Should we fear China’s Belt and Road? – Possibly
Imagine a world where 1.5 billion people are forced to live in a desert of their own making, China is just that.
Beijing is a dangerously polluted city surrounded by agricultural land that has turned to dust. In 2012, the World Health Organization reported 1 million Chinese deaths due to air pollution. Sometimes the air pollution has been so bad that it was called an aeropocalypse. PM (particulate matter) levels are frequently recorded reaching all-time highs affecting 800 million people. PM is related to the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot or smoke, are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye, others equally harmful cannot be seen.
The Gobi desert, once the protector of the revered and fortified Chinese empire. Now it has gone from protector to invader. 500,000 miles of northern China and southern Mongolia are now a barren wasteland, consisting only of sand. Once fertile land is now barren dust bowls that cover entire areas of China. The Gobi Desert is the fastest growing desert on earth each year transforming 2,250 miles (approx. 3,621 km) of grassland into a sandy desert.
These sands are buffeted by winds that pollute more than 1 million square miles and then combine with industrial pollution. Beijing’s air quality index recently hit a high of 620, a rating classified as ‘beyond the index’. To put the US government’s label of above 200 as very unhealthy into perspective, above 301 to 500 is classified as dangerous.
Desertification is a type of land degradation in which previously fertile soil is transformed into arid land. Effectively, it is the process of areas becoming deserts, and the causes are both man-made and climate-induced. China’s frenzied development drives in the 20th century devastated the country’s timber resources, and this deforestation along with overgrazing, wind erosion, and depletion of water resources accelerated desertification in the second half of the century.
I won’t stop at this point, but China’s military aspirations are rapidly materializing. The South China Sea is a coverage point. Add all this together and consider the use of China’s Belt and Road Scheme, then wonder begins to turn to suspicion.
Let’s look at the Chinese government guidelines which, as we all know, are set in stone. China’s State Council established three rules or categories for foreign investment, what Chinese companies can and cannot buy: “prohibited”, “restricted” and “encouraged”. Casinos and military technology are banned, while restrictions include hotel and property development. But investment in agriculture and infrastructure is encouraged. Then consider using the new silk road.
Headline 1. China will become the largest foreign owner of Australian farmland.
In the 1850s, the Chinese arrived en masse seeking the riches of the new gold rush. Then they stayed, employed to help create some of the most fertile farms in the world. Now they’re back in another gold rush guise: They’re buying up farms like Cubbie Station in Queensland, Van Diemen’s Land Company’s dairy operation in Tasmania, Nicoletti Farms in Western Australia, and a stake in the vast S Kidman & Co cattle empire. These are just a few well-known agribusinesses that are now wholly or partly in Chinese hands. In recent years, Chinese investors have embarked on an unprecedented buying spree of Australian farmland. According to the latest Foreign Ownership of Farmland Register, Chinese ownership of Australian farmland has increased tenfold in the last year alone. They now control 14.4 million hectares. China is poised to overtake the UK as the largest foreign owner of Australian farmland, a cloak that dates back to at least the last gold rush. The buying spree comes with the blessing of the Chinese government even at a time when the Chinese government is concerned about the flow of capital out of China.
Headline 2. China’s Belt and Road scheme has ports all over the world
What China is Gaining by Buying the World’s Ports China, through its state-owned shipping and shipping companies, has historically bought ports around the world. Now, under his 21st century Maritime Silk Road (MSR), the maritime part of his Belt and Road initiative matters, his ambitions are taking shape. News about the acquisition of a new port emerges almost daily. Ports in Greece, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Africa and Australia have already been acquired.
Head 3. Control of western infrastructure, energy, telecommunications, etc.
Huawei has the ability to spy on and access the most sensitive information that flows freely through networks around the world. Maybe this is all innocent, but given its size, given the abject destruction of the lands. They are clearly concerned about the welfare of their citizens.
A good friend once told me that the belt scheme is good in theory, but in practice it is a way for China to leave China. Think about it! For my part, I am suspicious of his intentions.