According to a Dutch report from the Clingendael China Center, the Chinese government is increasingly present in European ports, including those of Zeebrugge and Antwerp, particularly during 2018.
The center said increasing Chinese investment in sea container ports threatens to make EU member states more economically and politically dependent on Beijing.
According to the authors of this report, Belgium and the Netherlands in particular have become more vulnerable to the influence of the Chinese authorities, while the Middle Kingdom has a large share of Belgian container terminals.
In the port of Zeebrugge, around 90% of the container terminal is owned by the state-owned China COSCO Shipping. This shipping company is the largest in the world and is the third largest international container transporter.
The Chinese government is its main shareholder, the report said. According to researcher Frans-Paul van der Putten, from the Clingendael China Center, “Political orientation is therefore a potentially decisive factor, today and in the future, for this state enterprise”.
The latter highlighted the example of Greece. During the economic crisis of 2008, China COSCO Shipping bought the container terminal of the port of Piraeus, thereby becoming the majority shareholder of the port.
Beijing’s economic influence, he says, is reflected in the positions of the Greek government at the European level. Athens therefore opposed in 2016 a critical statement by the European Union on China’s attitude in the South China Sea.
Greece vetoed a European resolution to condemn the Asian giant’s human rights positions at a UN council. In the same year, Greece spoke out against an EU mechanism to tighten up controls on investors outside the Union.