A Memo from “Fair Dinkum” to Michael Roberts, 21 September 2021 ….with highlighting imposed by The Editor, ThppHI Nmwly, Michael
I was glancing at some of the comments on the latest Hambantota piece. I am mystified as to why some Sri Lankans are so hostile to Chinese investment.
To touch on one specific point: One person who posted a message could only highlight three instances of Chinese interventions. In truth, two of those were not intervention; namely, the 1962 India conflict and China-Vietnam conflict. India had provoked China in 1962. China decided to send a message to India. They crossed the border into Indian territory and seized 45,000 sq km of land, but then suddenly withdrew. In other words, China never intended to take control but simply wanted to show India they could do so if provoked. It’s a Chinese strategy. These two were small conflicts and were not about taking control of India or Vietnam. So, I’m afraid these are not good examples to use against China. By contrast the US has overthrown over 72 governments, were implicated in the deaths of millions in Indonesia in the 1960s, as one example, but similar patterns can be found in the other 72.
The only example China can be accused of “invasion” is Tibet. However, in this instance, China’s claim to Tibet (rightly or wrongly) is based on a historical claim – i.e., that at one time, some 300 years or more ago, Tibet had been part of a Chinese kingdom. While Tibet should be free, I think it is an extremely weak argument to try and drag these three examples up to imply China is bad or worse than the US, or to use it to mitigate against the huge number of terrible Western interventions, and the figure goes higher than 72 if we count all Western countries.
The fact remains – China has never been a colonial or Imperial power in the way Western countries were for 400-500 years (and still are in some cases) including Portugal, Britain, Spain, France, Italy, the US, the Netherlands, and Belgium. The scale of their colonial crimes and interventions is of such a huge magnitude – one simply cannot compare these with China today.
To say, China has geopolitical interests in the way the US and Australia have geopolitical interests is misleading. There is a difference. China doesn’t impose on countries, doesn’t interfere in governments, doesn’t overthrow governments or countries. Yes, China likes to invest in infrastructure, and certainly such investments are a form of soft power in terms of influence in the hope they may win future contracts from the countries they invest in, but there is nothing wrong with this. The US, UK, France, and Australia do this all the time.
The countries China invests in benefit greatly. To say Sri Lanka hasn’t benefited from Chinese investment is wrong.
In the case of Western countries, geopolitical interests are about imposing their own forms of political structures on countries and establishing military alliances to suit their own national interests (as opposed to geopolitical interests). China needs to be seen in its own, not compared with the behaviour of Western geopolitical interests. That seems to me to be imposing Western concepts on to China’s investment projects which misrepresents what China is about. If China has geopolitical interests, these are not militaristic in the way the US, UK and Australia operate. And I know this sounds boring but if the Sri Lankan decides to partner with China, they have every right to do so, just as would be the case if they partner on a project with Australia, or the US. Certainly, there is great unfairness in making judgments about China, compared to the US.
Australia has recentlyy wound up a lot of rhetoric of China being a big threat, and expanding its military all over the Pacific, but it is propaganda. People like Dutton, Morrison and Joyce, make big speeches, but analyse them, and they mean little.
We must remember India isn’t so innocent given that recently, Modi changed the constitution to prevent the Kashmiris from voting to choose whether they want to be part of Pakistan or India.
I can only conclude that at the end of the day, people throw stones at China and have negative views about Chinese investment in Sri Lanka because (1) it’s “China”, (2) they are “Chinese”, and (3) “Communist”. I find these are extremely weak reasons to be negative about Chinese investment, given the huge damage the US has done as a superpower. For the anti-China cheer squad, it is never proper to say a bad word about the UK or US.
A NOTE from The Editor, Thuppahi. viz. Michael
- I gather that “Fair Dinkum” speaks Chinese and Malay. He has to deploy a pseudonym because he could be targeted by Austraalian securiy agencies [especially now in the contesxt of an Aussie campaign against China which has the vocal support of th media (especially the Murdoch press).
- He is responding in this MEMO to the recent interventions of Lakshman Gunasekera and Prithee Perera; thus see the following items
- — “Prithi Perera’s Response to Gus Mathews,” 21 September 2021
- _ “Lakshman Gunaseara laments the “Hambantota Diarrhoea and the Stance taken by Roberts,,“ 21 Sept 2021
- _ Hillman: “The Story bhind the Rise of Hambantota Port….,” 7 Sept 2021, https://thuppahis.com/2021/09/07/the-story-behind-the-rise-of-hambantota-port-an-american-twist/#more-54829