In a recent article by James Carafano published by The National Interest, the growth of Chinese influence in Europe is the focus of attention.
Here the Chinese “Silk Road” initiative is playing an important role in their global agenda.
Lately, Europeans are starting to see China as not just a checkbook, but as a player that is becoming more strategically relevant to Europe.
For starters, Europeans are just beginning to come grips with the realization that China’s “One Belt, One Road” may be more than just an economic opportunity. The ambitious mix of economic, infrastructure and diplomatic initiatives—paired with a maritime road from the South China Sea to the Port of Piraeus—aims to create a new “silk road” from Yiwu in central Zhejiang Province to Madrid, Spain.
Increasingly, it is clear that Chinese ambitions now go far beyond just clearing a trade route. Beijing is building a naval base in Djibouti to help overwatch its expanding global network. The Chinese are also shifting resources into their “gator navy”—a mix of maritime forces that could potentially be deployed to protect their sea lines of communications. Meanwhile, China continues to expand its military influence into the Indian Ocean.
Put it all together, and it’s clear that China is shifting from a remote presence to (A) a neighbor whose sidewalk extends to Europe’s front door and (B) a significant player in the global commons that Europeans previously plied without much likelihood of ever crossing paths with a Chinese frigate.
In addition, Chinese influencers are increasingly popping up across the European landscape. Confucius Institutes, an ambitious Chinese soft power initiative, have been established all over the world, in partnership with local universities. Meanwhile, Beijing’s Foreign Ministry has established cultural centers offering language and cultural programs in Europe.
According to report by the China Policy Institute, Europe “hosts 7 centres with locations in Paris, Malta, Berlin, Moscow, Madrid Copenhagen and Brussels.”