Sunday, May 27, 2012

Is the growing involvement of China in Africa a boon or bane fro the continent’s sustainable development?

Question: Is the growing involvement of China in Africa a boon or bane fro the continent’s sustainable development? Illustrate with the aid of examples.
We are not blinded by the moral reparation of national independence; nor are we fed by it. The wealth of the imperial countries is our wealth too.... So when we hear the head of a European state declare with his hand on his heart that he must come to the aid of the poor underdeveloped peoples, we do not tremble with gratitude. Quite the contrary; we say to ourselves: ''It's just reparation which will be paid to us.''... This help should be the ratification of a double realization: the realization by the colonized peoples that it is their due, and the realization by the capitalist powers that in fact they must pay.
(Fanon 1963: 102-103)”.

The engagement between Africa and China is exceptional at international level, benefits and costs of the engagement between China and Africa must be analysed and evaluated. Cost and benefit analysis of the bilateral relations between Africa and China has shown that China has benefited more in the engagement than Africa. Issues of sustainable development on the African continent have been crucial; the engagement with China presents itself as Africa’s chance of attaining that goal. This essay will critically examine the growing involvement of China in Africa as boon or bane for the continent’s sustainable development. In explaining this discourse, the essay will elaborate the effects Chinese oil diplomacy with Sudan and Angola and elucidate the Chinese dominance in the Textile sector with South Africa from aid, trade and investment.

Diplomatic ties between Africa and China have developed over the years and have strengthen remarkably due to same ideological principles of anti-imperialism, anti- colonialism and denouncing the hegemonic status of the Western powers. According to Van de Looy (2006;2) during the Bandung Conference in 1955 aimed to promote economic and cultural relations between Asian and African states, China and Africa agreed on five principles of “mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity; mutual non-aggression; non-interference in each other’s internal affairs; equality and mutual benefit; and peaceful coexistence”. However the contestations have risen as to how China has honoured these principles of the Bandung Conference of 1955, China has dominated in African markets, creating monopolies in oil and textile industries violating the principle of equality and mutual benefit. Economic monopoly on the African continent by Chinese has been detrimental to the continent’s sustainable development, although the term sustainable development is highly controversial in definition; Chinese relations in Africa are far from enhancing sustainable development in the continent.

According to Bond (2002:8) sustainable development is defined as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. The plundering of natural resources and economic hegemony of China in Sudan, Angola and South Africa is affecting the sustainable developmental prospects on the African continent. According to Asche and Schüller (2008) China's rapidly expanding engagement in Africa in the fields of development cooperation, trade, investment and migration has attracted great attention and given rise to mixed reactions at international level. Different views on China engagement with Africa have been ascertained but the position of this essay relates to Tull (2009;465) argument that Africa is being used by China to provide an ample percentage to China’s requirement of natural resources such as oil and as a market for it products.

China’s oil diplomacy on the continent has revealed massive exploitation of its natural resource with most oil producing countries such as Sudan, Angola, Nigeria, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea attaining nothing substantial of China’s investments. According to Van de Looy (2006;15) Africa owns 8% of the world oil reserves and China is making strides to control oil production in the African continent it has allocated military, politico-diplomatic and economic resource. In Sudan China has virtually controlled the oil production in that country, Van de Looy (2006;17) notes that China National Petroleum is the largest shareholder and essentially controls the Sudanese oil production. The Chinese have used aid without conditionalities to bribe African states to sign concessions that do not increase the state welfare or enhance development. The Sudanese government with the protection that China provided in the UN Security Council against imposition of sanctions has perceived China as a strategic partner and an ally.

When the USA imposed sanction against Khartoum and the withdrawal of the Western oil companies in Sudan China according to Tull (2006:470) resulted in Chinese Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company (GNPOC) to become the largest foreign investor in oil production in Sudan. Instead of the Chinese government forcing Sudan to respect international law in human rights and stop political violence it further funded indirectly these barbaric uncalled for acts through its investments in oil production when other nations had withdrew their business operations in Sudan. According to Van de Looy (2006;17) fully aware of the situation in Sudan from political turmoil and human rights abuses the China government supported the Sudan government in the UNSC, Human rights Watch accuse China for co-operating in the genocide in Darfur since 2003. China’s five principles of peaceful coexistence can easily be criticised according to Asche and Schüller (2008:70) with reference to the Charter of the African Union, which abandon the principle of non-intervention in the case of serious infringements of human rights

The Chinese government is prepared to sacrifice the principles of good governance and democratization in Africa to protect their own economic interests, is very much clear that the decision not punish Sudan for human rights abuses was purely bases on Chinese economic interests. According to Van de Looy (2006;17) the WTO ascertained that Sudan oil exports to China accounted to 64% of Sudan’s total oil exports in 2004. China has become an imperialist state that covers itself with a sheep skin whilst it is a wolf, in the name of economic co-operation, enhancing diplomatic ties and providing aid to Africa, Africa is being robbed off its natural resources. According to Asche and Schüller (2008:10) China’s oil diplomacy has been highly successful in terms of diversifying its supplier countries, but its tolerance of human rights violations and poor governance in these countries has increasingly attracted criticism. If Africa is to experience genuine development, the engagement with China must be analysed and evaluated on the cost and benefits of such bilateral relations.

China in Angola has also showed that the elements of exploitation and conquest by the Chinese government according to Van de Looy (2006;19) with Angola just coming out of an intense civil war aid for reconstruction become the sole responsibility of the Angolan government. The Chinese were quick to react and offered a soft loan of US$2 billion with no political strings attached with repayment of 17 years. However conditinalities were attached to the that would allow the Chinese to penetrate into the Angolan economy Van de Looy (2006;19) elaborates that the loan intended reconstruction and development, 70% of the construction projects would assigned to Chinese and Angola would import 10000 barrels of oil a day from Angola. Exclusion of conditonalities such as good governance, democracy and monitoring of the reconstruction programme resulted in mismanagement of the funds and diverting of funds for use of state fuelled violence and propaganda. In 2007 another loan was disseminated to Angola compelled with oil interests according to Campos and Vines (2008;8) in September 2007, a further oil-backed loan of $2 billion was signed in Luanda by Angolan finance minister José Pedro de Morais and Chinese EximBank president Li Ruogu.

The $ 2billion was used for health and education while the Chinese plunders oil, sustainable development according to the definition of Bond (2002) stipulates that it can only be attained without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The plundering of oil in Angola automatically means scarcity of the resource in future which will affect the future oil needs of the future generation in Angola. The Chinese in respect of the five principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity; mutual non-aggression; non-interference in each other’s internal affairs; equality and mutual benefit; and peaceful coexistence have not complied with any of them. However fundamental strides by the Chinese government to help the Angolan government for reconstruction after the post-war era are major components to enhance sustainable development. According to Campos and Vines (2008;9) in 2005, China International Fund Ltd. (CIF) a private Hong Kong–based institution, extended $2.9 billion to assist Angola’s post-war reconstruction, reflects Chinese commitment to Africa sustainable development.

According to Van de Looy (2006;19) Angola opts to sign commercial loans with China than cheaper loans provided by IMF and World bank that demand reforms and transparency therefore China’s loan is undermining the international pressure being put on the government to invest in the development of Angola. This shows that Chinese interests in Africa are more aligned to its economic interests only Tull (2006;486) retaliates that the Chinese businesses seem to consider economic, political and environmental challenges as investment opportunities. While China sticks to its foreign policy that respect of sovereignty and self determination of a state it is the very same country that is making African countries to surrender their sovereignty for economic gains. Edinger et al (2008;12) retaliates that unlike the Middle East and Central Eurasia, Africa is regarded as “an independent oil source” in a few years Africa will replace Russia and Central Asia to become China’s second largest source of foreign oil, with African oil accounting for 30% of the country’s total oil imports

China has been criticised for the supply of weapons in Sudan in its quest for oil. The Sudanese government seek legitimacy through the use of military and other state institutions instead of democratic means has been supplied with weapons by the Chinese government without the consideration that the arms will be used against the citizens. According to Van de Looy (2006;25) China does not demonstrate much concern for human rights abuses, Tull (2006;474) retaliates the same sentiments that China in it defence for sovereignty often benefit unsavoury, barbaric and unconstitutional regimes undermining efforts of political liberalisation. It is very clear that the Chinese are not concerned about the issues of peace, stability, governance and democracy on the African soil. With political turmoil in African states where illegitimate leaders have denounced democratic principles the Chinese have supported such regimes. According to According to Van de Looy (2006;25) the Chinese sold weapons to the Sudanese government that used in the Darfur genocide. Tull (2006;467) retaliates that China represents an attractive partner for African governments, authoritarian or not and great African governments presiding over hybrid regimes for whom the distribution of patronage remains an exigency of political survival.

China has maintain its dominance in trade with Africa, whilst most of the commodities of China are of low quality and sub-standard than those of the western nations, polarisation of the African markets by sub-standard goods has resulted in consumer preferences being compromised. According to Van de Looy (2006;20) the African markets have been flooded with cheap Chinese goods, that have destroyed the domestic infant industries which are unable to compete with cheap Chinese products. Hence the domestic industries especially the textile industry in South Africa have suffered severely with some downsizing and facing closure due unfair competition of the Chinese textile products and socially unemployment has surfaced. Exports of Chinese textiles in South Africa according to Schmitt (2007:6) resulted in jobs loss of about 76000 in the sector between 1994 and 2004 the Chinese textile dominates 70% of South Africa textile market. African countries have resorted in implementation of protectionist policies, South Africa had to enforce quotas on Chinese products to protect the local industries. South Africa trade unions, Cosatu have at countless times confronted the government to restrict the Chinese textile industries from monopolising the market as it has resulted in intense job losses.

Amid criticism of China’s engagement with Africa, bilateral relations between the continent and China have yielded many developmental prospects with African states no longer dependent on the west. Asche and Schüller (2008:9) states that China’s emerging interest in Africa has provided the continent with a ‘window of opportunity’ in navigating the international community that has not existed since the Cold War era of Soviet-American competition. China has been involved in building of infrastructure such as hydro-electrical dams and roads according Tull (2006:486) China has been a major player in the field of infrastructural; development in Africa building roads, railways, power stations and these are not commercial and some not even profitable to the Chinese government. China’s Export-Import (EXIM) Bank which aids with financing infrastructure required for extracting and transporting energy and mineral resources according to Edinger et al (2008;14) has since “2005 approved US$6,5 for 260 developmental projects in 36 African countries and Concessional and low-interest loans for infrastructure development amount to US$ 12.5 billion and more than 80% are concentrated in Angola, Mozambique, Sudan and Zimbabwe”.

Most of the loans that are considered as soft loans from China, do have conditinalities the only lacking conditionalities are political. Through the dispensation of loans Chinese have enforced conditionalities that allow repatriation of its funds to China according Schmitt (2007:5) Chinese aid is largely tied (up to 70%) to imports from China and services are to be delivered by Chinese companies. With China having about 1.3 trillion in foreign reserves according to Schmitt (2007:5) China have in increase its foreign reserves accumulation by signing productive and politically fruitful investments. Major investments in Africa has surly benefits the African continent with Chinese FDI in Africa that cumulated to 6.27 bn US$ in 2005 according to Schmitt (2007:4) has created opportunities for economic growth and reduction of poverty. FDIs (Foreign Direct Investments) and ODAs (Official development Assistance) of China in Africa have surpassed those of powerful nations of the west.

The Chinese government has opened its credit lines to developing countries Africa through EXIM and China Developmental Bank (CDB) while IMF and World Bank have put good governance and observance of human rights as conditionalities of aid and humanitarian assistance. The Chinese have over looked all these and provide direct loans that help the African countries to improve their state welfare. In concurrence Tull (2006;467) retaliates that Chinese aid tend to benefit the governments of receiving countries more directly than the policies of Western donors, who are preoccupied with the reduction of poverty. However according to Tull (2006;473) quotes from the Zimbabwe Independent (29.7.2005) when President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe turned to China after his controversial “Look East Policy” to secure a bail out from EU and USA sanctions he was given nothing just a mere US$6 for gain imports but Zimbabwe had signed platinum concessions with China but this was not sufficient for China to grant some funds. Nevertheless China as Edinger et al (2008;14) propounds at the “Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit in November 2006, President Hu Jintao announced that China would double its assistance by 2009, provide US$ 3 billion in preferential loans and US$ 2 billion in preferential buyer’s credits to Africa over the next three years”.

In social development China has helped Africa countries in education and health according to Edinger et al (2008;15) at the Beijing Summit in 2009, Hu Jintao also announced support for 30 new hospitals in Africa, 30 malaria prevention and treatment centres and an additional US$ 38 million for the provision of artemisinin over the next three years. While various scholarships are offered by China for African students Edinger et al (2008;15) propounds that 15 000 African professionals were trained in technical, scientific and administrative fields in 2007-09. China engagement with Africa has benefited both side although there is contestation of how China handles its business operations in Africa, Africa has benefit to some extent form this engagement.

China engagement with Africa offers many economic opportunities nevertheless China engagement with Africa like that of Britain and USA represents ‘big brother relations’ with the African continent; China has not shown any interest in the democratization agenda that is being advocated by the Western powers and embryo opposition parties in Africa. The detrimental effects of China overlooking fundamental elements of good governance and political stability when dispensing aid in Africa will never allow Africa to attain sustainable development. In conclusion bilateral relations of Africa and China must be analysed especially by African countries as to who benefits most in the engagement and to instigate its sole interests in political, economical and social development. Strengthening of regional and continental bodies in Africa is very important to forge ahead with a co-odinated strategy that would see African counties having a comparative advantage on Chinese relations.


Asche.H, Schüller M 2008 China’s Engagement in Africa –Opportunities and Risks for Development Africa Department, Economic Affairs

Campos I and Vines A; 2008 ANGOLA AND CHINA A Pragmatic Partnership Working Paper Presented at a CSIS Conference, “Prospects for Improving U.S.-China-Africa Cooperation,” December 5, 2007

Edinger, Herman H, Jansson J 2008 New impulses from the south: china’s engagement of Africa Journal of Mordern African Studies

Judith van de Looy 2006 Africa and China: A Strategic Partnership? African Studies Centre
Leiden, The Netherlands, ASC Working Paper 67/2006

Gerald Schmitt, 2007 Is Africa Turning East? China’s new engagement in Africa and its implications on the macro-economic situation, the business environment and the private sector in Africa. Economic Section of the Africa Department of German Technical Cooperation, GTZ, Eschborn, Germany

Partrick Bond (2002) ‘Something for Nothing’ in the Discourses of ‘Sustainable Development,
Presented to the 8th Qualitative/Critical Methods Conference Something for Nothing: Subjectivity and the New Economy. Unisa Sunnyside Campus, Pretoria

Tull M Denies (2006) China’s engagement in Africa: scope, significance and consequences Journal of Mordern African Studies, 44,3pp459-479