The Great Debate UK

China – accidental imperialist


-Laurence Copeland is a professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School and a co-author of “Verdict on the Crash” published by the Institute of Economic Affairs. The opinions expressed are his own.-

OLYMPICS-CANOE/China is an emerging imperial power. We can be sure of that fact, even though the Chinese Government may well have been absolutely genuine in repeating that it feels no urge for empire-building or for intervention in the affairs of other countries. It is simply the case that, if trade follows the flag, the opposite is also often true.

Imagine the following highly-plausible scenario: political unrest in one of the half-dozen African countries (Nigeria, Sudan, Zambia, Angola……) where China has a substantial presence, with large investments in local mineral resources operated by tens of thousands of expatriate Chinese. A local strongman deflects the popular dissatisfaction on to the Chinese, who by all accounts have managed to make themselves at least as detested as were the European colonialists of relatively recent memory. Before you can say Idi Amin, the mob sets off looting, burning and killing, and maybe taking hostages too. Whatever is left is expropriated in the name of anti-imperialism, socialism, national self-determination or some other slogan to conceal the greed of the local power elite.

How does Beijing react? The answer is surely with a policy that, in the heyday of the British Empire, used to be called: Send a Gunboat – send some kind of expeditionary force to rescue Chinese nationals and salvage whatever they can of their huge investments.

Making the most of the Commonwealth’s potential


d2- Danny Sriskandarajah is Director of the Royal Commonwealth Society. The opinions expressed are his own -

In recent years the Commonwealth has become an easily derided organisation. From its inception as a clever way of easing de-colonisation to the heady 1970s and 1980s when the association showed a radical dynamism on issues like Apartheid, the international association has shown itself to be unique and useful.