ANALYSIS: As China enters Africa, new challenges emerge Part I By Dr Michael J.K. Bokor

The writer, Dr Michael J.K. Bokor
China has taken its relationship with Africa to a new level by snuggling to the continental body, the African Union. It has given a concrete evidence to authenticate that relationship and provided a new $200m (£127m) AU headquarters, funded and built by it. The building was officially opened on Saturday for use by the African leaders gathered for the AU’s 18th ordinary session.

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A statue of Ghana’s first President and foremost Pan-Africanist, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, was also unveiled and prizes in his name awarded to two African scientists for their accomplishments. Beyond its material significance, this gift symbolizes China’s determination to make friends with Africa and opens a new chapter in the China-Africa relationship.

As observed by the BBC, the 100 meter-tall building dominates the Addis Ababa skyline and is a “testimony” to the growing relationship between China and Africa, according to project co-ordinator, Fantalum Michael.China has vigorously defended its economic and trade relations with African countries. It needs more natural resources such as oil, gas, and minerals for its rapidly growing economy, while Africa needs more investment in basic infrastructure to develop its potential.

In the first policy paper on the subject, Beijing said China-Africa co-operation helped Africa to reach the UN Millennium Development Goals, and boosted common prosperity and progress, according to information available at the BBC News’ Web site.

China is now Africa’s largest trading partner. Bilateral trade grew more than 43% to nearly $115bn (£74bn) in 2010. Chinese direct investment in Africa jumped from less than $0.5bn in 2003 to more than $9bn in 2009.
It plans to expand the relationship to “a larger scale, broader scope and higher level,” according to the policy paper released by the state information office, and reported by the BBC.

With this huge leap, China has confirmed that it is fast stepping in with a different agenda from the brazen exploitation that motivated European colonialism in Africa. The first thing these European powers did upon entering the hitherto “Dark Continent” was not to give gifts but to plunder resources (both material and human) for their own good. No one sees China as an angel; but its incursion into Africa isn’t as devastating as what the heartless Europeans unleashed on the continent for more than 400 years.

And they are still not conscionable enough to recognize the harm that they did—and still do with their unequal relationship with Africa—but are determined to inflict more harm through subtle and vile means. Neither are they willing to desist.

China’s incursion into Africa may be regarded as an economic imperative, which gives us the other side of colonialism to compare with what the European powers did when they scrambled for and partitioned Africa for abject exploitation economically and politically. Under neo-colonialism, they are still exploiting Africa in diverse ways. Call it mental colonialism.

The West (especially the US) may chafe at this incursion and take impulsive and desperate measures (such as establishing military bases and social re-engineering) but it won’t stop this incursion. Good conditions exist both in China itself and Africa to catalyze it.

The gigantic strides that China has made may be attributed to the benefits of its political system and bold economic policies. Having overtaken Japan as the world’s second strongest economy—and threatening to topple the US to take the first position by 2015 (instead of 2025as now projected)—China is in an economic boom, apparently buoyed up by its political system. The West may condemn its communist approach to governance but it cares less. Its focus is on maximizing efforts to grow its economy; and it has succeeded thus far to the dismay of the West.

China is unique in its development efforts and has identified itself with others (Brazil, India, Russia) to pool resources together for mutual benefits. And their alliance is succeeding at many levels. No wonder that Brazil has already dislodged Britain as the world’s fourth strongest economy.

The picture unfolding before our eyes portrays a future global economy that will see the West receding to the backwoods as China leads others to dominate the centre-stage. Indeed, if what we see is anything to go by at all, we can say with guarded optimism that an economic growth for China and its partners will provide better opportunities for poor and weak systems, including Africa.

We acknowledge the fact that unlike the danger that the vampire West has unleashed on Africa and the other poor and weak systems, what China is leading the others to do will provide opportunities for cooperation, not domination, subjugation, and exploitation. We are beginning to see a form of burgeoning “colonial enterprise” that will make nonsense of the one carried out by the European powers.

I am confident that the economic cooperation initiatives will result in a give-and-take situation and not the close-fisted and underhanded agenda that the European powers implemented in Africa, India, and elsewhere. If China does this business in a transparent manner with a clean conscience, it will create enough goodwill to remain in the good books of Africa for a longer period than the European powers did.

I can’t foresee any tendency on the part of China to forcibly take over territories, occupy them, and establish a political administrative machinery to replicate what the European powers did. Probably, the current or future world order won’t have room for any such colonialist venture which is more than likely to provoke a global catastrophe with Africa as the theatre of that war. China knows better not to insist on physically occupying Africa to be able to do business with it. That’s why African leaders now being lured by China must be extra-vigilant to detect the subtleties involved in this burgeoning relationship with China.
From what is happening, enough evidence exists to confirm that China is more focused on economic partnership than a one-sided approach to doing business in Africa. Its investments in countries such as Sudan are not tilted toward siphoning off resources from there; nor is there any slightest hint of such a venture in other parts of Africa where it has a foothold.

Unlike the vampire IMF and its affiliates, China’s dealings with Africa have “no strings” attached. At least, that’s what is currently being touted. This approach makes China more attractive to Africa—and it irks the West.

The problem of the West is that it can’t stand any opposition or the slightest threat to its interests. The West knows nothing but the search for opportunities to improve itself. We infer from history to know how the British Empire came into being and to understand why Britain was able to exploit territories it conquered. At the collapse of that Empire, Britain can’t get back to its feet but still kicks the hardest like a dying donkey.
To be continued…

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