Prince Charles ‘nods off’ during ceremony in Barbados
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It comes as Barbados ended the Queen's 55 years as the independent nation's head of state, though sought to remain a member of the Commonwealth. Security specialist Edward Lucas said that in doing so, "as well as losing a monarch, the West Indian island gained an emperor".
This week Richard Moore, head of MI6, warned that China is laying "debt traps and data traps" around the world in its quest for dominance.
The intelligence chief added that Beijing was "trying to use influence through its economic policies to […] get people on the hook".
Mr Lucas explained that China was giving smaller nations loans it knows they will never be able to pay back, becoming "forever dependent" on the far east superpower.
He added: "Few places better exemplify this chilling new imperialism than the countries of the Commonwealth."
‘As well as losing a monarch, the West Indian island gained an emperor’ (Image: Getty)
One example is the Belt and Road Initiative – which China has propagated to fund large infrastructure projects in Asian, African and Central European states.
According to an estimate by the Henry Jackson Society, since 2005 Beijing has spent £685billion on Commonwealth nations.
The funds reportedly include £5billion for five Commonwealth nations in the Caribbean: Barbados, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Antigua and Barbuda, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Jamaica on its own has seen investment of around £2billion.
Barbados ended the Queen's 55 years as the independent nation's head of state (Image: Getty)
China's growing clout among these nations was due to ‘neglect’ from the UK (Image: Getty)
The economic imperialism displayed by China is already paying dividends, Mr Lucas said.
In a recent vote on the situation in Hong Kong at the UN, China was backed by Papua New Gunea and Antigua and Barbuda – which still have the Queen as the head of state.
Sierra Leone, Zambia, Lesotho, Cameroon and Mozambique – all Commonwealth nations – also sided with Beijing on the matter.
China's growing clout among these nations, despite their historic ties to Britain, was due to "neglect" from the UK.
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‘Charles referred to the “appalling atrocity” of slavery — China happily practices imperialism now’ (Image: Getty)
Writing in the Mail, Mr Lucas said: "As Britain's global, political and economic influence dwindles, China, patient and wily, is filling the gap — and the cooperative body that unites most of our former empire is ripe for picking. That would have seemed unthinkable only a few years ago.
He added: "Despite its name, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has consistently neglected our former empire.
"Dozens of embassies and missions in Africa, the Pacific and the Caribbean have closed as UK governments concentrated on promoting trade and investment in more promising climes."
The Windrush scandal also "shrivelled British prestige" in Caribbean countries.
Mr Lucas claimed: "Chinese propaganda gleefully highlights these woes and fans resentments.
‘Commonwealth countries seem all too ready to overlook Beijing's appalling record on human rights’ (Image: Getty)
"How ironic, though, that while Britain agonises over its imperial history — and Prince Charles, in Barbados, referred to the 'appalling atrocity' of slavery — China happily practises imperialism right now.
"The fact is that Britain devoted huge resources to extirpating slavery across its empire. But China consigns hundreds of thousands of its own citizens to labour camps.
"Yet Commonwealth countries seem all too ready to overlook Beijing's appalling record on human rights."
There are, however, some exceptions to the lure of China among Commonwealth nations, specifically some of the larger economies.
India is a "rival and resolute foe" to its neighbour, with skirmishes along their shared border.
Mr Lucas added: "Australia and Canada — also in the Commonwealth — have witnessed ruthless efforts by Beijing to exploit the Chinese diaspora, to muzzle academic and media freedom, and to punish critics."
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