China this week signed an historic trade agreement with 14 other countries, not including the UK or US. It is one of the biggest free trade deals in history, covering more than two billion people and 30 percent of the world’s economic output Beijing, which has proved itself an economic global heavyweight in recent decades, will be pleased with the deal: it has been interpreted as a significant step towards removing trade barriers, as well as extending China’s influence.
President Xi Jinping already enjoys considerable influence over business the world over, even without any trade agreements in place, Yaqiu Wang, China researcher at the organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW), told Express.co.uk.
There are a slew of public incidents which prove this.
The US-based NBA – the National Basketball Association – was hit hard after the former boss of the Houston Rockets, Daryl Morey, retweeted a message in support of protestors in Hong Kong last year.
Chinese firms immediately suspended sponsorship and telecast deals.
China’s state broadcaster, China Central Television (CCTV), later scrapped plans to show two NBA pre-season games – and the league’s boss later revealed that the Chinese government demanded he fire Mr Morey.
The move is believed to have cost the NBA millions of dollars.
As Ms Wang explained: “I’m sure the NBA is just one case – it’s the tip of the iceberg.
“Why did China tell Adam Silver (NBA’s boss) to fire Morey? Because they knew China is a big money maker for the NBA.
Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the prestigious prize by the Norwegian Nobel Committee – much to China’s dismay.
At the time, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said the award showed a lack of respect for China’s judicial system and damaged ties between the two countries.
It quickly moved to cancel two cabinet-level meetings with Norway, call off a Norwegian cultural event in China and, perhaps most importantly, looked to economically squeeze Norway by slapping hefty additional import controls on Norwegian salmon.
Further, in 2016, when South Korea agreed to allow the US to deploy its Terminal High-Altitude Aerial Defence System (THAADS), China reacted furiously, stopping Chinese tourists from visiting South Korea, refusing to award visas for Korean pop stars, and shutting down South Korean-related supermarkets in the mainland.
As Mr King summed up: “They use economic coercion to get what they want. It’s that simple.”
China in recent years has also embarked on what is known as the Belt and Road Initiative.
This looks to further its influence in Central Asia and Africa, where it has started offering to build modern infrastructure and fund engineering projects, apparently at no cost to the governments there.
There are currently thought to be more than 18 active road building projects being carried out by China across Africa.
Meanwhile, Express.co.uk recently reported that China has quietly taken over a staggering 115 British firms in the past decade.