From the heart of Europe, China imitates and 'improves' on old imperialist actions

The tiny European state of Montenegro got itself in hock to China for a big road from its coast to Serbia. And now that China has spread COVID, it's having trouble paying its bills.

That's a problem, not just for the tiny tourist-oriented Mediterranean state, but for all of Europe.

China, according to the contract terms, can actually seize land if the country defaults, which might give it some pretty strategic real estate from the Montenegro port of Bar straight into the heart of Europe. And as for Montenegro itself, apparently, it doesn't even have the road.

According to the Daily Mail:

Perched atop massive cement pillars that tower above Montenegro's picturesque Moraca river canyon is an incomplete highway that threatens to bankrupt the little Balkan nation. 

China Road and Bridge Corporation, the state-owned company which is building the bridge with imported Chinese workers, has not yet finished constructing the first section of the 270-mile highway to the Serbian capital Belgrade. 

The first instalment on a $1 billion loan from China's state bank is due this month but it's unclear whether Montenegro, whose debt has soared to more than double its GDP because of the project, will be able to pay it back.

A copy of the loan contract reviewed by NPR shows that if Montenegro misses the deadline, Beijing has the right to seize land inside the country - as long as it doesn't belong to the military or is used for diplomatic purposes. 

Furthermore, the country's former government green-lighted for a Chinese court of arbitration to have the final say on any contractual disputes.  

Deputy Prime Minister Abazovic said in May that the terms are ludicrous. 

'This is not normal,' he told Euronews. 'This is out of any kind of logic of national interest.'

COVID, which was knowingly developed and spread to Europe by China, has devastated the Montenegro economy.  The country is cheap, beautiful, and close to rich countries, so quite naturally it has a tourist economy. China's spread of COVID shut that right down for the year, so no money was earned. Instead of admitting its role in destroying the Montenegro economy and writing the disaster off as its responsibility for spreading COVID, China still insists on getting paid.

Which is pretty creepy. But the Chicoms wanted that project as part of their One Belt, One Road Initiative, and everyone knows why. They aren't interested in seeing Montenegrins have a nice road to travel on to trade with neighboring Serbia. They wanted a strategic foothold in Europe, maybe a nice tank route or something of that nature.

As an increased bitter pill for Montenegro, apparently, they aren't even getting the road. I could find no information about the terms of the contract and fact that it's not completed, but it appears they have to pay both the debt and the construction or maybe the construction materials and they can't. So they get no road but still have to pay China if what the news reports are saying is correct. What a deal.

The current reporting speaks of Montenegro as an aspiring European Union member, and therefore the trouble it has gotten in makes it another Greece. That's actually irrelevant -- the country is a full-blown member of NATO, since 2017. It's the NATO membership that creates the big problems. Chinese real estate ownership of valuable road space (there isn't much in mountainous Montenegro) would be a strategically useful thing for the Chicoms. That's a crisis for NATO.

The scheme of course, which they are doing everywhere, is to get poor, miserable nations in hock to the tune of billions of dollars, have them sign contracts with important real estate as collateral, rig in their own courts having the final say in disputes, and then clean up when the inevitable default happens. COVID has been so helpful for this purpose as economies around the world crash and burn.

I wrote about how they did it with Ecuador -- leaving the country with unpayable debt and an expensive junk dam that has driven up electricity bills. As a bonus, it's crackling and crumbling, too. I wrote about it with Kenya, which stands to lose the continentally rare and valuable Port of Mombasa (though lately they have been denying it, possibly fancifully imagining that Chinese courts would absolutely agree with them if that is part of the deal).

The New York Times has an excellent infographic on just how many places they've gotten on their string here.

Joe Biden, of course, has said nothing about this obvious problem involving his much-touted NATO, but the European Union seems to be paying attention to the issue: According to Reuters in news released today, the current president of Montenegro has announced that a debt swap deal is in the works with U.S. and European banks, to make it a bailout of sorts, which obviously, would involve some pressure from the western governments to make.  The source, the Montenegro president, is possibly inclined to over-optimism, it would be better to hear about this from the banks, whose identities he won't say. 

Why the West must pay a bailout, instead of hit China with a lawsuit about its spread of COVID, is beyond my understanding. The Montenegro case demonstrates that China plays the imperialist game with unequal treaties better than any 19th century imperialist western nation. It also demonstrates that COVID was a very good thing for their global strategic ambitions, and now they're scarfing up.

Sue the bastards, and get word out that getting in hock to China is nothing but a roach motel, a debt trap, and worse. China has been known to react very badly to nations that recognize this and put the pressure on - such as in the case of Malaysia. It's time for the West to show China not its bailout prowess, but some legal and communication muscle. 

Image: Lommes, via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

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