"Once upon a time, Europe colonised bits of China. Today, China colonises bits of Europe."
Quite a statement, but increasingly true...40% of current Chinese investment in the EU lies in Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece and eastern Europe, and PM Wen Jiabao plus his entourage have also visited Spain, Portugal and Greece in the last year alone. This piece in the Guardian describes China's growing peripheral EU presence in a way that reminds me of basic continental military strategy, but executed in a more au courant economic sense.
I don't think China is alone in this kind of global expansion (though their presence on the African continent is more noticeable than ever); it's the new way to flourish. Key economic relations are starting to replace military strategies in governments more and more, as it's more cost effective and long term to invest in economic strategy than dump resources into large scale physical conflict.