The Winter Olympic Games are already a propaganda coup for China. A brutal regime accused of genocide is hosting several thousand of the world’s top athletes while Western corporations lavish hundreds of millions of dollars on television coverage and advertising, seemingly oblivious to the internment camps of Xinjiang, holding more than a million Uyghurs.
It's a depressing spectacle. The near-global acceptance of the Games in China are a shameful reminder of the willingness of many in the free world to turn a blind eye to mass murder and gross inhumanity inflicted by a tyrannical dictatorship.
Behind the scenes at the Beijing Olympics, China’s Communist rulers have been busy exercising soft power with multiple countries keen to build stronger business, trade and investment ties with the world’s second largest economy. One of those nations is Argentina, a Latin American basket case, sinking beneath the weight of $323 billion worth of public debt, the result of decades of misgovernment, corruption and failed economic policies.
Buenos Aires is rapidly falling into Beijing’s sphere of influence through China’s imperial-style Belt and Road initiative. Like many debtor nations, Argentina is becoming increasingly dependent upon the largesse of China, and its promises of infrastructure development and much-needed foreign direct investment.
For China’s Communist Party rulers, Argentina, the second-largest country in South America, is a useful strategic satellite, increasingly tied to the orbit of Beijing. It has added value because it is a thorn in the side of a nation that is rapidly becoming one of China’s strongest adversaries on the world stage: Great Britain. Hence the joint statement this week in the shadow of the Winter Games from Chinese Premier Xi Xinping and Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez, declaring that China “reaffirms its support for Argentina’s demand for the full exercise of sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands.”
The joint show of solidarity between the Argentines and Chinese over the Falkland Islands, a British Overseas Territory, should be cause for concern in London. Already the Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has issued a stern rebuke, calling on China to respect the Falklands’ sovereignty and warning that “the Falklands are part of the British family and we will defend their right to self-determination.”
This is the right response from London. The only language the Chinese Communist Party understands is strength and resolve. Beijing will exploit any sign of weakness on this issue. We should expect to see Chinese diplomats increasingly on the offensive over the Falklands at the United Nations, and in its growing engagement with the 34-member Organization of American States.
The new Beijing-Buenos Aires axis is an illustration not only of China’s growing economic muscle in Latin America. It is also a battering ram to attack and undermine the UK in the arena of international organizations. China’s Communist rulers recognize Britain in the Brexit era as a threat to its interests. Global Britain is by far the most powerful opponent in Europe of China’s nefarious ambitions on the world stage. While the European Union and its biggest powers are happy to appease the Chinese dragon, especially on economic matters, the British government is standing up to Communist China, from Hong Kong to the South China Sea.
There is no room for complacency in the UK. Communist China must be recognized for what it is—the enemy of the free world, and a ruthless genocidal power that seeks to crush dissent and opposition. The Chinese, which seek to weaken Britain at every opportunity, will concentrate significant strategic and diplomatic energy into backing Argentina’s attempts to intimidate and isolate the Falklands.
We should be on our guard. In the coming years and decades, Argentina will ramp up its threats against the Falklands, and may look to China for logistical, strategic and even military support. Britain’s defenses must be strong and robust, ensuring that no aggressor will ever again take away the sovereignty, self-determination and freedom of the Falkland Islanders.
This piece originally appeared in The Telegraph