Turns out all that 'aid' from China wasn't quite as free as it looked

Remember how China drew praise for extending all that influence throughout Africa, and not just Africa, but in Latin America and Asia, too?  Investing in development where wicked private investors just wouldn't?  Telling everyone that its gentle message worldwide was "Let's get rich together"?  Showing America how it's done?

This propaganda has been in the news pipeline for years and drawn a lot of praise, or at least subtle accolades, from the pundits.  But now it turns out that that aid and those "investments" weren't quite as free and altruistic as promoted.

China is now putting the squeeze on the countries it made its "investments" in.  Not content with a profitable return on those "investments," the way those wicked and stingy private investors would be, it's demanding a different kind of return: influence.  This is what's known as "neo-colonialism" if a Western country is doing it.  Paying the piper.  Power.

Axios's Erica Pandey describes what's going on here:

China's debt-trap diplomacy is spreading across Africa

China is leveraging debts to gain control of strategic ports and secure primary access to African oil in Angola, Kenya and Djibouti.

Why it matters: The Chinese are offering up attractive infrastructure projects to the countries that need them most and following up with escalating demands for influence.  That approach will spread to even more of the globe under Beijing's trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative.

What's interesting is that China has gotten these countries hooked on its debt-trap diplomacy, often by taking advantage of the ingrained anti-Americanism of the third-world elites running these places.  The examples cited were Djibouti, Angola, and Kenya.  Now those places are stuck, and so long as oil prices remain low and investors are turned off by their non-free-market economic policies, they will increasingly act as Chinese vassal states.

This, by the way, most certainly isn't confined to Africa.  China has put the squeeze on Venezuela for its debts – I wrote about it here and here.

That presents a challenge for U.S. diplomacy and its own bid to extend global influence, meaning that these countries are going to have a tough time freeing their economies for real foreign investors, because China has absolutely no interest in seeing that happen.  China likes these people to be on the Chinese string, because it magnifies China's influence, which the Chinese are starting to show with new port bases and other military lily pads convenient for throwing their weight around, and because non-free economies resemble China's.

What's infuriating about this is how quick the press and the foreign policy establishment were to believe that China's intentions were benign with all its free money and investments.  Well, no, they weren't.  Why would a tyranny and dictatorship be all for "autonomy" in the states it lays down money in?  Why would anyone think the Chinese were doing all their supposed good deeds, laying down roads and bridges, for nothing in return?  They wanted something, all right, and their price is big.

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