No need to worry about China's investment in Philippines' power grid
Andrew Korybko

Editor's note: Andrew Korybko is a Moscow-based American political analyst. The article reflects the author's opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

CNN published a scandalous article on Tuesday allegedly based on an internal report prepared by a Philippine government body for that country's lawmakers claiming that China's investment in their power grid amounts to a national security threat. According to the outlet, the 40 percent stake that China's State Grid Corporation holds in the National Power Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) could be abused by Beijing to shut down power to the country "with a single switch."

To their credit, CNN made their readers aware early on in the article: "There is no history of such an attack on a power grid by China, nor has any evidence been presented to suggest that any was imminent, only that it was theoretically possible in future," though they then continued to talk about the most scandalous claims in the supposed report. One of the main ones is that China has installed proprietary Huawei technology in the Philippine power grid that thus makes the host country strategically dependent on its partner.

"We support Chinese companies conducting business in the Philippines in accordance with laws and regulations to expand mutual benefits and win-win cooperation. We hope certain individuals in the Philippines view such bilateral cooperation with an open mind as well as an objective and fair attitude. They shouldn't over-worry or even fabricate things out of thin air," clarified the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Nothing that China is doing is illegal or without the knowledge of the host state. The Philippines chose China as its partner in this sphere after privatizing NGCP in 2009 because it made the sovereign decision that this was the best choice in order to advance its national interests. There's also nothing wrong with China installing state-of-the-art Huawei technology to modernize the Philippines' outdated infrastructure in line with the presumed expectations of their business partnership.

A Huawei store in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China /VCG Photo

A Huawei store in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China /VCG Photo

Over-worrying and fabricating unsubstantiated speculations about China's supposedly hostile intentions goes against the spirit of the Sino-Philippine friendship. Moreover, it also generates unnecessary fear about other countries' joint ventures with China that could then be exploited by self-interested third parties to put pressure on Beijing's partners to replace their competitor with them instead on the basis of so-called "national security concerns."

Similarly, false narratives have been spread about Chinese investments in Sri Lanka, for example, though CNN's Philippines report is the first time that Beijing has been accused of potentially having the capabilities (let alone intention) to blackout an entire country as a result of its joint ventures. This represents a dramatic escalation in the fear-mongering claims about China, and it can only be hoped that Philippine lawmakers take an objective stance towards this report and don't overreact to it.

As CNN itself even said, they only reported on a scenario that they claimed "was theoretically possible in the future." It's an example of selective editorial standards to write about something as far-fetched as that while eschewing other more likely scenarios about different countries' possible intents. The fact of the matter is that everything being talked about is purely speculative and, therefore, shouldn't be taken seriously, even though the agenda behind these claims is to influence lawmakers to overreact to them possibly.

China has absolutely no interest in abusing its joint investments with any of its Belt and Road Initiative partners because these types of deals represent an important element of that worldwide connectivity vision. There is no way that China would undermine its own international credibility and jeopardize its future partnerships elsewhere by blacking out the Philippines "with a single switch."

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