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How to deal with the Chinese troublemaker in Africa

, February 26, 2015, 1 Comments

chinese africa india-MarketExpress-inChina’s presence in Africa has become its obsession not only for trade but also for aid, predator behavior, unfair competition. Beijing consensus supports undemocratic regime, corruption. I must say that the arrival of the “pro-Chinese” President Mugabe as new President of the African Union early February can only reinforce the idea that much of the African leaders are purchasing the “Beijing Consensus” in return Beijing pays back in a generous way. The Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs announced in Addis Ababa several billion dollars for the financing of the continent’s infrastructure, one of the top priorities for African leaders today.

To understand the Geo-economic equation requires a deep historical culture to trace the path of China in Africa. The first pulse was sensed at the third world countries Summit in Bandung while China was subjected to Western encirclement after the Korean War and at the beginning of the Vietnam War. The second turning point occurred in 1963 during the Sino-Soviet schism. The great African tour of Premier Zhou Enlai laid for the first time the foundation of the 5 main principles of the bilateral relationship with Africa that still continues today, including the famous “non-interference in internal affairs “. The “African dividend” in 1971 will be the recovery of the Chinese seat at the UN Security Council then occupied by Formosa (Taiwan). Africa now weighs 55 votes in the UN!

The third turning point occurred in 1989 when it was undergoing an economic takeoff based on exports to rich countries, the Berlin wall fell and china was isolated due to Tienanmen crack down. Coincidentally, Africa was entering its “black decade” with the Bretton Woods institutions that imposed harsh structural adjustment programs. When they wanted Angola to knee for $ 200 million, Beijing put 2 billion on the table in 2002 and became a protégé of this oil Eldorado’s whose capital Luanda is the most expensive city today in Africa.

After the geopolitical and political sides, the economic component took shape. Following two Ministerial Forum on the China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), in 2006, China invited forty African countries, heads of state for the first major Sino-African summit in history to be held in Beijing. This created fissures in Africa’s relationship with the rest of the world. In reaction to it, Mrs Merkel decided in 2007 to revive the Lisbon EU-Africa Forum whose last summit was in 2000, but nothing worked. In next few years, China became the first economic partner of Africa with over $ 300 billion in trade last year against only $10 billion in 2000, and direct investment almost on par with the American ones.

So what to do ? Trees do not grow up to the sky actually. A set of more or less dubious projects, the looting of fisheries resources in countries like Senegal or Mauritania, and the persistent rumors about Chinese corruption with unpopular leaders like Mugabe have started a strong debate in Africa about the cost-benefit balance of this relationship and the relevance of putting aside political democracy when so many African springs continues as in Burkina Faso or Congo.

So what? Adopting a confrontational stance ? Competing on equal terms including the most detestable ones? Two tracks actually arose. The first is a triangular cooperation with China, Africa and any third parties. Beijing does not really want. Purely bilateral relations allow it to be in a strong position vis-à-vis the 55 countries of the continent. But everything will depend here on the Africans themselves who might be tempted to enlarge their margins of negotiations with the huge Chinese corporations supported by their state.

The second track is opened by the Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo well known for her provocative book published in 2009: “Dead Aid”. Please do not allow cornered Africa to choose between China and the West, between authoritarian and democratic paths, but leave her to find its own development model, taking the best of both, and accept its criticism of the Western model. Be more efficient, that’s all !. In fact, China has been a troublemaker, a “Game Changer” vis-à-vis the Western development aid that everybody acknowledges have been ” at best” little effective.

So enjoy the challenge, innovate with our African partners and the face of Africa will change for the better. This includes the large emerging countries like India whose companies have long understood that the African continent is a great source of opportunities for the future.

  • pramodpadhy

    China watchers are not surprised at the increasing Chinese presence in Africa.China works on a long term strategic vision and assiduously moves in that direction. Chinese diplomacy, both political and economic, are geared to this end. Unfortunately, Indian policy initiatives are mostly guided by short term considerations.It is time that India also builds up a long term strategic vision and steers her policy to this end.