by Austin Bay
January 27, 2022
A quick review of communist China's calculated territorial imperialism in the South China Sea helps clarify Beijing's calculated economic, political and criminal imperialism in sub-Saharan Africa.
In 2016 the Hague's international tribunal ruled that China had seized islets and "sea features" in the South China Sea belonging to the Philippines. It had also plundered Filipino fishing resources.
The ruling invoked the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, a treaty China had signed. Yet Beijing ignored the verdict. Chinese diplomats contend in Southeast Asia, China is recovering "stolen" territory.
That defense is rubbish -- propaganda to blur a wicked case of aggression by an imperial Great Power (China) at the expense of a weak neighbor.
China's "lost land" scam can't mask or excuse its imperialism in vulnerable sub-Saharan Africa.
During the infamous Scramble for Africa (1881-1914) European empires seized control of roughly 90% of Africa. Scrambling imperialists sought colonies. Colonies gave the imperial powers natural resources, markets for goods (economic dominance), and often strategic military bases.
China's calculating communist-imperialists dominate 21st century empire-building in sub-Saharan African.
Almost two decades ago prescient human rights groups, developmental aid advocates and savvy accountants began warning sub-Saharan African nations that China's elaborate promises of direct economic investment and generous loan arrangements were anything but altruistic. China's offers of technical assistance to build much-needed infrastructure were suspect. Aid advisers pointed out China typically insisted on using state-owned Chinese construction companies and Chinese workers, which denied local workers opportunities to acquire modern construction skills.
Human rights groups insistently bewail the fact corrupt African politicians are easy targets for political manipulation and bribery by wealthy countries and corporations. Mineral-rich countries with corrupt governments, like the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo) and Zambia, are particularly vulnerable.
The prescient critics got this right: China's strategic goal wasn't development, but guaranteed access to natural resources to supply its industrial economy, especially with strategic minerals found in Congo like cobalt and coltan (refined tantalum).
Manufacturing mobile phones and computers requires coltan. Producing rechargeable batteries requires cobalt. China makes many electric vehicles (EVs) but one has special political importance: "city-town" mini-EVs. Domestic demand is huge. The deal the Chinese Communist Party makes with the Chinese people is they get modern goodies if they don't challenge CCP control.
It takes roughly 22 pounds of cobalt to make an electric car battery. Congolese minerals make China's economy whir and help preserve CCP power.
Congo's so-called "China Deal" is a detailed and hideous example of the CCP dictatorship's self-serving and ultimately malevolent imperialism in Africa.
In 2008 Congo's then-government, led by the authoritarian and corrupt Joseph Kabila, signed a deal with two state-owned Chinese firms. The companies were supposed to build roads, hospitals and other infrastructure in exchange for a 68% stake in a huge Congolese copper and cobalt venture. Published estimates of the deal's value ran from $6.8 to $10 billion.
Similar Congo resources-for-development deals followed. One involved building electrical distribution infrastructure.
In 2019 President Felix Tshisekedi replaced Kabila. In 2020 Congolese officials estimated Chinese companies controlled around 70% of Congo's mineral deposits and mining-related industry.
Reformers demanded the government review Kabila's mining deals. In May 2021 Tshisekedi agreed. He later called the deals unfair, indicating investigators had found evidence.
They were more than unfair, they were corrupt. In late 2021 a leaked report claimed a subsidiary China Deal contract was used to distribute $55 million to senior members of Kabila's government. According to a media report, the bribe plot used shell companies that made the operation appear legitimate. State-owned Chinese companies are in thrall to the CCP. That implicates Beijing.
Late last year we learned that in 2017 the Kabila government agreed to secretly amend the China Deal. The amendment accelerated payments to Chinese financiers and slowed the pace of infrastructure investment. In other words, communist China got money before doing required construction in Congo.
The leaked 2021 report alleged that China has invested less than one billion dollars in infrastructure projects, about half of what should have been invested by 2021.
The people of Congo are being cheated, and one of the cheats is China.
Imperialism with Chinese characteristics? Yes.