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Should we Fear Li Ka-shing?
Why is Asia's Most Powerful Man Buying Global Crossing

February 15, 2002


He’s listed number one on Asiaweek’s annual Asia Power List –the most important person in Asia, above Jiang Zemin, President of China, above Idei Nobuyuki, Chairman (Designate) and C.O.O. of Sony, ahead of the leaders of South Korea, North Korea, Indonesia, and every other country of Asia.

He is Li Ka-shing, Chairman of Chueng Kong Holdings.  And his multibillion dollar conglomerate, Hutchinson Whampoa Ltd., along with Singapore Technologies Telemedia Pte. Ltd., plans to bail out Global Crossing -- in the process taking control of valuable broadband infrastructure assets in Asia and elsewhere. This has raised concerns in Washington.

As reported February 12, 2002 by Charles R. Smith in NewsMax.com, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican, has sent letters to President Bush, the attorney general, the Department of Defense and the investigative arm of Congress demanding an inquiry into the plan.  This is according to Al Santoli, national security adviser to Rohrabacher.

You can understand the Congressman’s concern.  For along with major telecommunication businesses Li Ka-shing’s Hutchinson Whampoa is also a major worldwide port operator.  Yes, this is the same company that has taken over two comparatively small and underdeveloped ports on both sides of the Panama Canal as well as a proposed major container port in the Bahamas.

Smith quotes an Oct. 1999 Intelligence Assessment prepared by the U.S. military Southern Command, the Hong Kong billionaire is a potential threat to America.  “Hutchison's containerized shipping facilities in the Panama Canal, as well as the Bahamas, could provide a conduit for illegal shipments of technology or prohibited items from the West to the PRC, or facilitate the movement of arms and other prohibited items into the Americas.”

Smith also makes a convincing case that there exists a strong and mutually beneficial commercial relation between Li Ka-shing and the Chinese government, especially its military.

But the Global Crossing bailout illustrates that globalism, and the infrastructure that supports it, is an economic freeway that travels in both directions, with unpredictable social and political results.

Hutchinson and its Singapore partner will manage to control key backhaul lines from Southeast Asia into Mainland China, and a valuable but underutilized fiber optic system to Europe.   In the case of Asia, the Internet infrastructure will facilitate a broadband base for the economic expansion of China.

Back in May 2000, Asia Global Crossing and Singapore Technologies Telemedia Pte. Ltd announced a major joint venture to extend Asia Global Crossing's pan-Asian network into Singapore and enhance the data-centric services offered over that network. Asia Global Crossing boasted among its partners Microsoft.

The joint venture's fiber optic system would connect Singapore with more than 200 major business centers worldwide via the Global Crossing Network.  But the ultimate goal, according to the Global Crossing press release, was to “land our East Asia Crossing cable in Taiwan, Korea, and, as regulations permit, China.”

So the purchase of Global Crossing by Li Ka-shing’s company appears to be part of an overall multibillion dollar business strategy that stresses domination of the Hong Kong/China network and includes presently:  mobile telephony , paging, trunked mobile radio, fixed-line services, internet services, fiber optic broadband networks, and radio broadcasting.  Li Ka-shing’s Hutchison Telecommunications group also stretches to Southeast Asia, Europe, Australia, Israel, India, Sri Lanka, Paraguay, Argentina, and Ghana.

The question remains does the absorption of major Internet infrastructure in Asia and Europe threaten U.S. security, or, does the bailout strengthen the necessary infrastructure for U.S. companies who operate or plan to operate in China and Southeast Asia? Internet infrastructure is a double-edged technology—an uncertain media with limitless capabilities, unlike the satellite and ballistic technology transferred in the nineties, which have more immediate military uses.

For China, control over Internet networks could have military significance during a military crisis (including shutdowns in Europe and elsewhere).  For the present, the Global Crossing takeover appears to be a very lucrative business venture.  And overall outcomes of Internet usage, whether commercial or personal uses, have proved unpredictable.  Bringing Broadband Internet to China, with its streaming capabilities, would certainly have unpredictable results but hopefully positive outcomes in China for its growing middle class. It would also facilitate China’s continued economic expansion.

For Li Ka-shing his multibillion dollar conglomerate--Hutchison Whampoa – stands to gain being China’s mega- internet provider.   That seems to be the very thick bottom line, for now.

For the NewsMax.com Article: http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2002/2/11/184102.shtml


Award-winning TV producer, talk show host, and Republican leader Arthur Bruzzone has written over 150 political articles for national and regional media, and has commented on political issues for American and European television and radio networks.  His articles and columns have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, Campaign & Elections Magazine, among other publications.

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