"Any way the wind blows" - Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody
I just finished reading ‘Hidden Hand’ by C. Hamilton and M. Ohlberg. Briefly summarized, the book is an explanation of influence operations by the Chinese communist party around the world and it essentially argues that this is a specific and urgent issue for the West. The book makes provides an extensive overview of how the Chinese government and security services are organized with regards to influencing foreign governments and societies. The links with economic interests and the Chinese abroad are particularly interesting. The book – in particular for someone not particular versed in the subject – is a very good introduction and overview. The book is convincing in its argument that the Chinese communist party makes the Chinese ‘state’ different than a ‘regular’ state / government and that they put extensive effort in espionage and lobby abroad. It is something that is an issue, and arguably one that is somewhat underappreciated.
Where the book is weaker is regarding how the nature of the Chinese efforts is different than that of other powers. Espionage (industrial or otherwise), influencing (through financing NGO’s, thinktanks, students, etc.) are not a uniquely Chinese phenomenon. And attacking the Chinese of trying to get more influence in international organizations is of course somewhat hypocritical if we look at the state of IMF / World Bank governance and the UN Security Council.
For both the EU and Africa, the big question is how to deal with this. Clearly ‘size’ is an issue, and hence (supra-national) unity becomes more important. This is of course relevant both with regards to the US and China. Both Europe and Africa benefit from multilateral governance – a bigger issue and concern when the two major global players have at best an opportunistic relationship with this.
01.01.2022, Brussels, Belgium
Online encampment of A. S. Barry. Disparate and not-so-disparate thoughts on international relations, development, writing, and life.