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

The 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.
In 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.
Last 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