China in Africa

Quotes from the’s article on China’s Long March Across Africa: Despite Western suspicions, China is offering concrete solutions to Africa’s economic woes:

– – –

. . . There are already more Chinese living in Nigeria than there were Britons during the height of the empire. . . .

. . . China has not had to grapple with the colonial hangover that has plagued European countries and, to a lesser extent, the United States. Speaking recently of Western military involvement on the continent, Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, said as much. “You risk the backlash from the people, from the legacy that was left in Africa because of the era of colonialism,” he warned. And when it comes to development and commerce, Westerners still appear to believe more in humanitarian aid than in humanitarian trade.

As a result, African nations—whose long-term needs are better met with roads and steel than with 10-point plans—find laissez-faire China a more attractive partner. This dynamic does not apply to every country in Africa, or to every Chinese business deal. But despite uncomfortable echoes of imperialism, in practice China is the only global power laying the tracks for an Africa-wide economic renaissance. . .

[How do they do it?]

. . . The formula, he says, is simple: “One, they take greater business risk, and two, they don’t attach the political conditions that the West tends to impose.” . . .

[State backing]

. . . China’s aggressive march across Africa has also been fueled by a desperate appetite for resources. . .

. . . But will these deals help Africans? The answer is unclear.

[Re: Congo’s “ore for infrastructure“] . . . most experts acknowledge that the financial terms are probably going to favor China in the end. Indeed, some tallies put the value of Congolese industrial metals at a whopping $87 billion, nearly 10 times the value of the current deal. . .

. . . It’s easy to see why detractors call this deal the “Chinese Takeout.” They fear that resource-rich nations like the DRC will industrialize, expand and develop economically—and only then realize that brokers sold the farm for beans in 2008. Already, all but 13 of the nations in Africa are running trade deficits with China. To move from the pocket of imperialists to the pocket of a rights-averse patron state is hardly a step forward for the young governments of the continent. But, as Shinn notes, “I’m not sure that the DRC had much choice…. For a deal this big, it was either go with China or take an arrangement that would have had so many conditions attached to it, it would have been unacceptable.” . . .

[Re: the absence of the western private sector in Africa:] “It is really a shame that Europeans … who have powerful construction and energy companies, speak the language of the people and are accustomed to working in Africa hiring locals, did not offer an exchange similar to the Chinese.”

With sustained concentration on infrastructure, industry and agriculture, NGOs and Western businesses could make a world of difference in emerging economies. African regional blocs . . . are increasingly focused on such projects—but few private, Western interests have shown a willingness to meet them halfway. According to Princeton Lyman, a former ambassador to Nigeria and South Africa now at the Council on Foreign Relations, China “combines aid and investment” in a compelling fashion, versus the West’s notion of how to “help” Africa, in which mosquito nets and vaccinations still dominate the dialogue. “They’re really not doing much,” Shinn says of Western capitalists. “If you subtract out oil investment, there isn’t much left.” . . .

. . . President Bush’s Millennium Challenge Account focuses on infrastructure (though stringent eligibility requirements have allowed only 19 of 57 countries to participate). . .

. . . Western governments have been known to tout their substantial foreign aid, or China’s maleficent allies, or Africa’s terrible governance as a means of discounting their own sluggishness on large-scale private development. Some of the reluctance is purely imagistic—the Dark Continent is no place to send one’s enlightened euros. Some of it is systemic—governmental corruption remains a blight on the face of Africa. But despite that reality, continent-wide economic growth now averages 5.7 percent, and the Nigerian and Johannesburg stock exchanges have experienced massive inflows of capital in the past two years.

So whether visionary or malign, “ChinAfrica” has singlehandedly changed the face of development economics on the African continent. . .

. . . If the West wants to push back China’s undemocratic influence across Africa, it will have to match China’s economic commitments on the continent. There are 900 million African faces waiting to greet the future as it approaches—from east or west.


It’s a fascinating article; read it all at China’s Long March Across Africa.

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