Khalifa joins Maritime Silk Road as concerns grow over Beijing’s influence

Khalifa PortThe UAE’s Khalifa Port is set to become the latest link in China’s 21st Century Maritime Silk Road running between Asia and Europe after the eastern coastal province of Jiangsu last month signed a deal with Abu Dhabi Ports to develop a $300m manufacturing operation in the port’s free trade zone. 
The deal will see Jiangsu take control of a 2.2m² area at the port, with five Chinese firms already signed up to use the space for the production of clean energy, mining, construction materials, steel, and environmental clean-up technologies.
The announcement came months after China’s COSCO shipping acquired the rights to develop and operate a new container terminal at the port for the next 35 years, at a cost of $738 million
After Dubai, Khalifa is the UAE’s second busiest busiest port in the UAE and the emirates already handle 60% of Chinese exports in the Gulf region with an annual trade value of $70bn; but Chinese efforts to secure such a substantial foothold in the UAE are increasingly raising concerns about Beijing’s long-term game plan.
Maritime Silk RoadIn recent years, China has pumped an estimated $46.6bn into new or reinvigorated port projects in Indonesia, Myanmar, Australia, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Djibouti, and earlier this month the New York Times ran an article accusing Beijing of using its financial muscle to persuade Greece to veto EU condemnation of its human rights record.
After years of struggling under austerity imposed by European partners and being cold-shouldered by the US, Greece has proved receptive to promises of substantial sums of cash from China – albeit at the cost of some political favours.
Piraeus portLast summer, in return for substantial investment in the port of Piraeus which is turning it into one of its major ‘dragon head’ gateways into Europe, the authorities in Athens agreed to stop the European Union from issuing a unified statement against Chinese aggression in the South China Sea. This June, Athens also prevented the bloc from condemning China’s human rights record and days later opposed tougher screening of Chinese investments in Europe.
EU officials are becoming increasingly concerned that China is buying silence on human rights issues by targeting some of its cash-strapped smaller member states including Spain, Portugal and most recently Hungary, which recently blocked an EU statement on territorial disputes in the South China after Beijing pledged to spend billions of dollars on a 350km high-speed rail link between Budapest and the Serbian capital Belgrade.

Source: reuters