Peacekeeping: The Chinese Threat In Africa

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June 25, 2013: As China becomes more involved in Africa economically, there is growing fear that China is using methods that will eventually lead to intense anti-Chinese attitudes. For example, the Chinese bring their own workers and employ few locals for construction projects China is paying for. This gives the Chinese greater control over projects, usually related to construction (buildings, roads, and the like) or mining. The Chinese tend to ignore local advice, which leads to construction practices that work back in China but not in various parts of Africa. The Chinese workers are kept in separate camps and rarely mix with locals, giving rise to suspicions that they are Chinese convict labor. There’s no evidence of that, and Chinese managers everywhere tend to be very intent on tightly controlling work they are responsible for.

These Chinese construction projects please the local African officials because the Chinese get the job done quickly with minimal problems from locals. Neither the dictators nor the Chinese are concerned with long-term problems. While China has been generous with business deals in Africa, and sent over half a million Chinese to work, invest, or settle in China, African tyrants are favored as partners. That's because these thugs are shunned by Western nations and businesses. Because of this, China is increasingly seen as a supporter of evil governments and that has generated a widespread African hostility towards all things Chinese. This has led to anti-Chinese riots in some countries and a general animosity towards the Chinese at the grass roots level. Thus, when these countries go through their next rebellion the Chinese are likely to be a popular target and a major loser if the rebels win.

China has been at this for nearly a decade. This really kicked into high gear when China declared 2006 was officially "The Year of Africa." China went all out to make a favorable impression on African governments and increase Chinese economic and diplomatic activity in Africa that year. To that end, about a billion dollars-worth of debts, of African nations to the Chinese government, were forgiven. The year before, Chinese commercial and government organizations invested over $13 billion in Africa. This was less than one percent of China's GDP but by African standards, it was huge.

However, there was some blowback. The Chinese were mainly after raw materials, especially oil. A lot of that $13 billion was bribes for local officials. As usual, the average African was getting screwed by these deals. For example, a lot of the investment was for infrastructure (roads, bridges, structures), and a lot of those deals stipulated the use of Chinese labor for most of the work. There was never any intention of employing many Africans. The Chinese pay such low wages that they could afford to fly in Chinese for many jobs. China is also flooding African markets with inexpensive goods. Both of these tactics are hurting local businesses and causing unrest among African business owners and workers. As a result, it's become common for opposition parties in Africa to accuse China of "neo-colonial exploitation." The accusation fits, and the Chinese will pay for it down the road, as will peacekeepers brought in to help clean up the mess.

 

 


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