Is China really a business ally or a colonial bully?

Paramilitary policemen hold their fists in front of a flag of Communist Party of China

The question has been asked many times and with recent events in Sri Lanka, and the actions of some Chinese companies in Africa, it is now a pertinent one,

China has started to conquer the world in its own way, by dishing out commercial projects across the globe. But some are saying China’s way of doing things are showing undeniable signs of a colonial superpower on the rise!

They point out to what they see as its questionable practices and laissez-faire attitude adding that these are traits that China itself criticizes regularly when it talks about its former colonial powers (UK administered Hong Kong for example).

Is China really the ‘economic’ partner it claims to be? Are the countries that has teemed up with China on the One Belt One Road project potential victims instead?

One thing is certain. Laying claims both to ancient civilization and present great power status does not suffice to turn China into a ‘friend’ who want to develop everything it touches.

Going by its attitude alone, it appears Beijing is trying to impose the same sufferings with a “century of humiliation” that it once suffered at the hands colonial powers, while it is imposing itself as a great powers on its path for conquests.

“As a newly revitalized China whets its appetite for the developing world’s resources, some are beginning to see it acting like the very colonial powers it blames for its “humiliation,” specifically in two ways: (1) the mass importation of Chinese workers, and (2) insisting on an extractive style of commerce, wrote The Diplomat.

The main concerns about China’s rapid expansion abroad are based on the sheer number of Chinese citizens that are working on its construction sites – sites that can be out of bounds of locals – and its dubious business practices as well as the tendency to corrupt.

Look at the sheer number of Chinese citizens who have been transferred to work abroad in China’s many projects in Africa, Asia and elsewhere.

Some are saying  a million Chinese workers have migrated to work in Africa alone. This has sparked fear that China is practicing a great population migration, replacing the population of less populous nations.

But China would point out that compared with Africa’s combined population of 1.2 billion, the presence of even a million middle-skill Chinese expatriates would not seem to be a particularly dramatic influx or a form of colonization.

Then there is China’s dubious business practices that are seriously damaging its reputation and is coming under scrutiny.

In Ghana, for example, Chinese mining interests pay citizens for the use of their right to extract gold. The companies then abuse those rights, exceeding legal mining limits and inflicting extensive environmental damage while leaving Ghana and Ghanaians with little to show for it, said The Diplomat.

Sri Lanka has fallen into the trap, with China using the debt owed by the country to Beijing to leverage against its leaders. Sri Lankans feel humiliated…

Most of the countries interested in the One Belt One Road will have to cough up money – at times the larger share of the money will not come from Beijing – but China will have a form of ownership of the end product.

Additionally, among the harmful practices is China’s export of harmful drugs while it is unmatched in the innovation of corruption, willing to take any action the market will bear that produces a profit, said The Diplomat.

The question now is whether China’s actions will turn out to be a trail of scorched earth and broken promises on the Belt and Road initiative?

Could the U.S. National Defense Strategy be a reason for the rest of the world to believe that China could be made to be accountable?