Geopolitics

Watch Two Continents Fall Into China's Imperial Trap

Governments in Latin America and Africa are scrambling to build so-called "stategic trading partnerships" with China. But is it really a win-win situaiton?

China's CSCL Africa tanker
China's CSCL Africa tanker
José E. Mosquera

-OpEd-

SANTIAGO — Chinese loans and investments in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean represent a new brand of colonialism, a gradual economic dominance that the target countries, as it turns out, are eager to welcome with open arms.

The self-styled progressive governments of Latin America and a good many African leaders, befuddled by China's largesse, have laid out the red carpet for big Chinese capital without stopping to think what the "generous" credit and promises of vast investments in key sectors of their economies might ultimately imply.

In their eagerness to establish so-called "strategic trading partnerships," they fail to comprehend that behind China's political and economic maneuverings lies an emerging imperial domination. Loans with minimal interest and few conditions are fuelling excessive debt among African and Latin American states, and reshaping global dependencies.

Although these countries have evidently, and partially, freed themselves from the imperial claws of the United States and European powers — as leftist leaders like Nicolás Maduro (Venezuela), Evo Morales (Bolivia) and Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua) keep crowing to the world — they are inadvertently falling into another imperial trap, one that may turn out to be singularly ruthless.

China's approach differs from classic colonialism in that it eschews any involvement in local politics or issues of civil rights and liberties. The results, though, are the same. Using credit and investments, China is little by little taking over key parts of the the economies in question. Its main objectives are to eventually control strategic natural resources, trade and infrastructures.

In Latin America, China has displaced the European powers and is already the second trading partner and main source of regional investments. Bilateral trade between China and Latin American and Caribbean states was worth $260 billion in 2014. Most of the money relates to raw materials such as oil, gold, copper, iron, gas and agricultural products, which China is both consuming and heavily investing in.

Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Nicaragua and Mexico are the main settings of these investments. China has become the main export market, in the meantime, for Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Peru. Venezuela is more or less mortgaged to China, having received loans worth more than $70 billion in exchange for oil.

In Peru and Bolivia, the Chinese already control more than 40% of the mining and energy sectors. China revealed at a recent Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit in Beijing that is plans to invest another $250 billion in the region over the next decade.

In the case of African states, China overtook the U.S. as principal trading partner years ago. Bilateral trade between China and Africa has increased from $10 billion to some $215 billion in the past 15 years, and more than 2,650 Chinese firms operate in 50 of the 54 African states.

Together the companies control more than 65% of all public works projects and dominate the mining, oil, telecom and energy sectors in half the African states.

China has also become the second leading supplier of weapons to these states. As the Congolese writer Mbuyi Kabunda observes, Africa has become China's El Dorado and Latin America the setting of an economic and strategic turf war with the U.S.

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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