Friday, October 3, 2014 at 5:23 PM

South Africa Joins Ranks of Countries ‘Selling Its Sovereignty to China’

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Screen Shot 2014-10-03 at 2.07.35 PMFor a little context, here is a relatively lengthy excerpt from “China Buying Up Political Dominion Over the Caribbean (Latin America, and Africa),” February 22, 2005, in which I presaged (almost 10 years ago) the spectre – not only of countries selling their sovereignty to China for easy cash, but of China placing increasingly mercantilist demands on these countries in return:

While the United States, Europe, and Japan are anxiously monitoring the way China is flexing its rapidly increasing military and economic muscle in Asia, China is strategically basing state-controlled enterprises (and operatives) throughout the Caribbean, Latin America, and Africa.

With relatively unlimited cash and human resources, China is becoming a major player in the pharmaceutical, petroleum, machinery and equipment, engineering and construction, textile, telecommunications, electronic, financial services, and transshipment fields. Nevertheless, as wary as they are about China’s expanding military, all countries seem to regard its economic infiltration as rather benign … so far. (Recall that Troy regarded the infiltration of Sparta’s wooden horse as rather benign as well – until it became the proverbial Trojan Horse.)…

[China’s] search for new markets is really a pretext for their quest for dominion. And with massive direct investments and Chinese tourists boosting visits to unprecedented levels, China’s trade with the Caribbean, Latin America, and Africa will soon become indispensable to national economies throughout these regions. And, as a geopolitical fringe benefit, China’s ability to exercise unprecedented political influence will also be assured.

To be fair, however, China has made no attempt to disguise its political strategy. For example, it demanded that Caribbean countries sever all diplomatic ties with Taiwan as a condition of its largesse.

Accordingly, abandoning its longstanding alliance with the United States in this respect, The Bahamas became the first Caribbean country in 1997 to duly comply. Its shifting alliance just happened to coincide with Hong-Kong based Hutchison Whampoa investing hundreds of millions of dollars in a container port and several hotels. Today, this Chinese company is fast becoming the largest employer in The Bahamas

In fact, China’s “benign infiltration” throughout the Caribbean has become so pervasive that only five countries still maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan — the Dominican Republic, Haiti, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And it seems only a matter of time before they abandon ship too…

But consider international developments that might lead China, for strategic reasons, to base missiles in Jamaica or convert its container ports, factories and chemical plants in the region to dual military and commercial use. Would the governments in the Caribbean duly comply? Would they have any real choice? Would America then blockade the entire region – as it blockaded Cuba during the missile crisis? Now, consider China making such strategic moves in Latin America or Africa, where its benign economic infiltration dwarfs its Caribbean operations. This new Cold War could then turn very hot indeed….

But don’t worry man, be happy!

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Dalai LamaThis is why it came as no surprise when China began demanding that countries utterly shun the Dalai Lama pursuant to its national interest. Hell, it had become so empowered that it felt entitled to place this demand even on the United States, which (in a profound case of geopolitical irony) had since become China’s biggest debtor nation.

Apropos of which, here is another instructive excerpt from “Countries Queuing Up To Become As Indebted To China as the U.S. Is,” September 15, 2011:

The Chinese can be forgiven for thinking that even President Obama would heed their extraterritorial directive against meeting with Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. And they were undoubtedly emboldened last year, when Obama appeared to be doing just that, when he snubbed the Dalai Lama on the eve of his (Obama’s) first state visit to China.

But the day of reckoning on this directive for Obama, as well as the Chinese, is drawing nigh. For when the White House announced yesterday that Obama intends to welcome the Dalai Lama later this month, the Chinese reacted variously like an angry parent disciplining a willful child and a loan shark dealing with a delinquent debtor.

I applaud Obama for calling China’s bluff. Not least because any real attempt to squeeze the U.S. financially would amount to an unprecedented case of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. After all, the U.S. market is even more indispensable to China’s economic growth than China’s credit is to the U.S.’s…

This episode should serve as a warning to all countries around the world that are not just lapping up China’s largesse, but heralding it as a more worthy superpower than the United States. Because, if China can spit such imperious and vindictive fire at the rich and mighty United States over a relatively insignificant matter like meeting the Dalai Lama, just imagine what it would do to a poor and weak country in a conflict over a truly significant matter.

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dalaic-300x201Which brings me to what China has just prevailed upon South Africa to do:

Nobel peace summit [is] cancelled after South Africa refuses visa for Dalai Lama.

Jacob Zuma’s government accused of ‘selling its sovereignty’ to China for refusing to admit exiled Tibetan spiritual leader…

Fourteen laureates protested to President Zuma, pressuring him, begging him, to give a visa to His Holiness [the Dalai Lama] so that we all could be together and celebrate in South Africa the legacy of Nelson Mandela.

(The Guardian, October 2, 2014)

As it happens, I warned it would be thus in “China Prevailing Upon South Africa To Ban the Dalai Lama …Again,” September 30, 2011:

There was worldwide condemnation two years ago, after South Africa denied the Dalai Lama a visa to join fellow Nobel Peace Laureates at an international peace conference in Johannesburg. The organizers ended up canceling the conference in protest. China just smiled….

More to the point, I ended this September 2011 commentary by reiterating that:

They’re only directing that the Dalai Lama should be shunned today. But who knows what extraterritorial directive the Chinese will issue pursuant to their perceived national interest tomorrow…? Just consider for a moment what passive-aggressive hegemony they have in mind if they already presume that they can dictate who the president of the United States can invite to the White House….

(“World Beware: China Calling in Loan-Sharking Debts, The iPINIONS Journal, February 3, 2010)

The prevailing and abiding point, alas, is that the United States heads a list of precious few countries with the military and financial power to reject China’s inducements to sell their sovereignty … without fear of reprisals. No country in the Caribbean, Latin America, or Africa is on that list.

But I feel constrained to end by clarifying that China is not doing anything the United States has not done. However, the salient and commendable difference is that, far more often than not, the United States prevails upon other countries to act pursuant to universal democratic principles; whereas China prevails upon them to act pursuant to its totalitarian national interests.

Related commentaries:
China buying up
Countries queuing up
World beware

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