Socialize

FacebookYoutube

IS CHINA’S INVOLVEMENT IN AFRICA IMPERIALISTIC?

By Chika Onyeani

It is oxymoronic to state that the Chinese have landed in Africa. Of course, the Chinese have landed in Africa. But the question and the debate that Africans should be engaging in is whether the Chinese have come as an benefactor or as an imperialist. I hate to see this debate being orchestrated in the Western world (press), while Africans as usual, in our lackadaisical manner, engage in useless and meaningless discussions as Africa is being foisted with another “Scramble” for our continent’s resources. At least, in 1884, we could proffer an excuse that we didn’t understand what was going on then.

As I said earlier, with more than 10% of the African population being well educated, this type of excuse will be a great disservice to our continent, as well as to the future generation of Africans, who would ask how we stood by and let another “Scramble for Africa” take place with our eyes wide open.” It has become an axiom of faith that these days, no week passes by without a major western newspaper, magazine, television news program or radio commentators, commenting on the Chinese penetration in Africa, and especially how the Chinese are snapping up Africa’s important natural resources on the cheap.

In fact, the word these western commentators are more likely to use is “pillaging” Africa’s natural resources. Just last week, African leaders gathered in the sunny French Rivera city of Cannes. According to an Associated Press article, titled “African Union Bemoans Continent’s Image,” “French President Jacques Chirac recited a list of challenges that lie ahead for Africa and the international community, not least how to tap but not squander its natural resources – most recently being sought by China, India and others.” (Italics mine). Chirac continued, “Africa is rich, but Africans are not. The continent holds one-third of the planet’s mineral reserves.

It is a treasure trove. But it must be neither pillaged nor sold off cheaply.” (Again, italics mine for emphasis). Again, on February 6, 2007, there was a news report that the U.S. President, George Bush, had authorized the establishment of a “command centre for Africa” to oversee US military activities on the continent. “This new command,” said President Bush, “will strengthen our security cooperation with Africa.” The U.S, he said, would ‘consult’ with Africa later, yet he had talked of ‘cooperation with Africa” earlier. In analyzing this new U.S. initiative, a BBC correspondent stated that, “The U.S. gets more than 10% of its oil from Africa and is worried about increased economic and diplomatic competition from China.” Anyway, views or criticisms about Chirac or Bush are not the essence of this article, but the question as to whether China’s involvement in Africa is imperialistic.

Last November, a delegation of U.S. and African experts visited Beijing, and concluded that though China’s aggressive courtship of Africans could “benefit the poor continent,” (mark the word ‘poor’), but observed that “shady Chinese businessmen and no-questions-asked aid policies” could backfire on Beijing. The delegation of course which had gone to Beijing to discuss the “different approaches to Africa”, endorsed the observation that “Chinese aid policies in Africa have drawn criticism from some Western aid donors who say Beijing is undermining global efforts to foster reforms and good governance and supporting brutal governments in states such as Sudan or Zimbabwe.” A Stephen Morrison, head of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, was quoted as saying, “There is a need for a more strategic approach by the United States if a costly and damaging and unnecessary U.S.-China clash is to be avoided.”

In a preview of a study by the CSIS, according to the article, “the delegation also warned China against naiveté or undue optimism about the troubled (mark the word ‘troubled’) continent and China’s role there.” A so-called business advisor, an Anthony Carroll, said that he had warned Chinese officials about “bad actors and trade practices that affect China’s reputation.” In 1884, it was European scramble for Africa, but this time between the United States, Europeans on the one hand, and China on the other? At least, as far as I know 10% of the African population of over 900 million is well educated, yet issues are being discussed as if we don’t exist. Writing in the January 9, 2007 online issue of Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation, Lucien van der Walt & Michael Schmidt, under the title, “Is China Africa’s New Imperialist Power?”, wrote that “there is a more serious question we have to ask, one with implications beyond our borders (South Africa): Will China replace Britain as South Africa’s imperialist power, a changing of the guard, so to speak – leading to South Africa embarking on military expeditions in Africa to protect Chinese capitalist interests? All serious anti-imperialists must consider and plan for the possibility of Africa becoming the future battle-ground between US-backed Western and Chinese expansionist interests, and unite the continent’s people in a battle against the oil barons.” Of course, I could continue quoting articles upon articles about how the western powers are frothing in their mouths about the Chinese presence in Africa, which they have now, began to refer more derisively as “invasion” and “imperialistic.” When you hear the jingoism of fear and anti-Chinese presence in Africa by the likes of Jacques Chirac, Tony Blair, Britain’s Gordon Brown, as well as the leader of the only super-power left in the world, President Bush, you not only wonder in amazement about this new found love affair for Africa, which the same group which has pillaged Africa, not only in terms of its raw materials, but as well as human lives through brutal slavery, now have the temerity to be warning Africa about. It is oxymoronic to state that the Chinese have landed in Africa.

Of course, the Chinese have landed in Africa. But the question and the debate that Africans should be engaging in is whether the Chinese have come as a benefactor or as an imperialist. I hate to see this debate being orchestrated in the Western world (press), while Africans as usual, in our lackadaisical manner, engage in useless and meaningless discussions as Africa is being foisted with another “Scramble” for our continent’s resources. At least, in 1884, we could proffer an excuse that we didn’t understand what was going on then. As I said earlier, with more than 10% of the African population being well educated, this type of excuse will be a great disservice to our continent, as well as to the future generation of Africans, who would ask how we stood by and let another “Scramble for Africa” take place with our eyes wide open. I remember sounding the same type of alarm in my keynote address to the Black Management Forum in South Africa on October 13, 2005, when I stated at the conclusion of my address with this warning, “Finally, I must sound this note of warning to Africa: there is a new kind of slavery marching through Africa – it is the economic giant called China. Yes, it is stimulating and exciting seeing the competition the Chinese are giving to the western world in Africa.

But we are again abandoning our independence for a quick solution to our economic woes. Africa needs to suffer a little if we are going to build a solid economic base for the generation of Africans to come. First, it was slavery, then colonialism, and now we are letting economic slavery into the door. In the past, we could make the excuse that our forefathers and fathers were not in a position to know or do anything about it. We can’t say the same thing now that we don’t know what is going on. We don’t want to mortgage the future of our children for a quick-fix economic solution.” Of course, before we attack or defend the Chinese presence in Africa, it is necessary that we analyze how the Chinese themselves see their involvement in Africa, how African leaders see the Chinese involvement, how the projects that the Chinese are carrying out in Africa are different from Africa’s former colonial masters as well as U.S. and the West’s conditional aids to Africa, as well as their attendant interference in the internal affairs of respective African countries. For one thing, far from being imperialistic, the Chinese see their presence in Africa as the knight in shining armor, galloping to rescue us from the treacherous West which have used military might, religious might and commercial might to destitute the continent, and right now continues to attach conditionalities to the pittance of aids that they give to Africa, which they take back immediately in another form, insisting on our purchasing their products, or through the connivance of corruption by allowing corrupt African leaders to lodge their stolen booties in their banks unimpeded.

According to China’s Assistant Foreign Minister, rather than the Chinese presence being exploitative and imperialistic, he said that his government “wanted to conduct mutually beneficial and win-win cooperation with African countries” and “will vigorously encourage Chinese enterprises to participate in improving infrastructure in African countries,” Finally, he insisted that, “China’s economic aid for African countries is free of political conditions and is based on African countries’ priorities.” Other Chinese leaders have gone on to articulate basically the same sentiment, especially orchestrated by high-powered visits by the Chinese leader’s visits to different African countries recently. Africans have eyes and could see the difference between what the Chinese are doing in Africa, building infrastructure in different African countries – railroads, dams, hydroelectric projects, highways, etc, etc., compared to the exploitative nature of Western presence in Africa, which amounts to nothing but the continued extraction of Africa’s natural resources and leaving the continent with nothing but more poverty as well as environmental degradation especially in the oil countries in which they operate.

As to how African leaders feel about the Chinese presence in the continent, the only answer I can give is that 48 of them trooped to Beijing in November, 2006, where they were extravagantly feted by the Chinese, with displays of our giant size animals on murals and cheer leaders. They came away with a promise that the Chinese were forgiving the continent of $1 billion in debt. Especially for those countries which have been blacklisted by the West like the Sudan, Zimbabwe or Equatorial Guinea, the Chinese are God-sent. Some of our leaders are so ecstatic about the Chinese presence and the competition that China is giving to the United States and her western allies. Their present loans to African countries don’t have the same conditionalities that the West attaches to their loans. Having said all of the above, the question remains as to whether China’s presence in Africa is as a benefactor or an imperialist. Let me say here, that there is nothing altruistic about what China is doing in Africa.

China is an imperialist, as imperialistic as its western counterparts. It is imperialistic because Africans have not done the same thing that the Chinese did to become what they are today – control who comes in or doesn’t into the continent as the Chinese did for almost three decades, or how they come in. China is imperialistic, just as its western counterpart, because it needs the natural resources of Africa, in exchange for which it dumps billions and billions of its manufactured products to Africa, as well as its human export, to the extent that there are now estimated to be about 3 million Chinese in Africa and growing. Am I then advocating that Africa stops its relationship with China? Absolutely not! Any day, I prefer the Chinese economic model of interaction with Africans – a built infrastructure can never be uprooted and taken home, just in case Africans wake up one day and decide to kick out the Chinese. We cannot say the same thing about the West; they practically have no meaningful presence in Africa, except extracting our natural resources and taking them back to their respective countries, manufacture and send the finished goods back to us. But what we as Africans don’t want is Africa as a battlefield between America and its western allies on the one hand, and China on the other. We should call the bluff of the western powers and their hypocrisy, and the African Union should tell them in no uncertain unmistakable language – to mind themselves. As I said earlier, Africans should be in the forefront of this debate, we don’t want anybody to pull any wool over our eyes ever again. We are capable of thinking for ourselves, and visually we should not allow ignorant so-called Western-minded ‘experts’, or the Chinese themselves, to define this debate for us. (Oh, by the way, we have to be internally grateful for the Chinese having financed with $200 million, built with their own workers imported from China, the symbol of Africa’s new authority – the headquarters building of the African Union. It just so happened that the 54 countries that make up the African Union couldn’t come up with the $200 million to build its own headquarters building. Yes, just so magnificent accomplishment! We are cheering!!). Dr. Chika Onyeani is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the award-winning African Sun Times, http//www.africansuntimes.com, as well as author of the internationally and critically acclaimed No.1 bestselling book, “Capitalist Nigger: The Road to Success,” and the blockbuster novel, “The Broederbond Conspiracy,” adapted at San Francisco State University to “teach students how to write a spy novel.” His new book, “Roar of the African Lion,” is coming out in May 2013 as e-book.

Posted by on 7:49 pm. Filed under NEWS, ONE ON ONE, OTHER NEWS. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login