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AI, currency, coronavirus & RUGBY – what won’t those wily Chinese weaponize to bring down Western culture?!

Darius Shahtahmasebi
Darius Shahtahmasebi
is a New Zealand-based legal and political analyst who focuses on US foreign policy in the Middle East, Asia and Pacific region. He is fully qualified as a lawyer in two international jurisdictions.
is a New Zealand-based legal and political analyst who focuses on US foreign policy in the Middle East, Asia and Pacific region. He is fully qualified as a lawyer in two international jurisdictions.
AI, currency, coronavirus & RUGBY – what won’t those wily Chinese weaponize to bring down Western culture?!
From coronavirus, to hi-tech, or even sports – according to mainstream media, we must be wary of Beijing’s ulterior motives in all circumstances. But the actions of Western governments across these same theaters are being ignored.

For people living in places like Australia, New Zealand or under the firm grip of the Trump administration, media fearmongering in respect of China’s expanding influence is almost a daily occurrence. You can’t sleep safely at night for fear of seeing the hidden hand of Beijing masquerading under your bed. 

As far as the Pacific is concerned, the general accusations against Beijing is that it is roping in a number of Pacific nations under its (already disproven) strategy of “debt-trap diplomacy,” bringing smaller states in the region resolutely under its wing by indebting them to a point of no return.

The further accusations leveled by the Trump administration are more extensive, ranging from cyber concerns to genuine panic over China’s increasing naval and missile capabilities, particularly in key geostrategic locations such as the South China Sea and the wider Indo-Pacific region.

Also on rt.com Western media excoriates China over coronavirus response, even as infected numbers drop & hospitals close

How China ‘weaponizes’ just about everything

You can imagine my surprise then to learn of some of the newer reasons we should start to fear China. The first and most plainly obvious one is the recent outbreak of coronavirus (or Covid-19), which as the Washington Examiner has claimed shows exactly how Beijing has “weaponized its integration.” According to the Examiner, we can no longer trust drones, iPhone batteries, public transit systems, and machinery, as these are all controlled by our Chinese overlords. I have to say, I prefer Quartz’s approach to highlighting the extent of Chinese wickedness, which argued a simple but effective point: “China is taking pleasure in US mishandling of coronavirus.”

According to some recent insight from the Washington Post, China is also seeking to slowly take over the UN, currently heading up four of the 15 UN specialized agencies while vying to cement a fifth. Allegedly, the problem here is that Chinese civil servants leading these organizations will solely promote Chinese interests. I shiver at the idea of a UN promoting China’s Silk Road Project and not, for example, the destruction of wealthy North African nations.

We’ve seen these accusations many times before. In the last few months, the media has alleged that China has “weaponized” the smartphone, the global supply chain, drug exports, artificial intelligence (AI), water, rare earth minerals, nationalism, tourism, currency, and the list goes on. Where will it end?

Also on rt.com Johnson urged to ditch 5G deal: 5 Eyes want to maintain THEIR monopoly on spying & don’t want Huawei to see what they were up to

China is now ‘weaponizing’ sports

The most depraved example of fearmongering coming out of the dungeons of lazy-thinking in the media is a notion that Beijing has weaponized the sport of rugby league in an apparent bid to take over the Pacific region (and maybe even the world).

That’s right. According to the Diplomat’s Thomas Wilkinson, China’s latest agent of spreading its influence is rugby league. The basis for this accusation is that Chinese investment money has funded a new stadium in Apia, Samoa, which will see one of the largest official rugby league tournaments ever to take place in the Pacific Islands later this year.

Wilkinson’s take on this development is that the rise in the sport’s popularity in the South Pacific has “positioned the sport as potential agent of soft power influence,” before he explains that “stadium and sports diplomacy has long been a feature of China’s attempts to make inroads into the Pacific region.”

I hate to break it to Wilkinson, but I lived in Apia for over three years and Chinese investment money has built more than just a rugby stadium. Beijing built the new hospital in Apia, the major government buildings, the parliamentary buildings, schools, aquatic centers and gymnasiums, and the list goes on. If we are to adopt Wilkinson’s logic, the Chinese government must likewise be weaponizing medicine, swimming, education and a whole lot of other things while it vies to take over the entire world.

But then again, as Wilkinson explains, China’s expanding influence isn’t limited to just rugby. According to the author, the rising interest in the sport of table tennis in Papua New Guinea (PNG) – the only country in the world whose national sport is rugby league – “is also indicative of China’s growing influence.

I could be missing something here, but surely a bold statement like that requires a bit more explanation than what is offered in his 400-word opinion piece. How is the rise in popularity of table tennis in PNG demonstrative of China’s foreign policy objectives in the Asia-Pacific region? In that same vein, how can rugby league – a sport wholly different to table tennis – be tarnished with that same brush?

Rugby has been the life of New Zealand for decades. Rugby league is also incredibly popular in Australia. If Australia funded a rugby stadium in the Pacific, would it be doing so in the same evil manner that Beijing apparently is? For example, I can recall Australia gifting Samoa a warship for free when I worked as a lawyer for the Samoan government. Australia would never receive the condemnation and disapproval that China does on a regular basis as it also spreads its influence right throughout the Pacific region.

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A little bit of perspective

The latest attempt to paint China as a malevolent imperialist power that could never extend its assistance to poorer nations without expecting something sinister in return ignores a number of factors. One, Beijing has already forgiven $10 billion worth of debt, with around half of these cancellations going to some of the world’s poorest countries, particularly in Africa. That to me suggests that its intentions may not be as nefarious as the media insist we believe (then again, the media has certainly managed to find a way to portray this in as negative a light as possible).

Even if the accusations against China were true to the fullest extent envisioned by the mainstream media, it still blows my mind that Chinese funding and investment in projects in poorer countries is somehow aeons worse than one nation in particular out there who actively projects its influence across the globe through the use of brute force. There is no shortage of articles condemning China for its lending and funding practices, but there doesn’t seem to be equal criticism directed at the US for forcibly invading countries that refuse to kowtow to its demands.

Perhaps all that I’m asking for is a bit of perspective. When we see the sirens being sounded against US adversaries such as Beijing as regularly as we do and as extensively as we do, it would be good if we could also examine the underlying reasons why the media and our governments would benefit from having us believe these accusations (while ignoring the actions of Western governments across these same theaters).

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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