Law in Contemporary Society

China’s Hand in Africa

-- By UchennaIbekwe - 27 Feb 2009

(Edited by Alfian Kuchit)

Observe calmly; secure our position; cope with affairs calmly; hide our capacities and bide our time; be good at maintaining a low profile; and never claim leadership.

- Deng Xiaoping's 24-character strategy.


China's foreign policy in the 1990s basically followed Deng's 24-character strategy. This changed when China's economy expanded and needed energy and natural resources. In 2001, Beijing announced a new "go out" strategy and sent state-controlled companies to make huge investments in the developing world. I have been following China’s increasing investment in Africa for several years now. China has made major investments in places like Sudan, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Zambia—promising aid, loans, military assistance and development in exchange for access to resources. Thanks to Chinese investments, we now see modern hospitals, stadiums, roads and railroads developed throughout Africa. Unfortunately, African leaders will not be held accountable for maintaining these new facilities. Soon, these new structures will become relics of the past.

Chinese Investment: What Does it Do?

Chinese investment means that African nations gain much-needed infrastructure and amenities that they otherwise would not be able to provide for themselves. China provides jobs for its citizens (there are at least 750,000 Chinese working or living on the continent) and gets access to resources. Trade between China and Africa reached USD5 billion in 2006. Undoubtedly, China’s success in Africa is bringing attention to the continent and attracting foreign investment.

China, however, fails to impart technical expertise to the locals in order to maintain the structures. Without such expertise, it is difficult to see how these investments will have long-lasting benefits. In addition, these investments are completely Chinese-owned. The funding, labor, and materials are Chinese and the jobs available to locals are limited. In instances where jobs are available, they are low-level positions which pay as little as USD2 per day.

Con Me Some More! Con Me!

A con man is one who swindles another out of something of value in exchange for nothing (or at least something significantly lower in value). I would characterize China as the con man. China needs resources to feed its burgeoning economy and African countries desperately need foreign investment to create infrastructure and necessary services. At face value, it seems that that there is a mutually beneficial exchange. But when we look at the end results, we learn that these developments will not have long-lasting benefits. Moreover, China is also exporting huge volumes of manufactured goods to these countries, hampering their ability to manufacture their own products and develop their economies. As cheap Chinese goods flood the market, jobs are eliminated in African countries. Yet African leaders keep on saying, "Con me some more!Con me!" despite the fact that many of their citizens are unhappy with the con.

Why the Con is Working

China is conning the corrupt African leaders. And the con works because both parties believe it can gain more than the other from the deal. China has recently scaled back its support of the governments in Zimbabwe and Sudan but hardliners in China still oppose pressuring these governments in the name of developing-world solidarity and in order to counterbalance U.S. power. Nevertheless, China's main motivations are energy security and economic growth and will devise more sophisticated means to secure them. And the more African leaders it can con, the better.

The original article can be found here.

-- AlfianKuchit - 20 Apr 2009


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r4 - 08 Jan 2010 - 22:31:23 - IanSullivan
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