Skip to comments.Is China the new colonial power in Africa?
Posted on 10/31/2006 8:32:17 PM PST by diesel00
By Conal Walsh
THE OBSERVER, LONDON
Wednesday, Nov 01, 2006, Page 9
Once the targets of rioting and insurrection in Africa were European colonial overlords. Today, though, jet-setting Chinese businessmen, arriving in ever greater numbers, are causing a backlash in the world's poorest continent.
Zambia was the scene of the latest trouble early last month, when Chinese shopkeepers in the capital Lusaka were forced to use barricades to protect themselves from looters at the culmination of a bitter election contest fought largely on the issue of China's alleged "exploitation" of the southern African country.
Opposition leader Michael Sata won nearly a third of the vote after accusing the Chinese of making Zambia a "dumping ground for their human beings," and across Africa there is growing alarm, as well as excitement, at China's burgeoning financial and political involvement.
The perils and rewards of Beijing's engagement with Africa are well illustrated in Zambia, where Lusaka's community of Chinese entrepreneurs, diplomats and technicians has grown tenfold to about 30,000 in the past decade.
Investment from China has resurrected the country's moribund Chambishi copper mine, raising the promise of vital revenue. But miners have protested over poor pay and dangerous working conditions, which led to dozens of deaths in an industrial accident earlier this year.
As China aggressively seeks new markets for its exports and new raw materials to feed its explosive economic growth, its involvement in Africa is increasingly the subject of heated international debate.
`Across Africa there is growing alarm, as well as excitement, at China's burgeoning financial and political involvement.'
Just two weeks ago, Paul Wolfowitz, president of the World Bank, criticized China for ignoring human rights and environmental standards when lending to other developing countries.
Beijing, however, shows no signs of being deterred. Today and tomorrow it is hosting leaders from 48 African countries at a summit designed to cement its influence. China's trade with Africa has grown at an astonishing rate, from about US$10 billion in 2000 to an estimated US$50 billion this year.
Wei Jianguo, a government minister, rejected Wolfowitz's criticism, arguing that China's investments were "like sending firewood in the snow" and would provide some of the world's poorest countries with the infrastructure development that they really needed.
He has a point. Chinese investors and state agencies have spent billions on roadbuilding in Kenya, a hydroelectric dam in Ghana and a mobile phone network in Ethiopia. Nigeria, where China has been snapping up oil assets, has a Mandarin-language newspaper serving 50,000 readers -- a community greater in number than the British ever were, even at the height of Empire.
Chinese investment in Africa has overtaken Britain's, and stands only behind that of France and the US.
The opening of new trade and investment corridors between developing countries -- confirmed as a growing phenomenon in UN figures released last week -- is a disconcerting sight for the old powers.
China claims with some credibility to be the champion of developing countries, and Africans are rightly suspicious of finger-wagging lectures from their former colonial masters.
Even so, it is fair to say Beijing is not up with the latest thinking on development. Like Wolfowitz, Bob Geldof, the Live 8 campaigner, has warned that attempts to stamp out corruption in Africa risk being undermined by soft loans and naked mercantilism from China.
The country's banks do not adhere to Western banks' environmentally-conscious "Equator Principles" of lending, and its companies are not required to be transparent about their deals with African dictators.
Beijing cynically sold arms to both sides in the war between Eritrea and Ethiopia. It has swooped on investment opportunities in countries shunned by the West, such as Zimbabwe and Sudan. Its close relationship with Khartoum appears to have played a role in the UN's failure to take serious action against Sudan in relation to massacres in Darfur.
Human Rights Watch has condemned Beijing's attitude. "China can't continue to protect human rights abusers at the expense of civilians just because it is profitable to do so," says Peter Takirambudde, the group's Africa director.
It is also claimed that some local industries are being snuffed out by cheap Chinese imports. Overall, however, Africa's annual GDP growth is a healthy 6 percent, and some experts suggest the economic benefits that China brings outweigh even the political risks.
"Chinese companies are building roads and hospitals, and generally going where Western companies do not dare to go," says Feng Zhang, an analyst at the Foreign Policy Center think tank in London.
"I understand the concern over human rights but so far China's interest has been very good for Africa," he says.
yes next question
Yes, of course. china seeks to rule the world and this Administration has a real blind spot about it.
There are good and bad aspects to this. China providing basic infrastructure (roads, dams, hospitals and schools) to Africa is not a bad thing, but much needed, particularly in the poorest of regions. On the otherhand, the Chinese aren't doing this out of the benevolence of their hearts, they are after Africa's resources. Like with Southeast Asia, raw material enters China, and China sends out finished products at a profit margin. There is nothing wrong with that in principle (it is the basis of capitalism), but the question is whether those raw products are at market value or obtained at a "steal."
After reading your informative post #6. I still think no.
oh, I wasn't disagreeing with you ;) ... Just trying to show that people can kind of argue both ways. Since I see China's actions as mostly economically motivated, I would tend to agree with you that one can't say that's colonization. Otherwise one can argue that the West is colonizing China right now, or even China is colonizing the US via "Made in China" products, which is kind of a ridiculous assertion.
One can almost hear the conversation from the dark continents' leaders; "We have to collectively divide this continents' resources, to our benevolent asian partners we deign our mineral and agricultural rights, to our American partners we invite you to invest 14 billion for aids relief".
The article softpedals China's culpability for the genocide in Darfur ("China....appears to have played a role'). China is the #1 reason for the world's inability to stop the genocide, in spite of all the caterwauling from the George Clooneys of the world.
That's OK. If one could saddle them with all the basket cases of the world, they will collapse under the load.
In africa,we chinese will do better than west whites did
This is also an interesting thing to observe from another angle. The Chinese are from my personal experience one the most hardest working peoples on the face of this planet. What I have seen them do with just plain muscle power and pick and shovel was utterly amazing.
And the Africans are at the opposite extremes. A true clash of cultures.
One could almost want to sit back and watch and see how this would play out...
No. China is just practicing pure capitalism in Africa. You can argue whether China's capitalism in Afirca is good or bad, but it is not colonism.
And saying China is trying to colonize Africa is insulting the Africans too. The Africans are equal partners of China. If they don't like the Chinese deals, they don't have to take it. If the Africans want something from China, then they need to give something to China in return.
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