And I thought I had done enough by learning one crazily difficult language, it seems I was wrong. Welcome to the People’s Republic of Croatia (PRC), the 24th province of the Asian motherland. And with a population of only 4 million PRC is the least populated of all the Chinese provinces, only Qinghai with 5.7 million can compare in size, with many provinces over 60 million. Yes, it is time for me to learn another language, Chinese, or more precisely Mandarin.
We are slowly being swallowed up by the Asian giant. Croatia is supposed to be a member of the European Union and not the National People's Congress. However, I am getting the feeling that whenever we need help we are turning East and not West. Not only were we the host of a mega Chinese congress, in which Premiers from all over the region came with hopes of investment from China, but we are also home to a Chinese owned hotel and the biggest Chinese investment in the Croatia, the Peljesac Bridge.
And don’t presume that the Chinese have chosen Croatia as a partner because they love our coastline or have a taste for Rožata. We are one tiny piece in a much bigger plan.
From highways in Pakistan, railways in Kazakhstan and ports in Sri Lanka, the trillion-dollar plan nicknamed Belt Road Initiative. Basically it’s a plan to reroute global trade and the Chinese plan to become the world’s superpower. Romantically it is linked with the former Silk Road but there is no real romance behind the project. They are loaning billions and billions of dollars to countries that will probably never be able to pay the money back. But they are buying power and influence. Italy have recently got on-board with by signing the “Silk Road Pact” earlier this year becoming the first of the G7 countries to jump into bed with the Asian giant. But as public debts in Italy are even worse than in Croatia, sorry the People’s Republic of Croatia, it is easy to see why they are interested in a few billion Yen.
It started back in 2013 when Chinese President, Xi Jinping, stated that “We should take an innovative approach and jointly build an economic belt along the Silk Road.” The first public mention of the Chinese masterplan. And the plan seems to be going full steam ahead. From a new health clinic, two football stadiums and now interest in purchasing Croatia’s ailing shipbuilding industry, we will soon be part of the global jigsaw.
And on a side note it would seem that Chinese business is lacking in creativity, at least when it comes to naming their companies. The Peljesac Bridge is being constructed by the China Road and Bridge Corporation, whilst our shipyards could soon be bought by the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation. Maybe this is a Chinese custom, to name companies directly after what they actually do. They probably don’t have McDonalds or Starbucks in Beijing, instead the China Hamburger Corporation and the China Coffee Corporation.
So I have spent all this time learning Croatian when I should have been learning Mandarin. As the new Silk Road ploughs right through our county think of all the new business opportunities if I was fluent. And will this new shipyard case be only a reflection of the future? When the government is in trouble with another failing public, or indeed private business, will they continue to go cap in hand to China? I am guessing that the EU, of which our government is a huge fan, is far from pleased with the current state of closeness. After all they pretty much funded the Peljesac Bridge and all those millions of Euros are now heading East.
“When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build bridges,” states an ancient Chinese proverb. Are you listening Mr. Trump? For the Chinese are not only building bridges but they are building an economic future, and we are inside their story for world domination, whether we like it or not.