Sunday, May 20, 2018


It has been over sixty years since Sartre first termed the word 'neocolonialism'.   I read or tried reading his opus Colonialism and Neocolonialism years ago.  But Jean-Paul was too deep for my military mind, or maybe it was the fault of the translator.   Or maybe it was because years before that I had read Larteguy, and had a bias towards Bigeard's paras taking names and kicking butts.   Plus I never liked Sartre's portrayal of DeGaulle, whom I had always admired despite his antipathy towards my own country.  Sartre and many others since have put the blame squarely on the West for a later brand of colonialism.  Mostly in Africa.  But also in Asia, especially for the US in the Philippines, and Vietnam, and Laos, and Lebanon, and Afghanistan, and Iraq, and Syria, and others.  Maybe so.

But there is also an even newer cutting-edge neocolonialism going on in Africa in the 21st Century.  China's Xi Jinping AKA the Marquis of Belt & Road and co-prince of Africa is using a modern twist
of a much older colonial notion.   Xi does not stoop to conquering a country to exploit its population as labor and its natural resources.  He now uses debt bondage and/or bribery on an international scale for the mercantilist exploitation of resources.   They probably got the idea from the West.   Although they are doing it to an extent that dwarfs anything the World Bank tried to do in the past.  They are also buying influence by interfering in elections a la Trump-Russian collusion.  They probably got that idea from the West also.

But the colonized are now fighting back.  Not just in Africa but also in the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific.

Within my grandchildren's lifetime they will be doing the same to us.   What goes around, comes around.


  1. The important thing to note isn't the Chinese investors. It is the ecosystem we left open. The reason that Chinese investors can build all these railroads, ports, bridges and roads is because the West has *failed* to invest in the aforesaid infrastructure for the past 50 years.

    Of course, there are complicated reasons for that and I am curious how China will react to the inevitable complications.

    1. Ael -

      Good point. Infrastructure should be the number one priority for the US IMHO, but only our internal infrastructure. I have no clue on infrastructure issues within your beautiful country. We certainly have no desire to fund expansion of Chinese trade by investing in facilities that could be used by their Belt&Road. Why should we, since we already provided the capitol for it by buying up all their toys, sneakers, cell phones, computers, ad infinitum? Or maybe you are referring to a Western BeltRoad? That presupposes that we have produced items for sale that the third world wants to buy and can afford.

      And had we done it, we would most probably have met the same resistance and riots that the Chinese are now experiencing from third world nationalists.

  2. How does the PRC enforce its edicts, tho? What's their IMF/World Bank equivalent?

    1. FDC -

      No clue. You are outside of my lane. They are members of both the IMF and the World Bank.

      But China's banking industry is entirely state owned. 'The "big four" state-owned commercial banks are the Bank of China, the China Construction Bank, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and the Agricultural Bank of China.' Those four banks are the largest banks in the world:

      But to answer your question on enforcement, from what I have read in the links I posted, they do it by bribery, influence peddling, and election fraud.

  3. The Foreign Policy article reads like straight-up PNAC propaganda as well as being either ridiculously naive (or intentionally deceptive) regarding the Trump Administration's fiscal policies towards the developing world which, contra the FP article's intimation, is pretty much "what's in it for me?". And no mention of the reason that these countries took PRC money in the first place (Western sources either wouldn't, or attached conditions the borrower liked even less than the PRC's...)

    1. Maybe so. But those countries have found out that China's conditions are pretty draconian also. The riots in Sri Lanka were due to the 15,000 acres that were given to the Chinese by crooked politicians. hy do they need 15K acres for a port facility? That is almost ten times larger (an order of magnitude) than the combined land ownership of the ports of Seattle and Tacoma. Those are not nickel and dime port facilities, at $53B annually or 1.6 trillion cubic feet of goods in and out, and yet they use only ten percent of the land area required by the Chinese in Hambantota.

    2. FDC -

      We must be reading two different articles. Did you mean the Lowy article or the one by the Diplomat instead of the one by Foreign Policy?

      That FP article linked to was written by a couple of guys from CNAS, same organization in which Phil Carter is a Senior Fellow and Director. Several others at CNAS previously worked at the Obama administration. I'm sure there are some neo-cons there as well, they burrow like termites. But CNAS is not PNAC.

      And the article does not mention the Trump administration policies, fiscal or otherwise, toward the developing world. It does in one paragraph pass on some advice on what that policy should be. And that advice is naive as you mention, but does not seem to me to be deceptive. Although if Pompeo takes their advice I'm sure he and the swindler-in-chief will find a way to turn it around for the further enrichment of the Trump family. Instead of advancing a free, open, and sustainable model of development, fostering political resiliency in select countries, launching a new digital development fund - they would build more Trump Towers cheating the local contractors on the way, and force fertile farmland to become golf courses to which none of the natives will be able to afford.

    3. It's the Fontaine and Kliman piece at FP.

      Nobody who writes "it is up to U.S. President Donald Trump to ensure that the illiberal values China is exporting under the guise of the Belt and Road Initiative do not take root across the globe." and doesn't immediately 1) burst out laughing and 2) hit the backspace key is doing anything but trolling. Trump versus "illiberal values"? Seriously?

      The whole piece reads like it's been written by people who emerged from a fallout shelter just last week where they've been living since 1953. "The United States should also double down on its international support for democracy, civil society, and rule of law." Double down? Ummm...twice zero is zero, last time I cracked a math book.

      Like I said; the piece gets two things massivly...well, not "wrong", but just ignores them. First, the "why" these developing countries are going to the Chinese. There's no explanation of why, given all the negatives, any politician in these countries would prefer Chinese cash to going to a Western source. Hmmm...could there have been issues with the Western lenders? Y'think..?

      Second, there's a ridiculous degree of credulity of taking the U.S.'s - and, especially, Trump's - word as bond on issues ranging from finance to trade to "rights". You can't write "The Trump administration is off to a rhetorical start with its invocation of a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” to which it should couple a “free, open, and sustainable” model of development in that region and beyond." and not add something like "However, given the well-known tendency for the Fraudulency Administration to make mouth-noises about "freedom" and "openness" and then turn around to play tonsil-hockey with dictators and oligarchs, some action beyond mere rhetoric would be preferable..." if you want to be taken as someone who has invested actual thinking into the subject.

      (And it's worth noting that while the current White House is openly in the "pay-for-play" business, the former occupants also tended to be better at talking about things like freedom, openness, and sustainability than actually DOING things about them...)

      So, no argument that this Chinese predatory lending is a nasty piece of work. But instead of simply cussing at the cunning yellow devils, we in the West might want to take a hard look at ourselves for the "why" these developing countries are willing to play ball with the PRC...

    4. @FDC - "...we in the West might want to take a hard look at ourselves..."

      True! Which is why I stated in the original post that the Chinese got these exploitation ideas from us. Read any history of China's ports of Canton and Shanghai to see how the West ramrodded through concessions there via bribery and predatory lending.

    5. FDC -

      I agree that Fontaine and Kliman are naive in thinking they can give any advice to Trump.

      However I see no problem with their suggested idealized solution that the US, Europe, Japan, and India should advance an approach that emphasizes "local capacity-building, the transfer of skills, responsible financing, quality, and innovation."

      You know and I know that will not happen. But there is nothing wrong with the pie-in-the-sky propositions. They give us a goal to aim for.

      Give us a more workable proposal.

    6. Besides, Toddler Trumpy does not read Foreign Policy or any other magazines other than maybe the National Enquirer.

      And I would venture that neither does Pompey his minion at State; nor does Chickenhawk Bolton his war consigliere. If they are interested in any policy opinions other than their own then they get them from the 'Cato Institute' or the 'Heritage Foundation'.

      IMO the FP article by Fontaine and Kliman is targeted at the budding diplomats of the lower and middle levels in both our State Department and in various overseas Ministries of Foreign Affairs. And probably it is also aimed at the foreign press corps.

    7. Agree on all points. That said, a robust discussion of the above issues needs to begin from a clear-eyed understanding of the underlying politico-economic predicates.

      And what I get from those is that this is as much, or even more, about the Western failure to be "good neighbors" to its' developing South and East. The various disasters fomented by IMF/World Bank/Western policies have become so unavoidably obvious that these "shithole countries" have concluded that they're better off taking lucre from a dictatorial nuclear power than from Western democracies.

      But the piece doesn't emphasize that, and that's what I want to emphasize. We can talk about Chinese colonialism all we want, but if the global South doesn't see it as similar to Western does that help us in the West make the world a less violent and unstable place? Rather than make a big deal about how vicious this Belt and Road predatory lending is - which is kinda of a "no, duh?" take - I'd be more interested in hearing how the West can adjust its fiscal policies to the developing world to make them, and us, more attractive.

      I'm reminded of what Mattis told the Congressmen about funding diplomacy; if you don't, then you better put up the money to buy me a shitload more bullets.

    8. @FDC - "...but if the global South doesn't see it as similar to Western colonialism..."

      Seems to me that they do. At least in Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka. That was the point of this post, that they are fighting back against Xi's policies like they did against the IMF and the West.

      And not just against China as the link from S O below attests. The Malagasays rebelled against South Korean exploitation. There is also pushback in Kenya regarding the Qatari attempt to establish a 100,000 acre plantation. And we should expect more fireworks in the Sudan when the locals realize that their farmland is going to be leased to the Abu Dhabians.

  4. You could add the South Korean troubles on Madagascar a few years ago to the list.

    The South Koreans tried to buy a large chunk of the nation's arable land and their investment failed because the Madagese revolted against it.

    1. Thanks Sven! Seems that foreign owned plantations are not wanted by any country regardless of whether the owner is Chinese, or one of the Asian Tigers, or the West.

  5. China's strategy is explained by it's "String of Pearls" and "One Belt, One Road" initiatives. China's interests are both commercial and military as they want to secure access to resources and markets as well as provide logistic support to a Chinese Navy that wants to be able to project power outside the Chinese littoral.

    Not surprising there is local pushback - as with most African countries, the benefits will go to a few elites who (temporarily) control relatively unstable countries.

    1. @Andy - " well as provide logistic support to a Chinese Navy that wants to be able to project power outside the Chinese littoral."

      Which is undoubtedly why they want those 15000 acres in Hambantota: ten percent for commercial port facilities, 90 percent for the PLA Navy. Sri Lanka is good spot for a Naval Base. Gives them a place where they could provide some clout over the entire IO. India would never have given them a base. Bangladesh, Pakistan or Iran probably would, but those locations would not be optimal.

    2. Andy -

      I stand corrected. Hambantota looks pretty shaky considering that 14 years ago it was devastated by the Christmas Tsunami. Unlike Trincomalee it is completely unprotected. But perhaps Chinese engineering experience building artificial islands in the South China Sea can overcome that. Maybe that is why they want all that extra land?

      Still, it beats possible naval bases on the South Asian mainland. Those might be easier to blockade.