By Frank Ching, Special to The China Post
Quietly, almost imperceptibly, China’s global influence has increased vastly in recent years while the United States observed uneasily from the sidelines. Now, however, Beijing’s external reach is such that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has sounded the alarm bells, warning that Washington is losing the contest. “We are in a competition for influence with China,” she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee while appealing against cuts to the U.S. State Department’s budget.
“We are in an information war, and we are losing that war,” she said. Both the BBC and the Voice of America are halting Mandarin broadcasts while China has stepped up its international broadcasting. “We are missing in action,” Clinton said. The crisis in Libya provides an indication of China’s gigantic footprint in Africa. The Chinese Foreign Ministry announced over the weekend that 35,860 Chinese nationals have been successfully evacuated from Libya. Many of them worked in the oil, rail telecommunications and construction industries.
What other country would have that many nationals working in this North African country? And Libya is far from being the most important country in Africa. Moreover, for the first time, China deployed military assets when carrying out the rescue. Its 4,000-ton missile frigate, the Xuzhou, which was on an anti-piracy mission off Somalia, transited the Suez Canal to arrive off Libya. Four military transport planes were also deployed, the first such deployment in an evacuation. To be sure, other countries, such as India, Germany and the Netherlands, also evacuated their nationals from Libya, but on a much smaller scale. China is very much a newcomer, and yet it is carrying out its activities with aplomb.
The Chinese also gained much goodwill in assisting in the evacuation of other foreign nationals, including 41 citizens of Italy, Malta, Croatia, Vietnam and the Philippines. Another indication of China’s new role in the world is its reaction to the New Zealand earthquake. It quickly sent a rescue team to New Zealand in the wake of the earthquake there. In addition, at New Zealand’s request, it sent a team of specialists to help identify the bodies of Christchurch earthquake victims through comparing distinguishing features, DNA samples and other data.