Monday, March 5, 2007
Chinese Ownership of Mexican Port Causing
By Nancy Conroy
Chinese control of worldwide port facilities
is an issue that should be reexamined in light of recent concerns about rising Chinese influence around the globe. The Chinese company Hutchison Whampoa, owned by Chinese billionaire Li Ka Shing, controls 35 major ports
in the world, including the four most important ports in Mexico.
Hutchison is about to build a brand new port at Punta
Colonet, a Baja California cove located just two hours south of the US border. In
the event of a conflict with China, a Chinese built and controlled port so close to the US could potentially function as a
staging area for hostile activities. Also, the US should keep an eye on Huchison’s
remarkably friendly relationship with the Mexican government.
Hutchison Ports Holding, part of the Hutchison Whampoa
group, runs 35 ports including the Bahamas, Buenos Aires, and two in the Panama Canal. And again, it is owned by Li Ka Shing,
China’s most influential billionaire who is known as “The Superman of the Orient.” In 2003 Forbes magazine
ranked him fifth among the world's ten “most powerful” billionaires, behind Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Silvio
Berlusconi and Rupert Murdoch.
A 1998 declassified Army intelligence report
stated "Li Ka-shing, the owner of Hutchison Whampoa [Limited] … is directly connected to Beijing and is willing to use
his business influence to further the aims of the Chinese government."
During the public debate over the Panama Canal turnover
in 1999, several members of Congress expressed concern about Hutchison’s control of ports on both sides of the Canal. The critics argued that Hutchison’s involvement essentially meant that control
of the strategic waterway was being handed over to the communist Chinese government.
Admiral Thomas Moorer told The New American magazine that "The Chinese penetration of Panama has been effected primarily through an entity
known as the Panama Ports Company, a front corporation for Hutchison-Whampoa Limited, a Communist Chinese-controlled company
owned by Hong Kong billionaire Dr. Li Ka-shing. Dr. Li’s business empire has long been intertwined with enterprises
that front for the Communist military and intelligence arms of the People’s Republic of China. Ten percent of his Panama
Ports Company is owned by China Resources, the commercial arm of China’s Ministry of Trade and Economic Cooperation.”
If Hutchison Whampoa is connected to the Chinese
government, the US should take notice of this company’s plans to build a new port in Baja California. The new port would be located two hours south of the US border, at a remote location called Punta Colonet.
The area is desolate, totally empty, far from populated
areas, and prying eyes could easily be kept out. All infrastructure, railways,
roads and port facilities would need to be constructed from the ground up. During
construction, it would be reasonable to cordon off the construction area and keep people out for security reasons.
The Chinese could quietly erect “special”
installations disguised as something else, unnoticed amongst the massive construction project.
Then Chinese ships could unload cargo items directly into the dual-purpose installations, or send presents to the US
via the connected railway. Viola! A Chinese military base 200 miles from the
The ability to pull off such a maneuver would require
enormous political clout in Mexico, which Hutchison already has. Tijuana politician
Jaime Martinez Veloz has alleged that Hutchison has a track record of power mongering and insider maneuvering in Mexico.
Martinez said that Hutchison obtained the concession
to operate the Lazaro Cardenas port using a method that Martinez described as “a vile swamp of transnational, governmental
and business corruption.” He added, “the favoritism and partiality
of the Mexican port authorities towards the oriental consortium Hutchison has ‘inexplicable’ reasons, but one
day they will be known.”
Martinez also mentioned that Hutchison’s owner,
Li Ka Shing, might have a track record of making enormous donations to political parties in various countries.
Former Baja California governor Ernesto Ruffo is
now functioning as Li Ka Shing’s Mexican front man, promoting the port in conjunction with rich local partners. The permits for the project are not in place, and there are pending lawsuits, but
the Chinese victory already looks like a done deal.
Anyone concerned about a possible conflict with China
should take a close look at the plans for the new Punta Colonet port, since the project could provide a bit more than what
was bargained for.
Conroy, a MexiData.info guest columnist, is the Publisher of northern Baja California’s biweekly Gringo Gazette North. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.