberately often, the spreaders of misinformation, on a much, much larger scale.
As a result, social media has become filled with such falsehoods. Clips out of context purporting to show covid situations in China have often been sporadic, such as claims people are being “welded in their homes”, as well as false material depicting the apparent torture or mistreatment of the Uyghur minority. In 2019, I remember an English person sharing an out-of-context clip of an African child crying, the claim attached to the video was that he was “being forced to learn Chinese”. It was completely false, yet it is just one of many disturbing examples.
Although social media companies often claim they now oppose “misinformation” and even crack down on accounts purporting to push the narratives of China or Russia, they tend to give rumour-mongering accounts against designated enemy countries a free reign to spread misinformation, which has on many occasions been amplified by leading public figures. Likewise, posts on Chinese social media itself, such as Weibo, are frequently cherrypicked in order to frame very specific narratives to portray the country in a bad light.
In conclusion, this farce of a non-existent “coup” is annoying, stupid and ridiculous to anyone who has insight into the topic, but for the public at large, it is a believable and plausible event stemming from an entire misinformation machine dedicated to smearing China wherever possible. It demonstrates the gullible nature of the western public when it comes to understanding these topics, and shows in turn how easy it is for them to be manipulated by even the most obvious falsehoods, let alone the more crafted and sophisticated fakery of the mainstream media at large.
Views expressed are personal
Following the chaotic U.S. departure from Afghanistan in August 2021 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Washington has sought to reaffirm its commitment to its allies and partners. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan on August 2 assuaged nerves in Taipei and underlined the island’s status as a key component of the U.S. Pacific strategy.
The affair also generated a rare instance of U.S. bipartisanship. Twenty-six Republican senators backed Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, while on August 14, a team of lawmakers from both the Democratic and Republican parties visited the island. The Republican governor of Indiana, Eric Holcomb, also made a trip to Taiwan on August 22.
China’s Foreign Ministry warned of “serious consequences” in the lead-up to Pelosi’s visit, but even after continual visits by U.S. politicians to Taiwan, Beijing is unlikely to pursue military escalation. Doing so could result in a repeat of the 1995-1996 Third Taiwan Strait Crisis, which led to a remarkable loss of face for the Chinese leadership.
The third crisis started when then-Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui was granted a visa by the United States in 1995 to attend a reunion at Cornell University. Hosting the Taiwanese leader was seen as a serious provocation by China, instigating a series of missile tests and Chinese troop buildup over the next few months.
In response, the United States steadily built up its military power in the Asia-Pacific region, including “[sending] two aircraft carrier battle groups to the area” in March 1996. Chinese missile tests concluded days later, with Beijing being forced to accept U.S. military dominance in the region, and it could do little but protest when then-Speaker Newt Gingrich visited Taiwan in 1997.
The Third Taiwan Strait Crisis generated great interest in Russia, which saw an opportunity to exploit China’s desire to push back against the United States. Writing in 1996, Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer stated that defense contracts with China “could become not only a way for our hapless military-industrial complex to preserve jobs and earn money, but also the start of a long-range strategic partnership and a new balance of forces in Asia that would favor Russia.”
Having already accelerated since the Soviet collapse, Russia rapidly increased its weapons export to China after the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis. This helped rejuvenate the Russian arms industry, and has allowed Russia to maintain its status as the second-largest arms exporter up through today. As Washington’s attention turned to the Middle East following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, China gained increasing access to Russian-built missile systems, aircraft, ships, and other military technology.
Initially, Russian imports were largely limited to Soviet-era weaponry. But as China’s domestic arms production capabilities evolved, Russia has offered more advanced and sophisticated shipments of arms over the last decade to ensure China remains a customer, as well as to undermine U.S. strategy in the Asia-Pacific region.
As a result of this, Taiwan and U.S. forces in this area have become far more vulnerable to Chinese missiles, aircraft, and ships. After Pelosi’s departure, China conducted multiple missile tests near Taiwan, while China’s two aircraft carriers, commissioned in 2012 and 2019, were both sent to the region. On August 21 alone, five Chinese ships and 12 aircraft were detected around Taiwan.
China also indicated that it intends to conduct “regular combat readiness patrols” around the island.
The Biden administration was careful to avoid condoning Pelosi’s visit, instead advocating for calm. Although in the weeks leading up to her visit, the U.S. Navy had sent its warships through the Taiwan Strait on several occasions “in what it calls freedom of navigation operations,” since Pelosi’s return, Washington has been wary of escalation, “keeping an aircraft carrier group and two amphibious assault ships at sail in the region, but not close to the island” of Taiwan, rather than retaliating against China’s recent exercises in the region. On August 12, U.S. Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell said that the U.S. plans to cautiously resume its trade and military presence in the Taiwan Strait only in line with its previous “commitment to freedom of navigation” in the coming weeks. Already preoccupied with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. military cannot risk confronting China as it could a quarter-century ago.
Though Beijing has also so far avoided significant escalation, China’s growing defense capabilities have allowed it to aid the Russian military’s campaign in Ukraine. Since the beginning of the invasion, China has increased sales of microchips, aluminum oxide, and raw materials essential to the Russian defense industry. In June, several Chinese companies were also blacklisted by U.S. officials for aiding the Russian military.
After the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War between Armenia and Azerbaijan revealed the importance of drones in state-to-state conflicts, Russia has been desperate to offset its drone deficit in Ukraine. The Russian military has modified large numbers of Chinese civilian drones and robots, as they are cheaper and more widely available than Russian variants, to supplement the efforts of its armed forces.
Chinese drone company Da-Jiang Innovations (DJI), the world’s largest drone manufacturer, halted sales to both Russia and Ukraine in April to prevent misuse of its products. But surveillance technology developed by DJI, called AeroScope, can be used to track other DJI aircraft along with the position of the drone’s operator, and Ukrainian experts have indicated that Russia continues to use AeroScope to target Ukrainian forces.
While representatives for DJI and other Chinese drone and robotics companies have stated they do not support the use of their products in conflict, they are ultimately beholden to Beijing. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s criticism of Pelosi’s visit as a “thoroughly planned provocation” and including Taiwan on its list of unfriendly countries and territories in March means Beijing may continue to look the other way on the issue of using Chinese-made civilian drones in the Russia-Ukraine war.
And in addition to growing technological collaboration, Chinese and Russian militaries have also deepened operational integration over the last two decades. Their first joint military exercise took place in 2003, and dozens of others have taken place around the world since then. China also plans to take part in the Vostok military exercises (alongside India, Mongolia, Belarus, and Tajikistan) in Russia’s Far East from August 30 to September 5.
There are numerous limitations, however, to greater military cooperation between these two powers. China is wary of comparisons between the Ukraine-Russia conflict and its own dispute with Taiwan. Beijing has largely focused on nurturing its economic influence over Taiwan since the turn of the century, while isolating it diplomatically.
China also does not want to jeopardize its relatively constructive relationship with Ukraine, nor risk Western economic sanctions by more openly supporting Russia. Certain Russian companies have also criticized China’s weapons technology theft, while Chinese weapons exports have begun to threaten Russia’s market share among its traditional customers. These factors reflect the lingering distrust between Moscow and Beijing that has existed for decades.
However, the mutual opposition of both China and Russia toward the United States is enough to offset these issues for now. The United States had earlier warned China against assisting Russia’s war effort, but clearly it is a line China is willing to skirt. Considering the U.S. sells billions of dollars’ worth of weapons to Taiwan annually and has had special forces on the island since at least before 2019, this is no surprise.
Military cooperation between China and Russia has been further augmented by growing energy sales between the two countries, as well as a desire to create international institutions, like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and independent financial payment systems, to bypass traditional U.S.-dominated structures. The Chinese-Russian relationship was reinvigorated just weeks before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with the declaration of a “no limits” partnership.
Both China and Russia increasingly recognize that dividing U.S. attention between Ukraine and Taiwan will allow Beijing and Moscow to consolidate their regional positions. The muted U.S. response to Chinese military action around Taiwan since Pelosi’s visit is yet another indication that Washington cannot confront Russia and China simultaneously, particularly as they grow into a more united front.
If tensions over Taiwan continue, China may be convinced to increase its military support to Russia. If this happens, it will upend the military balance in Eastern Europe, just as Russian military assistance to China has done in East Asia over the last two decades.
This article was produced by Globetrotter.
In recent days, two pieces of news related to China have widely caught the eyes in Sri Lanka. Early this month, after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s sneaky visit to China’s Taiwan region, the Chinese side responded with firm countermeasures immediately. Over 170 countries around the world have all expressed their firm support for the One-China Principle and strong objection against the US provocation. I’m grateful to see that H.E. President Ranil Wickremesinghe, many Sri Lanka’s political parties and social groups have also openly spoken up for justice in support of China.
Consequences of Pelosi’s sneaky visit to China’s Taiwan region
Meanwhile, in the middle of this month, with China and Sri Lanka having altogether resisted the rude and unreasonable interference from third parties, the Chinese scientific research vessel “Yuan Wang 5” has successfully docked at the Hambantota Port for replenishment after receiving the latest approval from the Sri Lankan government. Those two matters may seem irrelevant and thousands of miles apart, but both share a same great significance between China and Sri Lanka, that is to jointly safeguard each other’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity. The two matters, both the process and results, have also fully shown a fine tradition in our bilateral relations, that is since the diplomatic ties was established 65 years ago, China and Sri Lanka have always been mutually understanding, respecting and supporting each other on issues of core interests and major concerns.
In October 1971, UN Resolution 2758, co-sponsored by Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) and 22 other countries, was adopted with an overwhelming majority of votes in the 26th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. The Resolution officially acknowledges the One-China Principle and the position that There is but one China in the world, Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory, and the Government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is the sole legal government representing the whole of China. It also recognizes PRC as the only legitimate representative of China to the United Nations. Since then, the One-China Principle has become a common understanding of the international society and a basic norm of international relations, and upon that principle, 181 countries including the US have established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.
Nancy Pelosi’s visit is a serious violation of the One-China Principle and the provisions of the three China-U.S. joint communiqués. It seriously infringes on China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity gravely undermines peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and sends a seriously wrong signal to the “Taiwan independence” separatist forces. However, I noticed that some local newspapers have forwarded voices from western media, falsely claiming that China “overreacts, escalates the tension and changes the Taiwan Strait status quo”, which are just their habitual tactics of standing facts on the heads and of a thief crying “stop thief”. It is the US and the Taiwan separatists that committed irresponsible acts, and change and escalate the Taiwan Strait situation, not China. China has every reason to respond unhesitantly to the severe impacts caused by the Taiwan visit of Speaker Pelosi, second in line to the US presidency and the No. 3 official of the US government.
Voyage of China’s Scientific research vessel, Yuan Wang 5
Upholding the One-China Principle is not only about safeguarding China’s core interests, but also about safeguarding the UN Charter and the basic norms of international relations. If China and the international society had not resisted such extremely irresponsible and irrational acts by the US side, the general principle of Non-Interference, National Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity in international relations would have just become a mere scrap of paper. More seriously, the world might slide back to jungle rules and barbarian times. With separatists and extremists being encouraged, national sovereignty and territorial integrity of medium and small countries might be severely challenged. The peace and stability in the region and the world enjoyed by countries including Sri Lanka would also suffer serious damage.
Just like Sri Lanka, China had suffered a hundred years of humiliation from 1840 to 1949. Because of a similar dark experience, China has always been supporting Sri Lanka in the international for protecting its sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity. We will continue to do that.
Looking back at the great history of the island, Sri Lanka overcome aggression from its northern neighbour 17 times, colonization by the west for 450 years, and an anti-terrorism war for nearly 3 decades, is now still standing in the world bravely and proudly. Any infringement on the national sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka shall not be tolerated. Approving a foreign vessel’s port call at Hambantota or any other port for replenishment is a decision made by the Sri Lankan government completely within its sovereignty, not to mention all the scientific research activities of “Yuan Wang 5” comply with the international law and common international practice. External obstruction based on so-called “security concerns” but without any evidence from certain forces is de facto a thorough interference into Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and independence. Fortunately, with China and Sri Lanka’s joint efforts, the incident was resolved properly, which not only safeguards Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and independence but also defends international fairness and justice once again.
Just like Sri Lanka, China had suffered a hundred years of humiliation from 1840 to 1949. Because of a similar dark experience, China has always been supporting Sri Lanka in the international for protecting its sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity. We will continue to do that. In contrast, some countries, far or near, always make various groundless excuses to bully Sri Lanka and trample on Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and independence repeatedly. Next month, the the51stsession of the UN Human Rights Council will be held in Geneva where human rights issues in Sri Lanka might probably be stirred up again. As the Sri Lankan people are still grappling with severe economic and humanitarian difficulties, many might wonder what those countries who have been always preaching about human rights will actually do. Will they help Sri Lanka to ease its human rights crisis by providing concrete support? Or will they again use human rights as a cover-up tool to interfere into the island nation’s internal affairs and continue to rub salt into the wound of Sri Lankan people? Just let’s wait and see.
Signals from China clearly indicate that the Chinese government has evolved a strategy and action plan, to be partly implemented in medium term and the rest to be implemented in long term and emerge as the most dominant country in the world. Obviously, its aim is to emerge as the sole superpower in the world, effectively dislodging the USA from the present superpower status and significantly reducing the influence of Russia and the European Union in the world.
One cannot but miss the fact that China’s methodology for implementing its strategies have two approaches. One approach is to economically bring several underdeveloped and developing countries under its heels. The additional approach is to use its military force to invade the territories in the nearby regions to expand its territorial base
Territorial expansion plans under execution:
China occupied Tibet using its military force several decades back and China’s aggression was not challenged effectively by any country. This Tibet aggression gave confidence to China that there would not be any strong opposition to China’s aggressive military acts, so long as China would remain economically strong with a strong industrial and agricultural base.
When the United Kingdom meekly gave away Hong Kong to China, much against the wishes of the Hong Kong citizens, China’s confidence about achieving its territorial ambition increased multifold.
After the 1962 war with India, China is occupying thousands of kilometres of Indian territory and also is claiming Arunachal Pradesh province in India as its own. The fact that India is not talking anymore about recovering the thousands of kilometres of Indian territory occupied by China, has emboldened China more in implementing its territorial adventures.
Apart from China’s claim on Senkaku islands and the South China Sea where China has already established a military base without being challenged, China’s immediate target is to occupy Taiwan.
China is now ramping up its military, diplomatic and economic coercion of Taiwan. The Chinese military has staged air and sea exercises in the Taiwan Strait, without being challenged. China entering and occupying Taiwan may soon happen and in all likelihood, the USA and West European countries may react to the situation only verbally and not wanting to risk war with China. This is what China really expects to happen.
Economic domination plans of weak countries under execution:
Since the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013, China’s total engagement in different countries is around $ 932 billion in construction contracts and the rest in other investments.
This year, China has signed BRI documents with 149 countries with an investment volume of over 1 trillion Yuan ( $ 147 billion), flagging the China –Laos railway, bridge in Serbia and Gwadar port as landmark projects that had been well implemented.
In the first half of 2022, China’s engagement through financial investments and contracts in 147 countries amounted to $ 28.3 billion, up by 47% from the previous year. Of this, $ 11.8 billion was through investments and $16.5 billion through project contracts.
China’s short and medium-term assistance to countries, that are underdeveloped with weak economies and some of which are reeling with rising debt levels, is increasing.
The aim of BRI is clearly to bring down a large number of underdeveloped countries in China’s economic control and these countries together are located in a major part of world territory. The clear trends of BRI are to ensure a growing role for Chinese state-owned enterprises and control the industrial and economic base of these countries, which are made to become debt-ridden to China.
In the past five years, China gave nearly $26 billion in short and medium-term loans to Pakistan and Sri Lanka. With Economic Corridor Project and with a huge debt to China, Pakistan is now clearly under China’s control. In the same way, by handing over the Hambantota port to China on a 99-year lease by debt-ridden Sri Lanka, China is now firmly present in Sri Lanka and the ongoing visit of China’s dual-purpose research or spy ship Yuan Wang 5 docking at Hambantota Port clearly indicate that China would assert itself in dealing with the debt-ridden countries like Sri Lanka, in spite of Sri Lanka’s initial reluctance to permit it.
China seems to be under the impression that by economic domination and making the weak countries debt-ridden to China and ensuring that China will have a firm and inevitable place in the economic and industrial sphere of a large number of underdeveloped or developing countries, China would emerge as an economic superpower, with no other country matching it.
Further, by occupying the territory of nearby countries and regions using military force and with other countries such as the USA and European Union unwilling to risk a large-scale war with China, China would bring a large region under its control. The ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine and the unwillingness of USA and NATO countries to engage in a war with Russia to defend Ukraine clearly reassure China that its aggressive stance will not be met by an equally aggressive stance by the USA and European Union.
The question is whether China’s strategies would work in the way that China expects.
A few centuries back, countries like Britain, Belgium, France, and Portugal brought several countries in the world under their control by initially entering the countries as traders and in course of time becoming the rulers of these countries. Such strategies worked well at that time since most of these occupied regions were poor with little literacy and education amongst the people and under the rule of local chieftains.
However, at the present time, such conditions in many underdeveloped countries do not exist due to the spread of communication and people becoming aware of their rights and having an intense love for freedom.
While China can economically and militarily control the targeted countries, it cannot manage the protest from the local people who would not relish dominance by another country. China is already seeing such conditions in Pakistan and a few African countries and it is said that China is now considering proposals to send its military to these countries to protect the interest of the Chinese people and Chinese investment.
Massive protests from the local people in countries, occupied by China economically or with military force, against China’s control, will force China to take several steps backwards.
Will become costly for China:
Today, China has a number of countries which are totally opposed to China or deeply suspicious about its objectives and aims of China.
China is now claiming the territories of Taiwan, and India and is already occupying Tibet. China is also challenging the claims of Japan in the Senkaku islands and that of the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and a few other countries in the South China Sea.
China is increasingly creating an impression around the world that it believes in force and coercion to achieve its ends and often uses crude methods unbecoming of a developed country.
The internal situation in China also has a lot of issues such as human rights violations by China with regard to the Uyghur community where several thousands of Uyghurs are said to be under detention. In Hong Kong, China is really controlling the region by using force against the protesters, The Tiananmen Square massacre is an indication of the state of things in China due to a totalitarian regime.
As the world is realising that China’s words and actions are deeply destabilizing, there is bound to emerge a scenario where protests by people in different countries that are sought to be occupied by China, would become too hot for China to handle.
With a totalitarian Chinese government in power in China and with people’s protests in a few countries opposing China’s domination and its military stretched out in defending territories occupied by China, it is likely that China will pay a big price for its miscalculation in the coming years. Certainly, China will not have the last laugh.
Recently, Sri Lanka has experienced political turmoil and a change of government due to its domestic economic crisis. The so-called China “debt trap” narrative has emerged once again, becoming the focus of some US and western politicians and media. This is not a new topic. In recent years, they have been maliciously building a discourse system of “China’s debt trap theory”, which has also become the basis for endlessly slandering China and smearing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In fact, these statements are highly politicized and completely untenable, and they also seriously mislead the perception of the international community.
As we all know, the current crisis in Sri Lanka is mainly caused by the global economic and security crisis. It is also closely related to its small-sized economy, insufficient foreign exchange reserves, long-term debt accumulation and unbalanced domestic policies, and it is not directly related to China-funded infrastructure investment. For historical reasons, Sri Lanka has long relied on external borrowing bail and pursued a “double deficit” model, with a long-standing debt problem.
From 1965 to 2016, Sri Lanka has reached 15 loan agreements with the International Monetary Fund, and the ratio of foreign debt to GDP is more than 50 percent all the year round, which is a high debt country. Tourism is originally the mainstay of Sri Lanka to earn foreign exchange, accounting for 12 percent of its GDP. But with the impact of the COVID-19, the number of visitors to Sri Lanka has plunged from 2.3 million in 2018 to 510,000 in 2020. At the same time, the United States has long implemented a quantitative easing policy. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Reserve, in order to maintain the hegemony of the US dollar, has first printed a large amount of money, and then continuously raised interest rates, resulting in the accelerated appreciation of the US dollar which has had a serious impact on the global economy and financial markets. Rising global energy and food prices caused by the conflict have also affected Sri Lanka, shrinking its previously insufficient foreign exchange reserves, falling to $1.854 billion in June 2022.
For Sri Lanka, China is only its fourth-largest creditor. According to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka in 2021, in terms of total external debt, 54 percent of its external loans come from the international capital markets, with China ranking behind the international financial markets, the Asian Development Bank and Japan, and its debt to China accounts for only about 10% of Sri Lanka’s total US dollar external debt. Fact speaks louder than eloquence. Japan has been the largest source of foreign debt for many years, so why doesn’t Western public opinion advertise that Sri Lanka has fallen into Japan’s “debt trap”? In the final analysis, they always see China with “tinted glasses”.
Some Sri Lankan scholars have said, “In the past, even if Sri Lanka sinks into the Indian Ocean, the United States would not care. “But now Sri Lanka is at the focus of Washington’s foreign policy because of the BRI. Since the advent of the BRI, some Western politicians and media have accused China of luring poor countries into accepting one loan after another, to build infrastructure they cannot afford and making little profit, falsely claiming that Beijing’s ultimate goal is to take control of property from struggling borrowers. By their logic, the BRI is not only pursuing geopolitical influence, but also an invisible weapon. Once a country is crushed by Chinese loans, it becomes a puppet of China.
How absurd! If they wish to incriminate China, they will meet no difficulty in finding a pretext. Take Hambantota Port as example. In 2018, former US Vice President Mike Pence publicly called it evidence of “debt diplomacy.” In terms of common sense, the trap means that one side intentionally sets it up for the other side, but in the whole development process of Hambantota Port, China has always upheld the principle of equality and mutual benefit, and the initiative has always been in the hands of Sri Lanka itself.
In 2005, the Sri Lankan government proposed a national development strategy of “two wings and one belt”, hoping to build it into another major commercial and shipping center besides the capital Colombo. The Sri Lankan government first approached the United States and India due to the lack of funds, but both countries refused, so it turned to China. For the sake of long term friendship and helping its development, China finally agreed to lend it to help with its construction and development. However, western public opinion deliberately claims that China is “taking the long line and catching the big fish”, which is completely ignoring the facts. Over the years, even though the Sri Lankan government, academia and local media have refuted the rumor, anti-China factions in the US and the West have always pretended not to hear it.
Sri Lanka’s debt structure is very fragile. All the time, China has provided mostly preferential loans, with low interest rates and long maturities, which have played a positive role in the improvement of infrastructure and people’s livelihood.
This year, after the Sri Lankan government announced the suspension of foreign debt repayment, Chinese financial institutions immediately took the initiative to negotiate with Sri Lanka to show a positive attitude on properly handling maturing China-related debt and helping Sri Lanka cope with the current difficulties. China also provided emergency humanitarian assistance in a timely manner, promised to continue to provide support within its capacity to help Sri Lanka achieve economic recovery and improve people’s livelihood.
It is widely believed that what is happening in Sri Lanka could be an ominous preview of what is coming in other low-and middle-income countries, as soaring inflation, high debt, excess currency issuance and shrinking currency reserves are the challenges that almost all emerging economies are facing. Debt risks are continuing to rise globally.
Faced with crisis and the reality, Washington should ask itself, what exactly has the US done for a developing country like Sri Lanka? How much harm has the unilateral economic and financial policies done to countries around the world? It is hoped that the US can sincerely help Sri Lanka cope with the current difficulties, ease its debt burden and achieve sustainable development, and will not use every opportunity to smear China and engage in geopolitical games without a bottom line.
The writer is a regular columnist for the Global Times, a Beijing-based daily. Views are personal
At its founding in 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was understood as an inter-regional organization that took in countries washed by Atlantic waters. However, from the very beginning, Italy’s membership set an example of an anomaly. Several years later, when Greece and Turkey joined NATO, the organization further breached its geographical limitation. Ninety-seven percent of Turkey’s territory lies within Asia; thus, and without exaggeration, NATO became a transcontinental organization. The Soviet Union was regarded as the biggest security challenge for NATO during the Cold War. For more than 70 years, NATO has adjusted its tasks and approaches according to the changing international environment. NATO’s main operational objective during the Cold War, however, remained to defend collectively and deter the security threat from the Soviet Union.
The Soviet revisionist policy, to a large degree, stimulated NATO’s development and provided the rationale for NATO to operate actively in Europe. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO published its 1991 Strategic Concept which stated, “The threat of a simultaneous, full-scale attack on all of NATO’s European fronts has effectively been removed and thus no longer provides the focus for Allied strategy.” NATO no longer had a convincing reason for its continued existence.
NATO began to urgently seek and formulate other types of threats/risks to rationalize its existence, including terrorism, ethnic conflicts, human rights abuses, political instability, economic fragility, and the spread of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and their means of delivery. The 1999 Strategic Concept stated that “[t]he security of the Alliance remains subject to a wide variety of military and non-military risks which are multi-directional and often difficult to predict. These risks include uncertainty and instability in and around the Euro-Atlantic area and the possibility of regional crises at the periphery of the Alliance, which could evolve rapidly.” By pointing out a litany of uncertain and unpredictable risks, NATO could both justify and maintain its necessity and continue operations in the post-Cold War era.
Whether the enumerated risks were convincing enough for NATO to continue to operate has remained disputed for more than two decades. NATO’s existence prompted reflections among the Europeans. Some argued that NATO should have been disbanded after the disintegration of the USSR. At the turn of the 21st century, British Guardian columnist Jonathan Steele wrote that “[w]e must go all the way, up to the termination of NATO” because it “serves almost entirely as a device for giving the U.S. an unfair and unreciprocated droit de regard over European foreign policy.” In 2019, French President Macron described NATO as “brain dead” because the U.S. failed to consult NATO before taking action.
Paradoxically, the dissolution of the USSR injected new vitality into NATO. The collapse of the Soviet Union not only drastically improved the external environment for NATO but also created opportunities for NATO’s expansion. In the post-Cold War era, NATO entered into a new stage of development with the former members of the Warsaw Pact, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland becoming members in 1999. Since then, NATO has undergone several further rounds of enlargement. In the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war in February 2022, NATO members demonstrated unprecedented unity, and Finland and Sweden were invited to join NATO at the Madrid Summit in June 2022. Their admission would make NATO an organization with 30 European countries and two North American countries.
NATO has been one of the biggest beneficiaries since the end of the Cold War. Not only have most European countries become members, but NATO has successfully managed flexible responses to the changing international environment. In the post-Cold War period, NATO has adapted to external and internal changes by transforming from a primary defense organization into a more comprehensive organization that combines military, political, diplomatic, and economic missions. NATO also actively engages with international and regional organizations including the UN, the EU, and the African Union. Outside Europe, the concept of a Global NATO has manifested in cooperative arrangements with Asian countries including Japan (since the early 1990s), New Zealand (since 2001), and Australia and South Korea (since 2005). In December 2021, the four Asia-Pacific countries were invited for the first time to participate in a NATO foreign ministerial meeting to discuss how to deal with the rise of China. They also participated in the June 2022 Madrid Summit.
The close cooperation with these four Asia-Pacific countries is in strong contrast with NATO’s definition of the “China threat.” Yet, the question is whether NATO’s selected response to the changes in its security environment is wise. In the Cold War era, the 1967 Harmel Report on the future tasks of the Alliance initiated NATO’s first step toward a more cooperative approach to security issues, and was regarded as “a key political and strategic think piece.” It broadened NATO’s approach towards external players and helped break the deadlock between the East and the West. In a 1976 NATO ministers meeting, US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said that “China may be one of the most important NATO allies.” President Jimmy Carter received a proposal from his National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski suggesting that NATO should be encouraged to “invite the PRC to send an observer to NATO, or conversely request the PRC to invite a NATO delegation to visit China.” In the post-Cold War era, despite ups and downs, NATOChina relations, although low-key, were generally positive in the period before Donald Trump became US President.
As the leader of NATO, the United States has designated China as a “longterm strategic competitor” in its official government strategy documents since 2017. The US 2022 National Defense Strategy states that China is “the most consequential strategic competitor and the pacing challenge.” The European Union, a close ally of the U.S., labeled China as a “systemic rival” in its China policy published in 2019. Affected by the US and EU policy changes toward China, NATO first mentioned in its London Declaration in 2019 that “China’s growing influence and international policies present both opportunities and challenges that we need to address together as an Alliance.” Yet, by 2022 in the released new Strategic Concept, NATO has shifted from its previously balanced approach and listed China as a challenge to its “interests, security and values” and adopted the term “systemic rival” to define NATO-China relations.
NATO in nature is a defensive organization with the mission of maintaining peace for the Alliance. China in history is a peace-loving nation that has never expanded militarily or taken territory from its neighbors by force. The rise of China has heightened the security concerns of the West, but Chinese leaders have stated on many occasions that China will never seek hegemony. China is the world’s second-largest economy and the second-largest trading partner of both the U.S. and the EU. The strong degree of interdependence lays a solid foundation for stable cooperation between China and its Western partners. Yet, the dangerous tendency of supply chain decoupling between the West and China would seriously weaken the basis of cooperation, and replace it with realist zero-sum calculations.
While it is true that China follows a different development path from those of NATO members, the differences in political systems should not serve as an excuse for competition and rivalry. NATO and China share common interests in maintaining world peace and stability. Based on this common sense, new identities can be constructed. If China is incorporated as a partner, it can work with NATO to address many global challenges including terrorism and climate change. If China is increasingly perceived as a rival, the world may enter a more uncertain and precarious geopolitical situation. Misunderstanding and miscalculation have led to bloody and costly historical lessons. NATO now stands at the crossroads of a strategic choice: to adopt a less ideologically motivated and less geopolitical stance and become more flexible and pragmatic, or to continue its expansion into Asia Pacific and be the primary disrupter of regional peace and stability.
Views expressed are personal. This article was originally published in TI Observer, a regular publication of Taihe Institute. Founded in 2013, Taihe Institute (TI) is a leading think tank headquartered in Beijing, with research centers in the United States and Germany.
As China unleashed live-fire military exercises off the coast of Taiwan, simulating a real “reunification by force” operation in the wake of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s ceremonial visit to the island last week, the bipartisan fervor for a new Cold War with China and Russia took greater hold in Washington.
“Leaders in both parties,” Post columnist Josh Rogin reports, “understand that the United States has a duty and an interest in … pushing back against America’s adversaries in both Europe and Asia.” The United States showed that it could take on both China and Russia at the same time, he adds. The Senate voted 95-1 to add Sweden and Finland to NATO. The Taiwan Invasion Prevention Act enjoys bipartisan support. And politicians in both parties scrambled to give the Pentagon even more money than it asked for.
Cold War is America’s comfort zone. We won the last one. We wear the white hats. It’s democracy against authoritarianism. And we’ve got the biggest and best military. Who could object?
But haunting questions remain. Does a new Cold War—taking on Russia and China at once—serve the real security of Americans? Does it further President Biden’s promised “foreign policy for the middle class?” Might most Americans prefer that this country curb our enthusiasm for foreign adventure while focusing on getting our own house in order?
The existential threat to our security now is the extreme weather caused by climate change, which is already costing lives and billions of dollars in destruction from wildfires, floods, plagues and drought. Monkeypox reminds us that the deadliest attacks have come from global pandemics. Throwing money at the Pentagon doesn’t help. Wouldn’t it be better if Special Presidential Envoy John F. Kerry’s journeys got as much attention as Pelosi’s Taiwan performance? Addressing climate change and pandemics can’t be done without Chinese and Russian cooperation, yet the Chinese officially terminated talks on these issues in the wake of Pelosi’s visit.
Biden’s foreign policy team has focused on lining up bases and allies to surround and contain Russia and China. But the Ukraine war has revealed Russia’s military weakness. Meanwhile, sanctions have cut off access to Russian food, fertilizers and minerals vital to countries worldwide and might contribute to a global recession.
China is a true “peer competitor,” as the Pentagon calls it. But its strength is its economy, not its military. It’s the leading trading partner for countries across the globe, from Latin America to Africa to Asia. When Pelosi stopped in South Korea after her visit to Taiwan, South Korea’s president did not receive her. President Yoon Suk-yeol, we learned, was on a “staycation,” attending a play. The snub by a loyal ally, home to nearly 30,000 U.S. troops, is surely a reflection of the fact that China is South Korea’s leading trading partner. The United States would be well advised to focus—as China does—on developing the new technologies that will define the markets of the future, rather than spending more than $1 trillion on items such as a new generation of nuclear weapons that can never be used.
The revived Cold Warriors assert that the U.S. deployment of forces around China and Russia is defensive. But as Stephen Walt notes in Foreign Policy, this ignores the “security dilemma”: What one country considers innocent measures to increase its security, another might see as threatening. U.S. administrations kept asserting Ukraine’s “right” to join NATO as security against the threat posed by Russia. Russia saw the possible basing of NATO forces and U.S. missiles in Ukraine as a threat. Biden’s comment that Putin “cannot remain in power,” echoed by U.S. politicians, and the history of U.S. support for regime change around the world, weren’t exactly reassuring.
Though Washington formally accepts that Taiwan is a province of China, it arms the island and deploys more forces to the Pacific. Pelosi described her visit as an “unequivocal statement that America stands with Taiwan, our democratic partner, as it defends itself and its freedom.” Beijing views this as an attack on its national sovereignty, a violation of our official position, and as a provocation designed to spur independence movements in Taiwan.
The Cold Warriors assume that most of the world stands with us. True, our NATO allies rallied against Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, but two-thirds of the world’s population, according to the Economist, lives in countries that refuse to sanction Russia. Much of the developing world is skeptical or worse about U.S. claims regarding democracy or the rules-based order. This makes sanctions less effective—China’s purchases of Russian oil and gas, for example, have increased by 72 percent since the Ukraine invasion. It also reflects the growing strength of Chinese “soft power” and the declining currency of the U.S. military force.
Great powers decline largely because of internal weakness and the failure to adjust to new realities. In an era of dangerous partisan enmity, the reflexive bipartisan embrace of a new Cold War is a striking contrast. But the old habits don’t address the new challenges. This is hardly the way to build a vibrant American democracy.
This article is distributed by Globetrotter in partnership with The Nation.