WP: "The Chinese are coming!"


Nicolas Asfouri / Bloomberg

With lightning speed Russian media spread the news: China has bought up 105 seaports in 50 countries around the world for military and strategic purposes. The source of the “sensation” is the American newspaper The Washington Post. As a matter of fact, we are not talking about an instantaneous event, but about a long process and its intermediate outcome. For decades, China has been investing in foreign infrastructure to facilitate the transportation of its goods. After all, it is known that China has been and remains a «factory» of finished goods for the world for many years. They have to be delivered to consumers somehow. And China also buys a lot of things abroad, more and more in recent years. Russian companies operating under sanctions are well aware of the difficulties in this matter. To protect itself from these problems, China is building logistics chains around the world.

Over the past 10 years, this work has been systematic within the framework of the One Belt, One Road initiative. The fifth forum, which gathered more than 140 representatives, as we know, was held not so long ago with the participation of the Russian President. Therefore, it is quite reasonable that the American newspaper writes that in recent decades China has doubled the number of ports it owns — from 44 to 105. And they are located on all continents.

The second reason why China is taking over the port infrastructure is that no one in the world has learned to handle cargo as technologically advanced as the Chinese do. The world’s largest seaports in China itself are amazingly automated, using artificial intelligence. Port machinery and technology allow them to dramatically reduce transportation costs and win the competition. They are doing the same around the world. As a result, exports from the PRC are cheaper than, for example, Western goods; imports to China are also becoming more profitable.

Yes, China is conducting its own, if you like, expansion around the world. This is quite natural for the world’s largest economic and trading power. But China is doing it exclusively for peaceful purposes, in fact, sharing the fruits of its development. The whole world benefits from this expansion, as investment locations become drivers of economic growth in many underdeveloped countries, delivery of goods becomes cheaper, the cost of insurance decreases. And so on and so forth.

The Washington Post does not write about all of this. The pathos of the article is that China is rapidly buying up seaports around the world and that this threatens the United States. Because the Chinese government is behind the commercial companies that operate the ports. As if there are no ruling party interests behind similar U.S. expansion, and the U.S. budget does not spend hundreds of billions to promote Yankee interests around the world. But on the whole, the article in The Washington Post is objective.

The Russian media, however, first of all seized on The Washington Post’s opaque hint that the port infrastructure owned by Chinese companies could be used for military purposes. At the same time, the American newspaper, in the style of free journalism, interviewed independent experts who were skeptical of such a possibility.

«The stated purpose of this maritime network is commercial: to expand and simplify China’s access to global markets. In 2018, China expanded its maritime presence at Khalifa Port in the United Arab Emirates, an important link between Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Chinese state-owned Cosco Shipping has built a commercial container terminal at the port, which it now operates», WP writes.

In addition, the newspaper concludes that China, which has built just one naval base (in Djibouti), is a long way from the US, which has a global network of military bases — 750 facilities.

«Beijing has several decades to go before it equals the US military presence around the world», WP writes.

The newspaper also gently warns that the Chinese Air Force is the largest in the world in terms of numbers, and its ships numbering as many as 8 (!) are now permanently on duty in the Indian Ocean (previously there were 6). If this goes on, the Chinese presence in other oceans is possible. And, of course, the fantastic threat to the world is that the Chinese are investing in 20 European ports, i.e. where the main NATO forces are based. To the American thinking, this turn of events certainly looks threatening. «Although the stated purpose of the investment was commercial, the United States and its allies are increasingly concerned about the potential military implications». And more: «Analysts say the ports give Beijing a glimpse into rivals’ business relationships and could be used to help China protect its supply routes by spying on U.S. military movements». The CIA reported accurately, «Earlier this year, leaked U.S. intelligence documents indicate that China has renewed efforts to establish military facilities at Khalifa Port in the Persian Gulf in the United Arab Emirates, near the Strait of Hormuz and just 50 miles from an important U.S. military base».

So nothing so terrible is happening, and Americans are already in a mild panic. But if you think about it, why don’t the Chinese use their own maritime harbors around the world for their military vessels to enter? It would be quite logical and justified. After all, trade routes need to be protected, to guarantee unimpeded delivery. Especially when not only pirates and terrorists, but also ships of the world gendarme, which sometimes resemble pirates, can be found on the expanses of the world ocean.