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Published: 9 february 2012 09:25

Rimvydas Valatka: Hua Ou. The Chinese are coming to buy Europe and Lithuania

I wonder, how would the Chinese endure this darn frost? Why the Chinese? Well, for one thing, in half a century they will possibly make up the biggest national minority in Lithuania and will undoubtedly run all the “Maxima”, “MG Baltic” and “Achema” corporations, the entire heating industry and perhaps even a power plant in Visaginas – provided Arvydas Sekmokas (Lithuania's Energy Minister) builds one for us.


Our nationalists – whom the sound of “przepraszam” still send into fits of fury and who keep dreaming about the ethnically homogeneous state of Lithuanians – will quite soon have to face new enemies: not Dovgiallo from Lavorškės or the hateful “tolerastic” liberals, but a newly-arrived Sun-Tzu.

A Chinese Liu Budrys running the Gediminas' Castle museum. Chinese finishing the Grand Dukes' Palace and naming it after Mao, making grand cepelinai in Karmėlava, saving BC Žalgiris from yet another bankruptcy, and holding feast day Mass in Šiluva.

“Lithuanians were quarreling, cutting each other's throats, debating who are meant to be greater Lithuanians. Only high-society balls would make them quiet down a bit: the Chinese willingly catered for their parties,” these are lines from Audronė Urbonaitė's second novel “Sugarcoated Fish” about the near Lithuanian future.

Impossible? Very possible indeed. If it was possible for Batu Khan's hordes to chase our king Mindaugas within the Vilnius-Ukmergė-Kernavė triangle for several weeks in mid-1200s, why couldn't their neighbours the Chinese fly in “Boeings” as the global 21st century is knocking at the window?

Even though it has been less than two hundred years since the ill-fated Opium Wars, when European empires could divide up China at will, and less than three decades since the EU sent their first billion in investment to communist China, the Chinese have already reversed the trend – they are the ones who are buying up Europe now. And they are doing it at an increasing rate.

True, the Chinese still keep apologizing: “We neither buy your washed-out Europe,” they say, “nor do we intend to.” That is what the Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said during the German Chancellor Merkel's visit on Friday. But the mere fact that the Chinese are apologizing for something they did not do unmistakably indicates that it's almost done.

Even though it has been less than two hundred years since the ill-fated Opium Wars, when European empires could divide up China at will, the Chinese have already reversed the trend.

Therefore the question of how many Parliament seats the Lithuanian Chinese Party will win in 2052 general election – and if the ruling coalition of the conservative Homeland Union and the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania can keep their majority – will soon be as common-sensical as the current question whether we will have any liberals left in the Parliament after this year's election.

Last year, Chinese company “Cosco” signed a 35-year lease on two container terminals in Greek ports. The Chinese government is buying up bonds of nearly-bankrupt Spain and Portugal. Germans watch in astonishment as their factories are being bought by the Chinese, while Frenchmen observe the same happening to their vineyards.

The Chinese recently bought Chateau Latour Laguens near Bordeaux, invested in new winery technology, furbished up the worn-down castle and are now in the process of developing a new vine flavour. Chateau Latour Laguens was the first estate in Bordeaux bought by the Chinese three years ago and now they own five more. Moreover, the Chinese vine won an international award as the best of the Bordeaux vines.

Chinese state electric company has just paid 1.34 billion litas for 25-percent share in the highly indebted Portuguese national electric company while Chinese “Sany” bought German family-owned “Putzmeister” with 2 billion litas annual turnover.

Ireland is the only country that resistsselling its major industries to the Chinese. But how long can the Irish stand against the trend? China's foreign currency reserve (3.2 trillion US dollars) is the biggest in the world. Its central bank is setting up a branch charged with running two investment funds: Hua Mei (China-America) will be buying property in the US and Hua Ou (China-Europe) – in Europe. The two funds will have 300 billion dollars at their disposal.

Last year, China offered Belarus one billion dollar credit at preferential rate. The money will be used to build Vitebsk hydro power plant in Gomel region, to modernize Dobrush cellulose factory, to build a satellite communication system, while China will be granted priority in purchasing 40 percent share in Belarus' oil industry.

Our conservatives-turned-nationalists will certainly not allow the Chinese communists and their capitalist apprentices to buy up Lithuania?

It would be a mistake to assume that it is only people like Belorussian President Lukashenko who succumb to Chinese billions. Hungarian Prime Minister Orban – whose party has just severely undermined press freedom, subjected Hungarian courts to political control and thus became a model for Lithuanian conservatives – is no less eager to please China.

Last year, when Beijing announced its intention to acquire Hungarian government bonds, the same nationalist Orban rejoiced and thanked the Chinese even more enthusiastically than did Belarus' dictator. Finally, it is not only China that is buying up Europe. For  several years now Portuguese companies are being acquired by businessmen from Portugal's former colonies Angola and Brazil.

Disastrous? Well, it depends. The disaster is in the fact that for over a decade Lithuania's youth and middle generation are fleeing the country while mortality rate has been exceeding birth rate for the last three decades.

As we are dying off, is it really sensible to pray every Sunday and ask the Lord to make Lithuanian land – well capable of supporting a population of millions – to turn back into empty wilderness inhabited by lapwings, wolves, foxes, and beavers but not – God forbid – the Chinese? What's the point? After last working-age Lithuanians will have moved to London and all that remains are a million old men with no one to pay taxes for their pensions. Is it not preferable that the Chinese provide them with dignified retirement?

In the times of global economy, the principle of foreign investment itself is a great idea. The bad thing about it is that Beijing's ambitions reach much further than the European markets. The red dragon wants to influence European policies. Serbia, for instance, whose infrastructure is generously supported by China, boycotted the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony because it was awarded to a Chinese dissident.

While we are still three-million strong, we need to realize that the Chinese money currently flooding the EU might well inhibit our freedoms. Especially bearing in mind the fact that the EU is moving towards greater centralization and federalism. Yet if one listens to our ministers, MPs and even market analysts, one gets the impression that the only threat to Lithuania is, was, and always will be Warsaw and Poles.

Temos: 1 Rimvydas Valatka
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