China Woos a Wary Africa

As Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao tours Africa this week, his "win-win" economic diplomacy is winning headlines but also provoking some skepticism in the online media.

"Chinese leaders are reaching out to Africa to dampen worries about China's rise on the continent, and to build influence," says South Africa's Business Day.

So far during Wen's tour, China has announced a peaceful nuclear technology agreement with South Africa, agreed to extend $2 billion in credit to Angola, signed an agreement to open coal mines in Zimbabwe and inaugurated a Chinese-built highway in Ghana.

This latest spurt of activity on the African continent is part of an ongoing effort by China to secure energy and mineral for its voracious economy. Chinese President Hu Jintao toured Africa on a similar mission
earlier this year.

But Africans are also learning the Chinese drive a hard bargain.

China wants a free trade agreement with South Africa which Business Day says would have a generally positive effect on the country's economy but "a drastically negative effect" on its clothing and shoe manufacturers.

To get the free trade agreement, China said it was willing to voluntarily limit textile exports to South Africa.

"Given that China has made this seemingly generous offer, it will be difficult for SA to lay down conditions," said Business Day. "And government is not about to erect massive trade barriers for the industry."

The government of Zimbabwe, isolated on the international scene because of its autocratic government, has touted the coal mining agreements as a sign that China's foreign policy of "non-interference" will foster greater economic ties. But SouthScan, a London-based news site about southern African, questions "whether the deals will actually go through."

Despite the diplomatic niceties, China is "avoiding Zimbabwean risks like the plague," says the Financial Gazette in Zimbabwe. "Given what happened during the wildcat farm invasions under the controversial fast-track land reform exercise, China does not trust that Zimbabwe will uphold bilateral investment protection agreements."

When Wen visited Zambia, Post commentator Aubrey Chindefu decried "the manner most of these Chinese investors treat African workers." The locals have not forgotten a deadly accident at a Chinese-owned explosives factory in Zambia last year.

The politics of China's assistance became clear in the Congo after Wen announced China was giving the African Union $3.5 million to support its peacekeeping mission in Darfur. The African Union peacekeeping mission has proven ineffectual and the international community now favors a more robust U.N. mission to pacify the war-torn region.

But, according to the Sudan Tribune, the U.N. mission is being blocked by China, among others. The government of Sudan, notes the ST, supplies six percent of China's oil.

But China is nothing if not persistent. In its bid for business, Beijing will host a summit meeting of 40 African nations this November.

washingtonpost.com's Kevin Dumouchelle provided research for this column.

By Jefferson Morley |  June 28, 2006; 7:36 AM ET  | Category:  Africa
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Comments

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Does this mean the G8 will pay for Bono and Geldof to learn Mandarin?

Posted by: Reynolds | June 28, 2006 09:52 AM

African Countries should avoid a "Free Trade" agreements with China or any country like the plague. Their natural resources are of sufficient interest to attract investment through bilateral agreements. I am sure France would be interested in competing for leases. The ownership of these resources should be retained by African governments, and lease agreements should be limited to the amount of time necessary for the foreign interests to recover development costs. They need to remember that they are dealing with thieves.

Posted by: P. J. Casey | June 28, 2006 11:54 AM

It is great that China along with other rising Asian powers are acting as a counter to the hegemonic, imperialist, and rapacious US and other Western powers, which are nations which pillaged Asia, Africa, Australasia, and the Americas for centuries.

Take a look at the genocide against Native Americans in the Americas and the mass genocide against tens of millions of Native Americans from Alaska to Chile. Then look at the pillage and the continuing plunder of their natural resources to feed the consumerist and materialist attitudes and aspirations of the settler populations of European descent in North, Central, and South America and the Carribean islands.

Look at the thousands of broken treaties done by the imperialist settler communities against Native peoples in the Americas. These settlers hailed from mostly Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Ireland, and other European nations.

Look at the slavery of black peoples in the Americas, which exacerbated the genocide of native peoples and the pillage and plunder of their lands.

Look at Australia and New Zealand and the unwanton and unjustified massacre and pillage of those nations by settlers from Britain and Ireland.

Look at the colonization and enslavement of Africa by European and other Western powers. How about the slavery of tens of millions of African peoples?

Look at the colonization of Asia and the racist exploitation of that continent.

Unlike USA, Europe, and the other Western nations, whose wealth and power is built on the bloods of tens of millions of slaughtered indigenous/native American, Asian, African, and Australian aboriginal peoples and enslavement of black and other non-white people, China is building mutually beneficial relationship based on mutual self-respect and benefits.

We do not see China colonize Africa, Asia, the Americas, or the Australian continent.

In the balance sheet of all of the world's genocides, imperialism, colonialism, racism, promotion of white privilege, white supremacy, and racial oppression of black, red, brown, and yellow peoples and other peoples of color, no other society cam exceed Europe, USA, and other Western nations in its achievements in genocide, cruelty, racial oppression, theft, plunder, exploitation, imperialism, and oppression.

Posted by: World_Observer | June 28, 2006 12:09 PM

China is working fast and furious to become a 'super' power, so that it can replace US one day. China was a pariah country just like today's North Korea until Richard Nixon in his infinite wisdom decided to embrace China's Communist Dragon in order to counter Russia's Soviet Bear. Most of the West European and East Asian countries also stayed away from China following US lead until then and followed US in embracing China after that Nixon visit. In order to save his place in history after watergate debacle, Nixon proded Reagan to open vast American consumer market to goods from Communist China, a favor that US would not extend to Communist Russia. Bush Senior, an ex-ambassador to Beijing was also there to support Nixon. Clinton, who campaigned against butchers of Beijing in 1992 elections, also became enthusiastic supporter of China trade after getting lessons in foreign policy from Nixon in early 1993.

Opening up of American consumer market allowed China to amass enormous dollar currency reserves that China successfully used to purchase all the military hardware she wanted. Thus US has nobody to blame but herself for promoting powerful Communist China on world stage. After having vanquished Communism from Russia, Reagan has actually strengthened Communists' hold on power in China and promoted another Communist super power to challenge US, iornic as this is. Nixon/Reagan/Bush/Clinton have done more for China's progress under Communist dictatorship and thereby strengthened Communism in China than Mao or Chou could have ever done.

Posted by: suresh sheth | June 28, 2006 12:19 PM

Have you all hear this before "Do as I say, not what I did?"

Posted by: Double Standard | June 28, 2006 12:33 PM

This mentally of communism is just pure propaganda. People love to mention China and communism in the same sentence. Communism is just a word. They are an authorative regime. They are just like any country in the world except they have a more centralized and authorative government. People here are conditioned like Pavlov's dogs. You hear "communism" and it must be equated with "evil." It's always communist China, or communist Cuba, or communist USSR, or communist North Korea. But let me set the record straight, I am in no way, shape or form for communism. I just can't stand how it's being used as an emotional trigger word in these "debates." It instills too much of an arrogance in our thoughts. Yes, we are good in many ways but we should be humble.

How is free trade communism? How is a free market communism? How is seeking goodwill communism? How is building infrastructure in Africa communism? Etc, etc.

I don't like communism but I don't like the way this word is being used to describe rising powers like China in a disparaging way.

The world is out of balance right now. Having one super power with such an overwhelming dominance (or so we think) will create an unstable situation. In the long term, there must be counter forces to it. America should be good, continue to progress, but live more as an equal among the many diverse and rich countries of the world.

Lets not make enemies. Lets make friends by being righteous and honorable. That will help the US more than anything else.

As the world gets "bigger" (or is that smaller), we must adapt, we must be quick, and we must be flexible. China and other Asian countries are making lots of progress. We should be open to new ways of thinking and not be so rigid in our thoughts. We must not be idealogical but rather practical and get things done. Like the US was in it's younger years, eager and hungry with a can-do spirit. There's also too much bitterness and angsts. We need to pull together and get things done. China is doing this and that is why they are succeeding. We need to play with them and the world, not whine and cry when we "lose", and keep going with a humble and can-do attitude.

Sorry for my rant.

Posted by: | June 28, 2006 01:48 PM

Why not do a story on how Africa is Wary of trade agreements with the US? The US drives a much harder bragain than China.

Posted by: Chris W | June 28, 2006 02:47 PM

Stop worrying about China's communism...Anyone who has lived and worked in China, knows that China is a communist country in name only.
In fact it, on a micro level it is much more capitalist than America. - No environmental controls, no social safety net and the like!
Sure the macro controls seem communistic but those are usually generated by cronyism and not communist economy theory.
If you doubt this all you have to do is glance at the astronomical gaps between the rich and the poor to see that the Chinese don't have to go abroad to exploit people.
Folks like "world observer" should talk to some of the, poor Han Chinese, Tibetan Buddhists and Muslim minority groups inside of China before declaring China, "The Gentle Giant of the Pacific" -
To repeat: if you got 600,000,000 people willing to be exploited, you don't have to go abroad to do so!

Posted by: SKB | June 28, 2006 05:20 PM

This is not a big surprise. Having traveled in Africa the last three years for work, I continually see articles in local English language papers about bilateral trade agreements between China and African nations, Vietnam and African nations, India and Africa, etc. The connections between Asia and Africa are natural and historic. Indians and Chinese merchants have been in east and southern Africa for a long time. They have been moving into West Africa.

The Chinese offer a different paradigm for doing business. Our approach is for our governemnt to secure open markets for US and European businesses. The Chinese government negotiates directly for commodity rights in exchange for market prices and various kinds of technical support. They have taken millions of barrels of oil off the market in Nigeria using this strategy. They will take a substantial amount of other commodities off the market with other bilateral agreements.

Africans see the US and Europe and our international mechanisms, e.g., WTO and IMF, and see that they get no benefit while we get their commodities. A case in point is Kenyan coffee. Nestle has agreement to buy unroasted beans from Kenya. Kenyans would like to provide value added to this commodity, even as simple as roasting the beans before shipping them. Nestle refuses. Kenya wants a trade requirement for value added. Nestle goes to WTO, who threatens sanctions against Kenya. So Nestle gets the raw beans and greater profits. Africans have seen this repeatedly and see at as one more example of Western exploitation.

China is being the far more practical country. We get caught up in our ideology and idealism about free markets, which aren't really all that free, while the Chinese lock down resources for the next decade or two. We get caught up in dubious wars, sucking up our resources, focusing our businesses on government procurements and not the global private sector, expending our science and engineering talent on better bunker buster bombs than breakhroughs in nano-technology. I don't particularly care for the Chinese model. It is not sensitive to individual rights and minority populations. But we do not offer much of a response. If we continue on the path we are, we will not be in a position to respond.

Posted by: Don | June 28, 2006 05:48 PM

Don, very insightful. Thanks.

Posted by: Phil | June 29, 2006 04:06 AM

So this is why commodities prices where going through the roof. The Chinese are bring capital to the African continent. I think Africans will benefit from their dealing with China. This Kevin Dumouchelle who wrote this article is allowing his personal opinion to put spin on what is really going on in Africa by hinting that China has sinister motives. If I wanted to read a biased article I would go to the Fox news websit.

Posted by: Jay | June 30, 2006 08:54 AM

Well, obviously I have to comment on China's funding of the genocide in Sudan. It truly is deplorable for the PRC to bankroll the mass-rape (so they can have lighter-skinned children) and slaughter of black Africans by the Arab Janjaweed militia.
And China has little ground to stand on when citing "imperialism" of other countries. The "China" of today is really a "Greater Serbia/German Liebensraum" on steroids.

Posted by: Chris | July 5, 2006 08:22 AM

Very interesting to read all of these analyses as a Chinese.I appreciate very much all the different voices. China does have a strong connection with Aferican countries and emotionally African countries are closer than many other countries to Chinese people, since many of them were political allies during the initial period of the PRC.

Within China there are certainly some extent of imperialism and capitalism. It is fascinating to think about how the Chinese society could converge on the same track as the West that has had long history of capitalism if China following the same track for this centrury.

Posted by: | July 6, 2006 10:15 AM

What the Chinese are doing in Tibet is not a lot different from the ethnic cleansing in Sudan. So their humanitarian aid to Sudan is cynical to say the least and at worst- hypocrtical.

Posted by: n.dreyer | July 7, 2006 01:44 AM

It is great that China along with other rising Asian powers are acting as a counter to the hegemonic, imperialist, and rapacious US and other Western powers, which are nations which pillaged Asia, Africa, Australasia, and the Americas for centuries.

Take a look at the genocide against Native Americans in the Americas and the mass genocide against tens of millions of Native Americans from Alaska to Chile. Then look at the pillage and the continuing plunder of their natural resources to feed the consumerist and materialist attitudes and aspirations of the settler populations of European descent in North, Central, and South America and the Carribean islands.

Look at the thousands of broken treaties done by the imperialist settler communities against Native peoples in the Americas. These settlers hailed from mostly Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Ireland, and other European nations.

Look at the slavery of black peoples in the Americas, which exacerbated the genocide of native peoples and the pillage and plunder of their lands.

Look at Australia and New Zealand and the unwanton and unjustified massacre and pillage of those nations by settlers from Britain and Ireland.

Look at the colonization and enslavement of Africa by European and other Western powers. How about the slavery of tens of millions of African peoples?

Look at the colonization of Asia and the racist exploitation of that continent.

Unlike USA, Europe, and the other Western nations, whose wealth and power is built on the bloods of tens of millions of slaughtered indigenous/native American, Asian, African, and Australian aboriginal peoples and enslavement of black and other non-white people, China is building mutually beneficial relationship based on mutual self-respect and benefits.

We do not see China colonize Africa, Asia, the Americas, or the Australian continent.

In the balance sheet of all of the world's genocides, imperialism, colonialism, racism, promotion of white privilege, white supremacy, and racial oppression of black, red, brown, and yellow peoples and other peoples of color, no other society cam exceed Europe, USA, and other Western nations in its achievements in genocide, cruelty, racial oppression, theft, plunder, exploitation, imperialism, and oppression.

Posted by: Europe and North America are really genocidal | July 11, 2006 02:38 PM

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