All newspapers are tainted with that most plausible and effective of lies, namely deception by omission, leaving their readers with only some of the facts and therefore unable to strike a fair and balanced view of events, and unlikely to look to other countervailing views. This means that there is a risk of world trade disruptions, or worse, if readers with a meaningful free vote in the West confine and shape their conclusions based only on facts that their newspapers want to reveal. Among the British China-bashing newspapers is the Right-leaning Daily Telegraph whose excoriating, fatuous style has led to remarks like: "Italy is selling itself lock, stock and barrel to the Chinese communist party, flouting the EU's tough new line on Beijing and openly taunting the Franco-German axis." But more on that later.
International trade is the handmaiden of prosperity and prosperity, when fairly shared, is the surest guarantor of peace. China's big drive to develop overseas assets, particularly ports, is a lynchpin in that developmental goal. Its meteoric growth in GDP over the last 25 years has done much to stabilize global trade equilibrium, especially since the global credit crunch begun in 2008, an entirely Western-created malaise. In terms of buying American government IOUs, China has been by far the biggest overseas buyer, which has helped keep American interest rates down and asset value from collapsing.
Now none of this is to say that China has not unsettled some of its near neighbours by making ill-advised moves, as in the South China Sea, where it has violated maritime law by illegally developing artificial islands and subsequently militarising them. Nor should it be forgotten that when it comes to intellectual property theft China is a master at it. But when countries acquire much economic wealth through overseas trade they naturally enough want to protect their overseas assets. This is what Britain and America did in earlier centuries and have done in living memory when, for example, Britain shamefully allowed America to develop the Chagos Islands as a bomber and spying air base, forcibly expelling all of its 2,000 islanders, an act that has just been declared illegal by the World Court at the Hague, with the recommendation that Britain return the Chagos Islands to Mauritius and allow its islanders to return. And as regards intellectual property theft, America, too, was a dab hand at it when it stole British textile inventions in the 19th century.
Ports investments make good senseThe Western media suggests that China's port investments around the world, numbering 42 in 34 countries so far, can be used to build political influence and create 'strategic support states' while also being potential strategic support points enabling developments of logistics hubs that support an expanded military presence. They include ownership of the Port of Piraeus, a container terminal in Zeebrugge and a foothold in Europe's three largest ports, Rotterdam, Antwerp and Hamburg. The Press portrays this as raising fears in the EU that China may use its involvement in European ports to exert political influence on individual member states. The reality is that it makes good business sense for Chinese players to acquire overseas port assets. European countries don't need to feel threatened because in almost all cases the landlord function remains in the hands of local countries.
So far China has signed 38 bilateral and regional maritime agreements covering 47 countries along the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) routes, an unprecedented logistics scheme that will cost over $1 trillion, and has been likened to a modern-day Silk Road route. Fifty more deals are in negotiation, covering customs, engineering, telecoms, banking, infrastructure projects and above all ports, with Genoa and Trieste first in line.
Back to the Daily Telegraph's China-bashing stance, the paper casts doubt on the economic value of the Silk Road and claims "it has proved to be a Faustian pact for African and Asian states. Try telling that to the Ukraine's citizens, where China has been honoured with the title of "Year of China". The paper also claims that many schemes are white elephants and refers to Brussels warning Europe that it must close ranks or let China pick of states one by one.
All these Xenophobic tones seem to be overlooking one vital fact. Like it or not, the West, particularly America, must get used to the notion that the future is Asian. Europe and Asia are the two most significant regions in global trade, and their trade with each other comprises a greater trade volume than in any other pair of regions. As infrastructural linkages and trade agreements expand, Eurasian trade is accelerating and far outstripping either regions' trade with North America. Far from being the Trojan horse a hostile Press likes to make of China, it is only doing what America did with its European and Asian partners during the Cold War. The BRI will reveal just how crass this colonial logic is.
If one redefines Asia as stretching from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Pacific, taking in all of Australasia, it includes five billion people, of which China has only 1.5 billion. Despite splurging $50 billion between 2000 and 2016 on infrastructure and humanitarian projects across the region, China has leveraged little, meaningful loyalty, and so the phrase "China-led Asia" would be no more acceptable to most Asians than the notion of a "US-led West" to Europeans. At most, China will be an eastern anchor of the Asian and Eurasian mega-system. And unlike America, China is deeply cautious about foreign entanglements. Foreign markets are what China wants, not foreign colonies, and it is a pity the hostile elements of the Western Press have failed to grasp that and are too purblind to see where world trade is going.