China in Africa. Neo-colonialism or a New Avenue for South-South Cooperation? A Review of Perspectives. Étienne Girouard For the Africa-Canada Forum

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1 China in Africa Neo-colonialism or a New Avenue for South-South Cooperation? A Review of Perspectives By Étienne Girouard For the Africa-Canada Forum April 2008

2 China in Africa Neo-colonialism or a New Avenue for South-South Cooperation? Introduction China in Africa: Neo-colonialism or a New Avenue for South-South Cooperation? At the last World Social Forum, held in Nairobi, Kenya, in January 2007, China s presence in Africa and a multifaceted array of related socioeconomic implications continuously cropped up in discussions concerning development issues on the Continent. 1 China s insatiable appetite for raw materials, which has been attributed to its colossal economic development, begs the question of whether the People s Republic of China (PRC) is devouring Africa in the same way that Western imperialist powers did in the 19th and 20th centuries. 2 Some observers, on the other hand, claim that China s increased presence is a stimulus that can help to emancipate Africa from rigid Western controls such as structural adjustments, described by many observers as straitjacket measures that locked the Continent into a neo-colonial relationship and made development either an impossibility or, at best, a mere theoretical concept. 3 The objective of this report is to shed light on the ins and outs of China s presence on the African Continent. Today s China is a country that inspires both fear and wonder. The phenomenal development that has characterized the PRC since the early 1980s has often caused the West to simplify the facts, in some cases by exploiting people s fears and prejudices about China, and in others by hailing the miracles accomplished by China s economic model. Of course, when China threatens to use its increasingly dominant influence over areas such as Africa, historically associated with Western colonialism and imperialism, China is depicted as a conqueror whose actions are frequently unscrupulous in matters of human and labour rights, the environment, natural resources, debt, and various other issues related to development. Following a brief overview of the context surrounding China s presence in Africa, this paper will analyze different issues and views concerning this presence Bello, Walden. China Provokes Debate in Africa. Foreign Policy in Focus: Rocha, John. A New Frontier in the Exploitation of Africa s Natural Resources: The Emergence of China in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, 2007, p Polgreen, Lydia and Howard French. China, Filling a Void, Drills for Riches in Chad. New York Times: August 13, China in Africa: Neo-colonialism or a New Avenue for South-South Cooperation 1

3 The Context China and Africa: Current Situation and Communities of Interests In 1978 Deng Xiaoping and other Chinese leaders decided to turn their backs on Maoism by introducing market-based economic reforms aimed at opening the Chinese economy to foreign investment. From the standpoint of China s leaders, the primary objective of the economic reforms was to give a second wind to the country s political regime, whose existence had been seriously jeopardized by the previous 20 years of Maoist excesses. They believed that the integration of China s economy into the world market, which was then in the midst of an accelerated globalization process, would lead to the country s modernization, stimulate economic development, and increase the population s standard of living. Underlying the desire for economic reform were two main factors. First, there were internal factors related to the will of the Chinese Communist Party elite to retain privileges and power as well as to rebuild legitimacy in the wake of such failures as the Hundred Flowers Campaign, The Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution, 4 which brought decades of economic hardships. Second, there were external factors arising from new international standards and a new international situation characterized by interdependencies and cooperation. This situation made economic development more difficult than ever for a country that remained outside the global economy. The path chosen by post-maoist China had a profound effect on Beijing s foreign policy. The regime made sustained economic development a sine qua non of the Communist Party s political legitimacy, and the very survival of the regime depends on its ability to ensure and maintain such development. Chinese leaders have never hesitated to use their foreign policy to find markets for their burgeoning export production and to secure access for China to much needed raw materials. 5 Starting in 2003, under Hu Jintao, China s foreign policy has been based on the doctrine of fu zeren de daguo waijiao, or the diplomacy of a responsible great power, which prescribes the importance of taking initiatives on issues of cooperation and multilateralism. 6 African States appear to be more and more disenchanted with the Washington Consensus Western model, which associates economic development with democracy, economic transparency, and respect for human rights. 7 A number of authors agree that the structural adjustment programs imposed on countries by the Bretton Woods institutions have actually driven most developing countries into globalized poverty by limiting the role of the State and preventing it from attending to social justice. 8 NEPAD, an economic development program launched in 2001 within the framework of the African Union, was also part of the current that Bianco, Lucien. Les origines de la révolution chinoise Folio: Paris, 1997, p Truffaut, Serge. Le Darfour chinois. Le Devoir: June 4, Chung, Jae-Ho. China s Korea Policy under the New Leadership: Stealth Changes in the Making. The Journal of East Asian Affairs 18 (no. 4), 2004, p Obiorah, Ndubisi. Who s Afraid of China in Africa? Towards an African Civil Society Perspective on China- Africa Relations in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, 2007, p.42. Chossudvovsky, Michel. La mondialisation de la pauvreté. Écosociété: Montréal, China in Africa: Neo-colonialism or a New Avenue for South-South Cooperation 2

4 questioned the direction taken during the 1980s and 1990s. Though it has not advocated severing relations with Western countries, NEPAD has clearly attempted to review development perspectives by insisting on the critical need for African countries to rely on their own strengths, maximize their leadership, develop their domestic markets, provide for good governance, and depend on their own labour force. 9 Some people have nevertheless spoken out against NEPAD: they include Senegal s President Abdoulaye Wade and representatives of several African NGOs, who view NEPAD as a Western project intended to entrench Africa in a perpetual Third World state. 10 Many African States are searching for alternative reference points and models, and the Chinese model is obviously an attractive one, particularly because the Chinese and Africans feel that they are linked by a common history as victims of the imperialism and colonialism practised by Westerners, Arabs, the Soviets, and the Japanese. From this perspective, Senegal s President Wade was in no way hesitant when he referred to the Chinese as business partners who are much more pragmatic and efficient than Western bureaucrats. 11 In the same vein, the former President of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo asserted that the success of the Chinese model could be attributed to the fact that the instability created by democracy sometimes prevents the preservation of the strong political leadership required to accelerate development and economic modernization. 12 Furthermore, African Development Bank President Donald Kaberuka stated plainly that China should be the primary model and source of inspiration for African countries in their quest for develop. Consequently, starting in the late 1990s, relations between the PRC and the African Continent have expanded in several areas, including development assistance, direct investment, economic and technical assistance, and university exchanges. Since 2000, periodic Sino-African summits with the presence, in some cases, of more than 40 heads of state, have become the cornerstone for increasing cooperation between China and African countries. 13 At the 2006 Sino-African Summit in Beijing, China s Prime Minister Wen Jiabao made a commitment to take economic exchanges beyond $100 billion by China s influence in Africa is growing. By 2005 China had become the Continent s third largest economic partner, trailing only the United States and France, while leading the United Kingdom. 15 In 2006, Sino-African trade had reached a record $55 billion Rocha, John. A New Frontier in the Exploitation of Africa s Natural Resources: The Emergence of China in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, 2007, p Ba, Diadie. Independent Online: 68&art_id=nw C Senegalese President Calls China Great Partner for Africa. Xinhuanet. english/ /10/content_ htm Marks, Stephen. Introduction in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, 2007, p.11. The Economist. Asia: On Safari; Chinese Summitry: November 4, Marks, Stephen. Introduction in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, 2007, p.2. Servant, Jean-Christophe. La Chine à l assaut du marché africain. Le Monde diplomatique: May Polgreen, Lydia and Howard French. China, Filling a Void, Drills for Riches in Chad. New York Times: August 13, China in Africa: Neo-colonialism or a New Avenue for South-South Cooperation 3

5 Analysis of Major Issues When we look at China-Africa relationship through a development lens a number of issues surface. These issues are related to democracy, the development of civil society, human rights, and the establishment of the rule of law; and therefore to (1) the socio-political characteristics of the mode of development, (2) issues linked to the environment and natural resources, and (3) economic development and debt. Before analyzing the impact of China s presence on these issues, we need to define what is meant by presence. Chinese presence on the African Continent is far from uniform. It can be found in places where there is a concentration of natural resources required for the economic development of China. Access to so-called strategic resources is a high priority for Beijing authorities, given that they see continued double-digit growth figures as a basic condition for maintaining their political legitimacy. 17 Whereas China shows only minimal interest in countries such as Rwanda, Benin, or Togo, where natural resource wealth is very limited, China s presence is growing in Angola, Sudan, Nigeria, Chad, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea. The reason for Beijing s interest in these countries is that China currently imports from them over 25% of the oil consumed annually by its energy-hungry economy. 18 In addition to oil, the PRC is eager to obtain other natural resources that are lacking in China. This explains the presence of multinational Chinese corporations in countries such as Zambia (copper and uranium); Zimbabwe (coal and platinum); Democratic Republic of the Congo (cobalt); Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Mozambique, 19 and Liberia (forest products); South Africa (manganese) 20 ; and Southern Africa and Niger (uranium). 1. Socio-Political Characteristics of the Mode of Development At first glance, it would be tempting to trivialize relations between Beijing and African countries by considering them to be nothing more than trade relations between sovereign States. African economies export primarily their natural resources, and the Chinese want to find markets for their low-cost manufactured goods. 21 In accordance with neoclassical economic theories, both the PRC and African countries therefore benefit by making use of their respective comparative advantages. 22 However, this superficial analysis omits an important socioeconomic issue that resides, as seen above, in the interest shown by many African States in the Chinese development model Rocca, Jean-Louis and Patrice De Beer. La Chine: à la fin de l ère Deng Xiaoping. Éditions Le Monde: Paris, 1997, p.50. Rocha, John. A New Frontier in the Exploitation of Africa s Natural Resources: The Emergence of China in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, 2007, p.21. Lemos, Anabela and Daniel Ribeiro. Taking Ownership or Just Changing Owners? in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, 2007, p. 63. Chan-Fishel, Michelle. Environmental Impact: More of the Same? in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, 2007, p Kahn, Joseph. China and African Nations Set Trade Deals Worth 1.9 Billion. New York Times: November 6, Servant, Jean-Christophe. La Chine à l assaut du marché africain. Le Monde diplomatique: May Campbell, Horace. China in Africa: Challenging US Global Hegemony in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, 2007, p China in Africa: Neo-colonialism or a New Avenue for South-South Cooperation 4

6 This economic development model recognizes, above all, a collective right to development. 24 It leaves little room for human rights, as considered in the framework of Western modernity, which sees political society as a gathering of free and equal individuals. Democracy is another concept that is not understood in the same light. Beijing interprets it as a power exercised for the people and in their interest, while Western States emphasize the importance of enabling the people to delegate power, through free and competitive elections, to a political class mandated to manage the nation. Western States attempted to force, through the use of conditions, African States to fight corruption, patronage, and nepotism; to promote the rule of law, good governance, free trade, and democratic institutions; and to respect human rights and apply a certain degree of financial austerity. This clever alchemy was to produce the long-awaited emergence of economic and social development. However, in the face of the failures experienced with this strategy, many voices arose in Africa to denounce a new form of colonialism: a thinly veiled interference on the part of the great financial powers of the West in the domestic policies of African countries. China has arrived powerfully on the scene and has radically changed the scenario. The Chinese model comes free of conditions and unshackles African countries from the burdensome ethical and moralizing restraints imposed on them by Western States. It is based first and foremost on the pragmatic considerations of cooperation and economic interdependence. African States now have much more latitude when they choose their economic partners. Moreover, they can refuse to submit to certain terms and conditions that they consider disadvantageous, while opting for others that better respond to their interests. 25 This new balance of power enabled African States to revolt against Europe during the Lisbon December 2007 Joint Africa-EU Strategy Summit and to reject the economic partnership agreements (EPAs) proposed by the European Union. The EPAs met with Africa s refusal despite agreement on the part of the EU which was feeling the pressure brought to bear by the presence of its new Chinese competitors to significantly water down demands concerning human rights. 26 Despite serious human rights abuses, certain regimes, isolated by Western States and identified as pariahs, have been provided with the means to survive via their partnerships with Beijing. In addition, the Chinese model, which promotes growth at any cost, leads to greater inequalities, which, in turn, can often result in social protest and weakened political leadership. 27 Given that uprisings must be repressed because they obstruct economic development, the Chinese model adapts very well to authoritarianism, viewing human rights and liberal democracy as mechanisms that can only slow economic growth. With this model in mind, we can see how China is influencing on some African countries. For example, Chinese investments and imports in Sudan enabled the Al-Bachir regime to consolidate in the South of Sudan, a region where fossil fuels abound, and to finance a fullfledged genocide in Darfur. It has been estimated that over 80% of Sudan s oil revenues have Large, Daniel. As the Beginning Ends: China s Return to Africa in Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, 2007, p.160. The Economist. A Desperate Suitor: December 6, Ibid. Marks, Stephen. Introduction in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, 2007, p. 12. China in Africa: Neo-colonialism or a New Avenue for South-South Cooperation 5

7 been used to subjugate Darfur, 28 where over 200,000 people have died since In Zimbabwe, Chinese assistance allowed the Robert Mugabe regime and the National Union Patriotic Front to remain in power, despite numerous international sanctions 30 imposed by those who condemn the regime s political authoritarianism. 31 Furthermore, there is no longer any doubt that Chinese imports of forest resources from Liberia enabled Charles Taylor s regime to finance the operations of his mercenaries in Côte-d Ivoire and Sierra Leone. 32 Beijing has also provided Nigeria s government with military equipment and weapons in order to suppress militant activists groups, in the country s Niger Delta, who are demanding a fair share of oil revenues. The Niger Delta is rich in hydrocarbons and China s interest in the region stems from its need to access that resource. 33 China also sells weaponry and military equipment to the authoritarian regimes in Sudan and Zimbabwe. It is important for Beijing to ensure that its economic and political partners in Africa remain in power, as China fears new players may take advantage of the rules of political changeover to reconsider some of China s lucrative agreements Natural Resources: Utilization and Environmental Impacts Because its objective is growth at any cost, China s economic model is based, to a large extent, on the unlimited extraction of natural resources. 35 In comparison with other areas of the world East Asia, for example natural resources on the African Continent have not been heavily tapped. The Chinese are therefore taking advantage of this opportunity to obtain significant exploitation rights to Africa s natural resources, often in exchange of funding to States that have been turned down by international financial institutions because of their debt burden or for not having met Western imposed conditions. 36 For Beijing, Africa conjures up the image of a safari through the untouched lands of El Dorado, laden with natural resources, or that of a new Far West, where cowboy-style capitalism 37 can yield only profits. 38 From Sudan to Truffaut, Serge. Le Darfour chinois. Le Devoir: June 4, French, Howard and Fan Wenxin. Chinese Leader to Visit Sudan for Talks on Darfur Conflicts. New York Times: January 25, Matahwa, Obert. China and Zimbabwe: Is There a Future. Africa Files (no. 4), Karumbidza, John B. Win-Win Economic Cooperation: Can China Save Zimbabwe s Economy in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi p Chan-Fishel, Michelle. Environmental Impact: More of the Same? in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, 2007, p Ibid, p Karumbidza, John B. Win-Win Economic Cooperation: Can China Save Zimbabwe s Economy? in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, 2007, p. 89. Chan-Fishel, Michelle. Environmental Impact: More of the Same? in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, 2007, p Polgreen, Lydia et Howard French. China, Filling a Void, Drills for Riches in Chad. New York Times: August 13, Polgreen, Lydia and Howard French. China s Trade with Africa Carries a Price Tag. New York Times: August 21, Marks, Stephen. Introduction in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, 2007, p.3. China in Africa: Neo-colonialism or a New Avenue for South-South Cooperation 6

8 Chad to Mauritania, the Chinese are meticulously prospecting for natural resources, but the social and ecological impacts of this search do not usually carry much weight when it comes to developing guidelines for the projects. 39 It is no secret that environmental protection is rarely a concern for States with deficiencies in their rule of law. The following are a few examples. In Nigeria, where several NGOs have accused a Chinese company named Wempco of polluting the water, the company s management has colluded with local bureaucrats in calling on police forces to severely repress demonstrations. 40 In Mozambique, Chinese multinationals are cutting down trees in the Zambezi Rain Forest at a rate that will have completely deforested the area in approximately ten years. 41 Also in Mozambique, where the World Bank had refused to finance a project considered too environmentally risky, Chinese interests came forward with $2.3 billion for the Mpanda Nkuda damn project. 42 In Sudan, Chinese multinationals have agreed to take part in the Medowe damn construction project, which entails flooding huge areas of land and displacing more than 50,000 farmers Economic Development and Debt China s economic activities in Africa are becoming increasingly diversified. China sees the Continent primarily as a huge pool of raw materials to be appropriated in exchange for fresh foreign currency or loans. Chinese companies also sell low-quality products on the Continent, but their low prices enable many Africans to afford goods that they never could have purchased when they were produced only by Western companies. This phenomenon has increased the buying power of Africans. Chinese investments are very attractive to several African countries. By the end of 2003, China s Ministry of Trade had authorized 602 companies to invest in Africa. 44 Angola, for example, is China s second-largest trading partner on the African Continent. 45 A civil war between government forces, under Dos Santos, and UNITA rebels, led by Jonas Savimbi, devastated the country, but Angola has since taken advantage of massive Chinese investment. 46 Chinese consortiums are now rebuilding the country s roads, ports, and telecommunications systems, as well the Luanda airport Polgreen, Lydia et Howard French. China, Filling a Void, Drills for Riches in Chad. New York Times: August 13, Obiorah, Ndubisi. Who s Afraid of China in Africa? Towards an African Civil Society Perspective on China- Africa Relations in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi p.48. Lemos, Anabela et Daniel Ribeiro. Taking Ownership or Just Changing Owners? in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, 2007, p.65. Ibid, p Bello, Walden. China Provokes Debate in Africa. Foreign Policy in Focus: Rocha, John. A New Frontier in the Exploitation of Africa s Natural Resources: The Emergence of China in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, 2007, p.24. Servant, Jean-Christophe. La Chine à l assaut du marché africain. Le Monde diplomatique: May Traub, James. China s African Adventure. New York Times: November 19, China in Africa: Neo-colonialism or a New Avenue for South-South Cooperation 7

9 Cooperation with China has also enabled African countries to take advantage of better technical expertise. For many years Sudanese companies had been unable to tap the oil resources discovered by American Chevron in Many African States have signed technical cooperation agreements with Beijing in agricultural sectors. 48 In the area of pharmaceuticals, China made a commitment in 2007 to supply low-cost, high-quality antimalaria medication to counter a scourge that annually kills over 3 million Africans. 49 As for communications and advanced technology, last year China launched a Nigerian communications satellite. 50 China is also awarding a growing number of scholarships to African students who wish to continue their studies in China in key areas such as engineering, medicine, and management. 51 Furthermore, the Shanghai Automotive Industry is considering the possibility of manufacturing a new, low-priced car that it could begin to export to Africa in the coming years. 52 Over the last decade, the status of the Chinese government, in international finance, has changed from borrower to lender. 53 Beijing makes low-interest loans to many African States in exchange for privileges in the form of licensed access to raw materials or lucrative contracts. 54 For example, in 2004, China s Exim Bank granted a $2 billion loan to the government of Angola at an interest rate of 1.5% over 17 years in exchange for a large part of the market for national reconstruction. 55 In 2007 Beijing lent over $20 million to Kenya for the construction of low-cost housing. Total Beijing loans to Nairobi amount to $230.5 million, whereas, in return, China has received contracts for repairing roads and modernizing electricity distribution. 56 International financial institutions have strongly criticized Beijing for making loans to countries whose still-fragile economies have managed, just recently, to attain an acceptable level of solvency. 57 In response, China cancelled nearly $20 million of Tanzania s debt in and Askouri, Ali. China s Investment in Sudan: Displacing Villages and Destroying Communities in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, 2007, p.72. Sino-African Agricultural Co-op Promising. Xinhuanet: htm China Promises to Sell Safe, Quality Anti-Malaria Drugs to Africa. Xinhuanet: english/ /03/content_ htm. China Launches Nigerian Communications Satellite. Taipei Times: May 15, More African Students Coming to Chinese Universities. Xinhuanet: Fainsilber, Denis. Le constructeur chinois SAIC fusionne avec son compatriote Nanjing Auto. Les Échos: December 27, Faujas, Alain. La Chine s associe à une aide de 41,6 milliards de dollars aux pays pauvres. Le Monde: December 17, Davies, Penny. China and the End of Poverty in Africa Toward Mutual Benefits? Swedish development aid organisation Diakonia in collaboration with Eurodad.: 2006, p.15. Servant, Jean-Christophe. La Chine à l assaut du marché africain. Le Monde diplomatique: May Chinese bank gives Kenya $20 mln for cheap housing. Reuters: December 6, 2007, article/internetnews/idusl Faujas, Alain. La Chine s associe à une aide de 41,6 milliards de dollars aux pays pauvres. Le Monde: December 17, China Agrees to Cancel Part of Tanzania s Debt. Xinhuanet: / htm. China in Africa: Neo-colonialism or a New Avenue for South-South Cooperation 8

10 erased almost 40% of the debt accrued to Côte-d Ivoire. 59 In June 2007, in a display of good will, China gave the government of Guinea Bissau $4 million so that, despite budget difficulties, it could pay its civil servants. 60 A Diversity of Views on Major Issues 1. Socio-Political Aspects: Democracy, Rule of Law, Civil Society, and Human Rights Many African intellectuals and leaders consider that, just as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and structural-adjustment dogma were imposed on them as if they were 21 st - century gospels, the managers of large international financial institutions and of some NGOs have become modern-day missionaries whose proselytizing discourse reproduces the culture of imperialism. 61 Though a large number of analysts attempt to demonize China s presence in Africa, many Africans in both the top leadership and civil society have taken a positive view of the impact that China s massive arrival is having on their Continent s development. 62 There is a general tendency to put more trust in the kind of cooperation proposed by the Chinese, not only because their model has proved to be effective in restoring status to a country that had been literally carved up by Western powers, but also because Beijing has acquired additional legitimacy by distinguishing itself in several ways from European Union countries, 63 for example: China never took part in the slave trade. China s presence in Africa has never been linked to colonialist or imperialist practices. Beijing supported African countries during their decolonization processes. China and African countries have often joined in a common front at the WTO, particularly in their opposition to the patenting of life forms. Beijing is not associated with the structural-adjustment policies that have burdened Africa for over 30 years. China s economic practices seem to indicate that the PRC would like to build a long-term partnership with African countries, not one based on exclusively immediate interests. The hundreds of thousands of Chinese living in Africa tend to mix in more with local populations and to share their way of life China Writes off 40% of Côte d Ivoire Debt. Mail & Guardian Online: aspx?articleid= China Helps Guinea Bissau Pay Public Worker Salaries. MacauHub: en/news.php?id=3512. Campbell, Horace. China in Africa: Challenging US Global Hegemony in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, 2007, p Ngome, Ivo. Cameroonian Perceptions of The Chinese Invasion. Africa Files (no. 2), Campbell, Horace. China in Africa: Challenging US Global Hegemony in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, 2007, p China in Africa: Neo-colonialism or a New Avenue for South-South Cooperation 9

11 Beijing authorities never cease to emphasize with pride that they respect the sovereignty of African States, thereby dishing out thinly veiled criticism of Western conditionalities. 64 However, many government and civil-society players, in both the West and Africa, have a different opinion. It is often asserted that China interferes in the domestic politics of several African countries by supporting certain groups over others. Chinese support for regimes in Khartoum and Harare are certainly indicative. It is also pointed out that Chinese capital frequently strengthens elitism, authoritarianism, and corruption by fuelling the patronage to which these same regimes owe their survival. 65 Some observers will also recall how China s Ambassador Li Baodong meddled in Zambia s electoral process by threatening to withdraw all Chinese capital from that country if Michael Sata won the 2006 elections. 66 There are references, as well, to the disastrous impact that China s presence has had on the rights of workers and the most underprivileged social groups, including women. In Namibia, for instance, Chinese companies have frequently broken laws that regulate labour and labour-union activities. 67 Another example is the 2005 explosion at the BGRIMM copper mine, in Zambia, where 46 deaths occurred and a subsequent inquiry revealed extreme negligence on the part of the Chinese management. Who is to be held accountable for this troubling side of China s presence in Africa? According to authorities in Beijing, the explanation is to be found in the poor quality of coordinating efforts at the level of Chinese foreign policy, which, in turn, prevents central authorities from having adequate control over what happens outside China. Consequently, in 2006, the PRC s State Council adopted nine principles aimed at standardizing the conduct of Chinese firms operating abroad. 68 These principles include stipulations stating that Chinese companies must respect workers rights and the legislation of the host country. China is making ever-greater efforts to establish its international legitimacy, and this requires devoting particular attention to awareness of certain standards and norms. We should remember that civil society is emerging in China and that NGOs, although they still have only limited room to manoeuvre, are scrutinizing the behaviour of large Chinese corporations. Moreover, these corporations are attempting to develop a good reputation for their brand names so that they can conquer international markets. This increasing preoccupation with establishing legitimacy could mean that corporations would be more responsive to criticism from NGOs and pressure groups Askouri, Ali. China s Investment in Sudan: Displacing Villages and Destroying Communities in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, 2007, p. 73. Karumbidza, John B. Win-Win Economic Cooperation: Can China Save Zimbabwe s Economy? in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, 2007, p. 89. Chan-Fishel, Michelle. Environmental Impact: More of the Same? in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, 2007, p Ngavirue, Mbatjiua. Namibia: Chinese Confronted on Labour Abuse: Marks, Stephen. Introduction in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, 2007, p.5. Ibid, p.10. China in Africa: Neo-colonialism or a New Avenue for South-South Cooperation 10

12 2. Economic Aspects: Development, Debt, and the Environment Does China s presence in Africa contribute to the Continent s development? To answer this question, one must consider two opposing concepts. Many Western and African economists will say that China s presence in Africa is a reminder of the mercantile system that was so dear to European nations: the extraction of natural resources to be processed in China and used to manufacture goods subsequently sold in Africa. 70 This kind of mercantilist approach contradicts the objectives set by NEPAD because it neither promotes the use of domestic labour 71 nor allows African countries to diversify their economies. 72 It has also been emphasized that Chinese projects in Africa rely on imported Chinese workers to cover half their labour requirements, given that Beijing, too, is concerned with solving endemic unemployment problems that afflict its economy. 73 Other observers have rightly recalled that South Africa and Zambia have lost tens of thousands of jobs as a result of imports from China, 74 particularly in the textiles sector following the expiry in 2005 of the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing. 75 Some analysts have also reported that, by bargaining with countries ostracized by the international community, Beijing can take advantage of a monopolistic power relationship that provides for more favourable conditions. These analysts claim that China forces Africa to accept the rationale of underdevelopment because, in its cooperation with Beijing, the Continent remains dependent on the sale of its raw materials. Others insist that an anti-chinese xenophobia is emerging in Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, 76 and even Ethiopia, where in 2007 rebels attacked Chinese oil companies. 77 In Zimbabwe, growing frustration with China is illustrated by the use of colourful epithets to refer to the mediocre quality of Chinese products. 78 On the other hand, many see China s presence in Africa in a positive light. Chinese President Hu Jintao believes that Sino-African cooperation presents a win-win opportunity. 79 China s Prime Minister Wen Jiabao categorically denies that Sino-African cooperation is being conducted to the detriment of development in African countries. 80 Li Ruogu, Chairman and President of China s Exim Bank, responds to detractors from the West by reminding them that Kahn, Joseph. China and African Nations Set Trade Deals Worth 1.9 Billion. New York Times: November 6, Chidaushe, Moreblessings. China s Grand Re-Entrance into Africa Mirage or Oasis in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, 2007, p Polgreen, Lydia and Howard French. China s Trade With Africa Carries a Price Tag. New York Times: August 21, Rocha, John. A New Frontier in the Exploitation of Africa s Natural Resources: The Emergence of China in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, 2007, p Polgreen, Lydia and Howard French. China s Trade With Africa Carries a Price Tag. New York Times: August 21, Ibid. Wines, Michael. China s Influence in Africa Arouses Some Resistance. New York Times: February 10, Scores die in Ethiopia oil attack. BBC News: Karumbidza, John B. Win-Win Economic Cooperation: Can China Save Zimbabwe s Economy? in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, 2007, p. 99. Hu Promises Win-Win Partnership In South Africa. Sino Daily: China rejects its Africa critics. Al-Jazeera: China in Africa: Neo-colonialism or a New Avenue for South-South Cooperation 11

13 human rights and freedom of expression remain nothing more than wishful thinking if only a small minority of people can purchase a television or radio. 81 Others such as Cui Jianjun, Secretary General of the China NGO Network for International Exchanges, say that, like the Chinese in the 1970s, Africans will have to open their countries to foreign investment so that they can accumulate capital and channel it into development. 82 Africans are particularly delighted to see that their economic partnership with China does not entail the kind of tutelage that they experience with the West. It is often reported that cooperation with China leads to rapid and tangible results. For example, Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua emphasized that, once the Chinese make a commitment to build a road, they build it quickly, and they never interrupt their work because one condition or another has not been respected. 83 Editorials in some major Western newspapers have gone so far as to praise the Chinese for their presence in Africa, stating that China is making a contribution to development by building ports, schools, hospitals, and electrical facilities and that, contrary to the G7 countries, which, in 2005, promised Africa $25 billion annually but have not met their commitment, the PRC has not only respected its commitments but has also promised $5 billion for the period. 84 China has also been criticized for its role in increasing the debt burden of African countries. The World Bank and the IMF have reported that Beijing frequently provides loans with very-favourable interest rates in exchange for political or economic advantages. 85 For instance, the PRC asks that countries benefiting from its development assistance abstain from supporting Tokyo s request for a seat on the UN Security Council, break diplomatic relations with Taiwan, or give China access to raw materials. 86 Many observers fear that a new debt crisis could be caused in countries that, through painstaking efforts, have succeeded in turning around their financial situations. 87 A number of academics have nevertheless asked us to remember that China has tended to cancel the debts of countries with financial difficulties. By 2007, China had already cancelled debts in 31 African countries for a total of $1.38 billion. 88 All are in agreement that China s presence in Africa has led to disastrous environmental impacts. But is environmental protection a luxury that only developed countries can afford? To ensure environmental protection and to prevent collusion between international investors and national bureaucrats who ignore environmental standards, adherence to the rule of law is needed. 89 The Chinese do not usually assess environmental costs of a project before the project is carried out. For example, during the development of the Sino-Zambian hydroelectric project, China Helps Africa Where West Failed State Bank Official. Reuters: news/usnban html. Bello, Walden. China Provokes Debate in Africa. Foreign Policy in Focus: Obiorah, Ndubisi. Who s Afraid of China in Africa? Towards an African Civil Society Perspective on China- Africa Relations in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, 2007, p.40. Faujas, Alain. Que ferions-nous sans la Chine? Le Monde: January 4, Faujas, Alain. La Chine s associe à une aide de 41,6 milliards de dollars aux pays pauvres. Le Monde: December 17, Lancaster, Carol. The Chinese Aid System. Center for Global Development: Davies, Penny. China and the End of Poverty in Africa Toward Mutual Benefits? Swedish development aid organisation Diakonia in collaboration with Eurodad: 2006, p.15. Ibid. p Obiorah, Ndubisi. Who s Afraid of China in Africa? Towards an African Civil Society Perspective on China- Africa Relations in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, 2007, p.48. China in Africa: Neo-colonialism or a New Avenue for South-South Cooperation 12

14 the representatives of the Chinese Sino-Hydro Company clearly informed their Zambian partners that they would be concerned with only the economic impacts of the project, not with any of its social or environmental consequences. 90 This reality, however, tends to be changing in Continental China, where there has been increasing concern for the environment since Hu Jintao took power. Chinese economists have calculated that health problems and ecological imbalances caused by pollution account for an annual loss of 3% in China s GDP. Awareness is growing in Chinese civil society, and Chinese companies increasingly seek favourable media coverage of their environmental practices. The government recently supported the development of two projects aimed at creating ecological industrial parks: one in Baotou, Inner Mongolia, and the other in Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou Province. There is hope that this new trend will reorient the practices of Chinese companies in Africa, given that they are increasingly concerned with their image. It is therefore, with these encouraging perspectives in mind, that one should interpret the Chinese State Council s 2006 adoption of the nine principles aimed at standardizing the conduct of Chinese companies operating abroad, as these principles do clearly state the need to protect the environment. Conclusion China s presence in Africa is complex and its impact on African development, given China s appetite for natural resources and its growing economic power, will be profound. The Africa- China relationship is one that civil society organizations need to continue to explore. 90 Lemos, Anabela and Daniel Ribeiro. Taking Ownership or Just Changing Owners? in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, 2007, p China in Africa: Neo-colonialism or a New Avenue for South-South Cooperation 13

15 Bibliography Askouri, Ali. China s Investment in Sudan: Displacing Villages and Destroying Communities in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, Ba, Diadie. Independent Online: id=nw c Bello, Walden. China Provokes Debate in Africa. Foreign Policy in Focus: Bianco, Lucien. Les origines de la révolution chinoise Folio: Paris, Campbell, Horace. China in Africa: Challenging US Global Hegemony in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, Chan-Fishel, Michelle. Environmental Impact: More of the Same? in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi: Chidaushe, Moreblessings. China s Grand Re-Entrance Into Africa Mirage or Oasis? in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, Chossudvovsky, Michel. La mondialisation de la pauvreté. Écosociété: Montreal, Chung, Jae-Ho. China s Korea Policy under the New Leadership: Stealth Changes in the Making. The Journal of East Asian Affairs: 18 (no. 4), Davies, Penny. China and the End of Poverty in Africa Toward Mutual Benefits? Swedish development aid organisation Diakonia in collaboration with Eurodad: Fainsilber, Denis. Le constructeur chinois SAIC fusionne avec son compatriote Nanjing Auto. Les Échos: December 27, Faujas, Alain. La Chine s associe à une aide de 41,6 milliards de dollars aux pays pauvres. Le Monde: December 17, Faujas, Alain. Que ferions-nous sans la Chine? Le Monde: January French, Howard and Fan Wenxin. Chinese Leader to Visit Sudan for Talks on Darfur Conflicts. New York Times: January 25, Kahn, Joseph. China and African Nations Set Trade Deals Worth 1.9 Billion. New York Times: November 6, China in Africa: Neo-colonialism or a New Avenue for South-South Cooperation 14

16 Karumbidza, John B. Win-Win Economic Cooperation: Can China Save Zimbabwe s Economy? in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, Lancaster, Carol. The Chinese Aid System. Center for Global Development: Large, Daniel. As the Beginning Ends: China s Return to Africa in Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, Lemos, Anabela and Daniel Ribeiro. Taking Ownership or Just Changing Owners? in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, Marks, Stephen. Introduction in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, Matahwa, Obert. China and Zimbabwe: Is There a Future?. Africa Files (no. 4), Ngavirue, Mbatjiua. Namibia: Chinese Confronted on Labour Abuse: Ngome, Ivo. Cameroonian Perceptions of The Chinese Invasion. Africa Files (no. 2), Obiorah, Ndubisi. Who s Afraid of China in Africa? Towards an African Civil Society Perspective on China-Africa Relations in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi Polgreen, Lydia and Howard French. China, Filling a Void, Drills for Riches in Chad. New York Times: August 13, Polgreen, Lydia and Howard French. China s Trade With Africa Carries a Price Tag. New York Times: August 21, Rocca, Jean-Louis and Patrice De Beer. La Chine: à la fin de l ère Deng Xiaoping. Éditions Le Monde: Paris, Rocha, John. A New Frontier in the Exploitation of Africa s Natural Resources: The Emergence of China in African Perspectives on China in Africa. Pambazuka: Nairobi, Servant, Jean-Christophe. La Chine à l assaut du marché africain. Le Monde diplomatique: May Traub, James. China s African Adventure. New York Times: November 19, Truffaut, Serge. Le Darfour chinois. Le Devoir: June 4, Wines, Michael. China s Influence in Africa Arouses Some Resistance. New York Times: February 10, China in Africa: Neo-colonialism or a New Avenue for South-South Cooperation 15

17 China Agrees to Cancel Part of Tanzania s Debt. Xinhuanet: China Helps Guinea Bissau Pay Public Worker Salaries. MacauHub: China Helps Africa Where West Failed State Bank Official. Reuters: China Launches Nigerian Communications Satellite. Taipei Times: May 15, China Promises to Sell Safe, Quality Anti-Malaria Drugs to Africa: Xinhuanet. China rejects its Africa critics. Al-Jazeera: China Writes off 40% of Côte d Ivoire Debt. Mail & Guardian Online: Chinese Bank Gives Kenya $20 millions for Cheap Housing. Reuters: December 6, 2007: Hu Promises Win-Win Partnership in South Africa. Sino Daily: ml More African Students Coming to Chinese Universities. Xinhuanet: Scores die in Ethiopia oil attack. BBC News: Senegalese President Calls China Great Partner for Africa. Xinhuanet: Sino-African Agricultural Co-op Promising. Xinhuanet: The Economist. Asia: On Safari; Chinese Summitry: November 4, The Economist. A Desperate Suitor: December 6, China in Africa: Neo-colonialism or a New Avenue for South-South Cooperation 16

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