"When it comes to China, the bottom line there is the checkbook," he said. "Not only in the dollars and cents that they are writing to support their military expansion and their technological work, but what they're doing around the globe… weaponizing capital."
It is one of the most ambitious projects in the $1.4 trillion "Belt and Road Initiative," an enormous infrastructure network that is meant to increase trade — and Chinese influence — throughout Eurasia.
Hambantota will also be part of the "String of Pearls," a network of ports in the Indian Ocean where Chinese warships can refuel. However, Colombo promised India that they would not allow China to militarize the base and it would solely be used for commercial purposes. Other countries involved in the String of Pearls are Bangladesh and Pakistan.
"Going into Sri Lanka, redoing the port, putting an interest rate — not as aid, but as a total secured loan with a pretty hefty coupon — [the] debtor fails on that and the asset owner comes and reclaims it and says, 'These are now ours,'" Spencer told the committee. "They're doing that around the globe."
"Their concern with human rights is not there, they've got big bags of cash. They're buying airfields and ports to extend their reach… they want to win without fighting," he said.
Beijing has also been ramping up military spending since the mid-2000s, making the country a distant second to the US in terms of military spending worldwide. In March 2017, they announced that defense spending would be increased 7 percent in 2017, an increase of $11.1 billion.