China steps up role in Europe

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao attends an EU - China Summit, October 6, 2010.

From Antoaneta Becker, the Asia Times:  China’s increasing financial involvement in debt-ridden European nations has divided observers, inviting comparisons on one side to a Chinese Marshall Plan for Europe, and to a Chinese communist takeover of the continent on the other.

During his week-long tour of European capitals, Premier Wen Jiabao spearheaded an intensive Chinese diplomacy seeking to win skeptics and defuse fears of Beijing’s growing international clout.

On his stops in Greece, Belgium, Italy and Turkey, he held talks about bolstering market access for Chinese companies into Europe, signed investment deals and talked long-term action plans for China presence in European countries. The message delivered was unequivocally that China is now an important player on the European financial and economic arena. …

Wen Jiabao offered to buy more Greek government bonds when Greece returns to borrowing on the international debt markets. He also proposed to set up a US$5 billion fund to support the upgrading of Greece’s merchant fleet with Chinese-made ships, and pledged to support more Chinese investments in the Greek economy.

This comes on top of existing agreements to lease and operate the country’s main port for 35 years and to build a logistics terminal to connect with southeastern Europe. …

Greece is hardly the only European country where officials are looking at China as the possible underwriter of their countries’ economic recovery. Earlier this year, Beijing bought 400 million euros (US$558 million) of Spanish government debt. Portugal and Ireland, both threatened with debilitating debt or bailout costs, are also said to be courting Chinese lending. …

"For Europe, China is a bargaining chip that increases its clout versus the US," says Zhang Guoqing, pubic policy researcher with the School of Government at Beijing University. "Europe is clear that while some people in Washington are preparing to wage a trade war with China, this is their opportunity to boost trade and investment from China."  (photo: Getty) (via Atlantic-Community)

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