I wrote earlier this week about China’s growing role in Africa. Here are six further insights into the implications of China’s push into Africa.
In essence, China and its African partners have figured out a way to circumvent the patchwork system of accountability for foreign aid. It’s a maneuver that is causing unease in Western capitals, and particularly in the United States. If there is an upside to China’s scruples free investment, it may be that the competition for allies and resources will force the West to reconsider its own neglect of the continent.
In 2000, a new China-Africa cooperation forum agreed a joint economic and social programme, one that lent a developmental and commercial slant to the “five principles”. China has subsequently been well in advance of the G8 by cancelling $10 billion of the debt it is owed by African states; at the second Sino-Africa business conference in December 2003, China offered further debt relief to thirty-one African countries, as well as opening the prospect of zero-tariff trade.
the genocide and ethnic cleansing we see taking place in Darfur and parts of southern Sudan today can be directly linked to China. The Chinese government and so-called Chinese private investors supply the regime of Omar al-Bashir with weapons (helicopter gunships and aircraft, heavy-duty automatic weapons, landmines, mortars and rockets, etc.), the Chinese military personell needed to train the Sudanese military and police how to use them, and loads of money in the form of revenues from oil exports and generous Chinese bank loans. The various peoples of the Sudan don’t see any benefits or at best little from the money earned by oil exports to China and elsewhere by the way.
The US wants to reduce reliance on the Middle East for energy supplies, meaning a new quest for hydrocarbons in places like Africa. But as the competition for energy heats up, the West is finding that our feel-good finger-wagging over human rights and corruption means most African governments find China a more cooperative partner. Our moral high-mindedness and ham-fistedness is both hurting the national interest and ultimately hurting the cause of human rights in Africa as well.
Are we, by the way, going to see Cold War style East – West pull on Africa? Oh boy! Perhaps it can be called the Warm War because China-America relationship is cosier than it was during the Cold War and this one is all about money.
In its quest for energy, China has shown a willingness to do business with regimes shunned as pariahs by much of the rest of the world for human rights abuses. Two years ago, Beijing signed a $70 billion energy deal with Iran at a time when the United States and Europe were debating whether and how to sanction the country for pursuing a nuclear weapons program. China National Petroleum is the single largest partner in a consortium that is extracting oil with the government of Sudan, a regime that has been accused of perpetrating genocide in its western region of Darfur.