China’s Moves Into Europe As Belt & Road Initiative Migrates West
China’s Moves Into Europe As Belt & Road Initiative Migrates West by Chris Devonshire-Ellis for Silk Road Briefing
China’s Belt & Road Has Now Moved Further West Than Genghis Khan’s Armies
“Scratch a Russian and you’ll find a Tartar” runs a well known (if somewhat untrue) European saying of two centuries ago, an unkind reference to the fact that the armies of Genghis Khan reached what are now the gates of Moscow and had conquered all lands to the east – what is today much of contemporary Russia. In fact, the Mongol armies reached as far West as the eastern Mediterranean and the Carpathian Mountains, before turning back and returning to Mongolia. That Mongolian invasion has long-standing repercussions, and especially in Eastern Europe where 1 in 7 men have been identified as carrying the so-called “Genghis Khan gene” a DNA marker, 800 years old that points to a mixed heritage somewhere down the ancestral line.
Today, its another nation that Mongolia also conquered – China – that is taking the same steps West, although this time with trade and development. There are three main component parts to this from China’s perspective, and one multilateral one. They are as follows:
China’s Belt & Road Initiative & Europe
Although the China Belt & Road MoU signed off between China and European companies don’t typically amount to a huge deal on paper, they do contain promises to “assist” bilateral development. The map above shows the European based nations that have signed off a China Belt & Road MoU. This takes effect in two ways, firstly via trade concessions, and this has been especially apparent during the US-China trade war – China has stepped up its purchases of goods from Belt & Road nations in preference to previously buying from United States suppliers. The graph below shows this widening gap in preference of Belt & Road signatories, where the gap between US purchases and Emerging markets has become quite apparent.
However, I have noticed another impact on Belt & Road Initiative signatories – creeping censorship. This has been apparent recently in the EU member state Estonia, which has a Belt & Road MoU with China. Dezan Shira & Associates has an office in Hong Kong and I have been concerned about the recent protests there. Yet when clicking on You Tube and other video links showing demonstrations, the streaming had been cut. Other videos (such as music) worked fine. Did calls between the Chinese Ambassador and the Estonian Government seek to delete such media? If so, then there is a case for the Belt & Road MoU to perhaps been seen as a leverage tool to pressure Governments to show what China wants and censor negative news. That is a concern, and some answers need to be forthcoming from EU members about such behaviour. Or perhaps it was a “technical glitch”?