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Saying No to China

We should admire those few small countries that have turned down the CCP's soft imperial overtures.

A little over three months ago, the world was treated to the apology, a spectacular performance from John Cena. For the uninitiated, in an interview for Fast and Furious 9, the professional wrestler and actor made the “mistake” of calling Taiwan a country. Apparently, Cena was apologizing to the people of China.

In reality, though, he was apologizing to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which essentially controls Hollywood. As Aynne Kokas, author of Hollywood Made in China, notes, Alibaba Pictures and Tencent Pictures, two of the biggest production studios in China, now play “a significant role funding films in Hollywood.” Remember, Cena’s apology was delivered in fluent Mandarin. With a net worth of $60 million, Cena didn’t learn one of the most complicated languages in the world for fun; he learned it because it’s now a job requirement.

The Chinese influence extends well beyond Hollywood. According to Forbes, the U.S. is not just dependent on China; it is ridiculously dependent on China. For example, China produces 97 percent of the antibiotics used by Americans. The United States isn’t the only country beholden to China, however.

Of 195 countries in the world, 139 are currently signed up to the Belt and Road Initiative, a global infrastructure development strategy that comes with a whole host of baggage. When those in Beijing promise new roads and bridges, buildings and dams, one would do well to remember that they regularly fail to deliver on their promises. To make matters even worse, numerous countries now find themselves loaded with unreasonable levels of debt. To sign up to Belt and Road is to engage in a Faustian bargain of epic proportions.

Other countries, though, clearly wary of entering into negotiations with the CCP, have taken the road less traveled. For this, they deserve to be recognized and celebrated.

In May, the Lithuanian government announced its intention to pull out of the “17+1” assembly with immediate effect, much to Beijing’s vexation. The assembly consists of 17 Central and East European countries and China, and its members meet annually to discuss ways to improve political and economic ties. The Baltic nation, no longer interested in supporting an oppressive regime, showed the other members what courage really looks like.

In July, the Lithuanians rubbed more salt in China’s wounds by inviting the Taiwanese government to open a diplomatic facility in Vilnius. Outraged, the CCP demanded Lithuania withdraw its ambassador from Beijing immediately. Apparently unfazed, the Lithuanians refused to comply. Then, in the second week of August, the CCP announced the withdrawal of its envoy to Vilnius. Just a few days later, Lithuania’s ambassador to China, Diana Mickeviciene, was told to leave Beijing. The CCP, embarrassed and irate, has since halted trade with Lithuania.

Interestingly, the tactics being employed by Beijing against Lithuania appear to be very similar to the tactics used to confront Australia last year. Although the Aussies weathered the storm with an impressive level of ease, whether or not Lithuania emerges from this economic onslaught unharmed remains to be seen. The United States and the E.U. should do everything in their power to ensure that the European nation does. Thankfully, the U.S., France, Germany, the U.K., and the European Parliament have promised to do just that. Will their help be enough? Only time will tell.

Ten thousand kilometers away, another government refuses to bow down to Beijing. With the vast majority of its countries signed up to the Belt and Road, the African continent has no shortage of Chinese clients. However, Somaliland, a territory roughly the size of Arizona whose independence is disputed, is not one of them. As former U.S. national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien recently noted, despite months of intense pressure, the Somaliland government has closed the door to Beijing. Moreover, rather boldly, it has opened the door to Taiwan.

Rather than a Chinese embassy being established in Hargeisa, the country’s capital, a Taiwanese one will be established instead. Clearly appreciative of the gesture, the Taiwanese government now offers scholarship programs for Somaliland students who wish to study in Taipei, writes O’Brien. Furthermore, aid from Taiwan has started “flowing into the country,” helping to supplement “energy, agriculture, and human-capital projects.”

Thirty years ago, Somaliland declared its independence from Somalia, but despite having a fully functioning government and its own currency, it is yet to be recognized as an independent state. Its violent struggle for sovereignty explains its friendship with Taiwan, a country that is no stranger to intimidation. Somaliland, in many ways, is the Taiwan of Africa. Both have struggled, and continue to struggle, for their own identity, and both fight for international recognition.

With Somaliland and Lithuania, the common denominator here is Taiwan. Officially referred to as the Republic of China, will Taiwan’s boldness result in an attack from China? By 2027, according to General Mark Milley, the CCP plans to both invade and conquer the neighbor island. Back in June, Milley commented, “I don’t see [an invasion] happening right out of the blue. There’s no reason for it and the cost to China far exceeds the benefit and President Xi and his military would do the calculation and they know that an invasion—in order to seize an island that big, with that many people and the defensive capabilities the Taiwanese have, would be extraordinarily complicated and costly.”

Then again, considering Milley played a pivotal role in the withdrawal from Afghanistan, maybe we should take his predictions with a generous helping of salt. Or perhaps we should ignore them altogether. The only way to counter China is by having strength in numbers, and this starts by supporting smaller countries that refuse to sign a deal with the Communist devil in Beijing.

John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. His work has been published by the likes of National ReviewNew York PostSouth China Morning Post, and the Sydney Morning Herald. He can be found on Twitter at @ghlionn.