By Joe Harker
A country as rich as China understands the impact that investment can have. It puts your nation in a position of power where countries hope to curry your favour and be the next recipient of a big chunk of cash. Money is power and in the global struggle to be top dog countries will turn towards whoever has the most power for guidance.
The Financial Times reports that China used Africa as a testing ground for growing their influence in other parts of the world. Chinese state owned enterprises build infrastructure and fund multi billion dollar projects in exchange for access to natural resources and raw materials.
However, the real commodity China is buying in Africa is influence, even though they have been accused of neocolonialism by some. Although Chinese money is helping build and modernise Africa it is saddling many governments with massive debts and enjoys access to their natural resources as part of the deal. While it is hard to argue that their investments haven't made things better the consequences of that investment will put many African nations heavily in China's debt.
Having honed their techniques in Africa, China might be trying to buy influence in Europe next. While it is hard to think that billions in investment is a bad thing many in Europe are worried of the accompanying political influence.
Their money buys them a proxy seat at the table in Europe, with the Czech Republic president Milos Zeman offering his country to be China's "unsinkable aircraft carrier". Greece stopped the EU from criticising China's human rights record at the UN, later combining with Hungary to block the EU from supporting a court ruling against China's expansion in the South China Sea.
In Europe the EU is the main enemy of China. They have a plan to forge deeper ties with Africa in an attempt to gain more influence than the Chinese on the continent and they are trying to assert themselves as the main power in Eastern Europe and the Balkans.
While Russia continues to apply pressure to the EU and pry out weaknesses it can exploit, China might be the real problem Europe faces. Claiming that Vladimir Putin's new Russian empire is "fundamentally weak", The Times suggests that the might of the Chinese economy grants them greater influence and may make countries cosy up to them in return for protection from Russia.
They also report that infrastructure projects similar to the ones used in Africa are being used to gain influence, even if the loans and demands to use Chinese contractors means much of the money ends up flowing right back to China. They get much of their money back and a huge chunk of political clout, in exchange the countries they deal with get mountains of debt, a massive obligation to China and a shiny new piece of infrastructure. Is it really worth it?