The article I choose for this week’s topic deals with the ongoing occurrence of Chinese business involvement in Africa. I was actually told about this phenomenon recently by a friend, so I was looking for an article specifically about the relationship between China and Africa. Among the articles that I read, I picked this one from The Herald-Sun (a newspaper in North Carolina) because I think it provides a concise summation of some of the pros and cons for both China and Africa. And there don’t seem to be many, or any, cons for China.
This article specifically mentions some Chinese-funded buildings in Malawi. Among them are the Parliament building, a $100 million hotel and conference center, and a soccer stadium. While a decent amount of time China invests in countries in order to have a foothold to gain better and easier access to valuable natural resources, what I found particularly interesting is that China is also doing so in countries like Malawi, that don’t have the same bountiful resources. This analysis by the author of the article, Michael Gerson (a longtime writer for the Washington Post), was that China’s goal is to establish themselves and a continent-wide power.
Basically, what has been referred to as “neo-imperialism” is China’s version of Western economic liberalism, open trade, and limited government. By commissioning these projects in African countries, China gets to assert their presence while simultaneously stimulating their own economy. (I also learned that more often than not, China would export its own workers to build the projects. By now, then has been enough commentary by the African community that China has been pressured to hire African native workers as well.) Perhaps even more significant than access to natural resources, by establishing a highly visible presence, China is more or less buying influence with governments.
For Africa, while they might benefit in the near future, it seems that for the long-term this is a bad precedent for them to be setting. Nations that China is developing in get the glamor of some new buildings and possibly tourist attractors, but in the long run they will be drained of resources and potentially need to bend to pressures from a foreign government with a significant foothold throughout the entire continent.
This process will also have ripple effects felt outside of Africa. As Marc mentioned in his post, 59% of Americans think of China as an economic threat. If anyone wants some more extensive reading on what China is doing in Africa, they can check out this article from the Economist as well.