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    China increases its influence on Belgian seaports

    Belgium and the Netherlands, in particular, have become more vulnerable to the influence of China’s Communist Party, the CPC. Credit: Belga

    China strengthened its hold on European ports, including Zeebrugge and Antwerp, last year, according to the latest Dutch-language report of the Clingendael China Centre.

    The report warns against increased Chinese investments in container seaports, which threaten to make European Union members more politically dependent on Beijing, De Morgen wrote on Thursday.

    Belgium and the Netherlands, in particular, have become more vulnerable to the influence of China’s Communist Party, the CPC.

    The Asian giant owns a sizeable chunk of Belgian container terminals. In Zeebrugge, about 90% of the container terminal is in the hands of the Chinese state company COSCO Shipping, the world’s biggest maritime company and third-largest international container transporter.

    “Political orientation is thus a potentially decisive factor, today and in future, for this state enterprise,” said Frans-Paul van der Putten, a researcher at the Clingendael China Centre.

    The Greek example is also particularly revealing. During the 2008 economic crisis in Greece, China COSCO Shipping bought out the Pireus Port container terminal, thereby becoming the port’s majority shareholder. Since then, Beijing’s economic influence is reflected in positions taken by the Greek Government at the European level.

    In 2016, Athens opposed an EU declaration criticising China’s attitude in the South China Sea and vetoed a European resolution to condemn the Asian giant’s stand on human rights at the UN. In the same year, Greece came out against an EU mechanism aimed at stepping up controls on investors from outside the Union.

    Oscar Schneider
    The Brussels Times