Engulf and devour
On June 16, 1976, 20th Century Fox released “Silent Movie,” a parody on the strategy of large business corporations in buying up small film studios. Cowritten and directed by American comedian Mel Brooks, the film alluded to the brazen takeover of Paramount Pictures by the behemoth business group, the Gulf+Western Co. The fictional company portrayed in the movie was aptly called Engulf and Devour, with its hegemonic slogan, “we put our fingers in everything.”
“Engulf and devour” is rather redundant, since both words mean to swallow up or consume voraciously. But using the two words together is a powerful metaphor for deceptive, rapacious acts of huge entities to entrap smaller, gullible and hapless groups to a destructive relationship. Think of a huge and deceptively lovely Venus flytrap carnivorous plant opening itself up to entice insects like flies to their death.
In the business world, huge conglomerates put pressure on smaller enterprises to coerce the latter into lopsided mergers, with the huge one dictating the terms. Countries with neocolonial ambitions, like China, are also resorting to similar engulf and devour strategies.
Starting 2000, several African countries had taken loans from the Chinese government amounting to a staggering $124 billion by 2016, says Ibrahim Anoba, a senior fellow at AfricanLiberty.com. Accordingly, the Chinese government has used the “development deficit” in the African continent to keep “African future under its [Chinese government’s] arms.”
China has not only dipped its fingers in everything that Africa has in terms of its rich natural resources like copper and crude oil; it has also flexed its scheming muscles to engulf the economies of sub-Saharan African countries through onerous loans. When these countries are no longer able to repay their loans, the Chinese government “devours” them by taking control of their strategic resources, like electric power, water, mining and communications, as in the case of Zambia.
Lately, China has taken control of Zambia’s national broadcasting company, the ZNBC. It is soon poised to take over Zambia’s national electric power corporation, and as Anoba predicts, the main airport in the capital city of Lusaka will become the Chinese government’s next target for takeover.
No less than the International Monetary Fund has warned African leaders of the “bad intentions” of Chinese government loans. Anoba argues that African leaders’ lack of thought and foresight on the consequences of huge loans made them hastily sign the loan agreements without a vetting process.
China has cunningly played into African countries’ vulnerability in its “smart and deliberate” efforts to use the ineptness of some African leaders by luring them to incur huge loans. And China is deviously keeping the details of the repayment from “the eyes of the prying public,” claims Anoba.
This is eerily familiar, as the Philippine government, under President Duterte, has already embarked on similar moves to be prey to China’s enticements for a “come-into-my-parlor” kind of debt trap. Think of PRRD’s China-financed “Build, build, build” programs.
President Xi Jinping’s recent visit to Manila has confirmed Mr. Duterte’s subservience to China. PRRD and his subalterns have bragged about significant agreements signed with China, but are not keen on disclosing the terms and conditions of such agreements. This is what African leaders did when they inked loans with China.
China is already engulfing the Philippines into its not-so-nurturing fold. If we will not be vigilant in demanding transparency on government’s moves toward indebtedness to China, we might be in for a huge but tragic surprise, when our vital resources will have already been devoured, or taken over by China.
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