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Tags: China | baltics | america

Time for World to Push Back on China's Creep

chinese flag with chains and a caution sign on top

Marek Jan Chodakiewicz By Friday, 10 December 2021 10:25 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Tiny Lithuania has recently recognized Taipei, violating “One China” policy. Earlier, Vilnius quit a multilateral structure, refusing to collaborate with the Middle Kingdom anymore.

Bejing retaliated with furious anti-Lithuanian and anti-Taiwanese propaganda and sanctions. It kicked the Lithuanian ambassador out and recalled its own envoy from the audacious Baltic republic.

No business can be transacted between the nations. Lithuania is “cancelled.”

Lithuanian entrepreneurs doing business with the Chinese have been banned. Even when they try to discharge their previous obligations, say, fulfill old orders, China’s customs office simply sends the merchandise back. And it refuses to answer any questions or even acknowledge anything. Lithuania is no more for the Middle Kingdom.

China’s “Hundred-Year Marathon,” as my colleague Michael Pillsbury has dubbed it, aims at Beijing’s world hegemony. So far China has succeeded in attaining a regional superpower status in the Far East, while planting roots and building foundations for further expansion, penetration, domination globally, including in the Intermarium, the lands between the Baltic, Black, and Adriatic seas.

There Beijing endeavors to be more subtle than in Africa, but the strategy remains the same. The long term aim is to dominate, of course.

Usually, China tends to be rather patient there. The Chinese maintain a master plan, so-called “17+1,” to foster investment and trade in the Intermarium.

Nonetheless, the Middle Kingdom designs its policy in congruence with its separate objectives in each nation state; it maintains bilateral relations with its targets.

For instance, in October, Beijing conducted diplomatic rounds in Serbia, Albania, and Greece, to boost their involvement in the Road and Belt Initiative. China woos these small nations with infrastructural investments.

Belgrade is less enthusiastic than Tirana. The latter has lately become wary of Beijing’s economic dominance as is evident in Africa. It rejected Huawei’s 5G business under America’s prompting. However, both Serbia and Albania adhere to “One China” policy and don't deal with Taiwan.

The same pattern applies elsewhere. China buys half-products and minerals, say, timber and potash in Belarus. In exchange, it has built roads in the eastern part of that country and sent computers to Minsk, most of them to be resold in the EU.

The latter will be tough now to execute given the closing of the Lithuanian and Polish borders with Belarus on the account of the migrant crisis stoked by strongman Oleksandr Lukashenka. There will be no sales of potash to the EU, either. China has frozen Belarusian credit accordingly.

Meanwhile, Beijing courts Hungary, which is a tough nationalist nut to crack, even promising to build a university in Budapest. The Magyars do only what is in their interest and are perfectly capable of snubbing the Chinese.

When it can, China bullies others, like Czechia or Slovakia, for example via agents of influence. Not surprisingly, both warmly wink at Taiwan.

China’s dubious popularity in the Intermarium is predicated upon America’s absence from the region and the idea of a lesser evil: better remote Beijing than Moscow and Berlin lurking nearby.

Some, like the Ukrainians for example, delude themselves that the Chinese may be counted upon to defend them from the Russians. Fat chance.

Therefore, when push comes to shove, the Poles invariably dump the Chinese for the Americans.

Ultimately, however, the Intermarium serves as China’s stepping stone to the European Union.

Like elsewhere, Beijing prefers bi-lateralism, dealing with EU individual nations separately, though courting Brussels simultaneously.

As a result, China has become Germany’s largest trading partner. It boasts a huge chunk of commercial exchanges with France and others.

Like the Americans, the Western Europeans were seduced by the promise of China’s huge market and the mirage of its dictatorship’s transformation into a liberal democracy as prosperity and interdependence are advanced.

Instead, Communism remains in place; the Westerners are forced to share the know-how (or watch impotently as Beijing steals it from them), while financing China’s prosperity. Further, Western companies doing business there are expected to become a lobbying arm of the Chinese Communist Party in their own countries.

No one quite knows how to escape the entanglement. But there may be a way.

Taiwan would like to set up semiconductor factories in the Intermarium. In addition to Lithuania, Czechia and Slovakia are on board. If that project works out, more people will ask: Who needs China’s creep? And it will be a good thing, too.

Marek Jan Chodakiewicz is Professor of History at the Institute of World Politics, a graduate school of statecraft in Washington D.C.; expert on East-Central Europe's Three Seas region; author, among others, of "Intermarium: The Land Between The Baltic and Black Seas." Read Marek Jan Chodakiewicz's Reports — More Here.

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Tiny Lithuania has recently recognized Taipei, violating "One China" policy. Earlier, Vilnius quit a multilateral structure, refusing to collaborate with the Middle Kingdom anymore. Bejing retaliated with furious anti-Lithuanian and anti-Taiwanese propaganda and sanctions.
baltics, america
Friday, 10 December 2021 10:25 AM
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