Richard Behar on China’s March into Africa

rbeharVeteran journalist and overall China-skeptic Richard Behar gives an interesting overview of China’s rapid economic ascent across Africa in this January 27, 2010 speech at the University of Nebraska.  Behar is best know for writing an excellent 24-page special report on China in Africa for the U.S. business magazine “Fast Company.” If you have not read this report, it is highly recommended as it provides a comprehensive overview of the changing geopolitical landscape. Furthermore, this Nebraska speech may also be worth an hour of your time.  Although he is a bit heavy on the cliches, he lays out an interesting perspective on the declining influence of Western powers in Africa and China’s meteoric rise.  Watch the full interview here.

Among his key points:

  • African governments prefer to deal with China who does not lecture them on political transparency or human rights.
  • China does not impose arduous restrictions on aid.
  • Memories in Africa are long, remembering back to the Cold War era where the West supported brutal dictators.
  • Chinese aid to Africa is now believed to exceed World Bank assistance.
  • The Democratic Republic of the Congo and its vast natural resources is the big prize for China in Africa.
  • There are more Chinese embassies in Africa than any other nation.
  • More Chinese citizens are believed to live in Africa than any other foreign country.
  • Half the supermarkets in Lesotho are owned by Chinese merchants.
  • There are more Chinese in Nigeria than there were Britons at the height of the British empire.
  • China’s corrupt business culture meshes well with much of the culture of corruption in African business.
  • Africa is now the number one transit point for Chinese counterfeit products going to the West.
  • The effects of counterfeit Chinese pharmaceuticals across Africa will never be known.
  • American presidents have been misguided in thinking that increased trade with China will lead to more freedom there.
  • Chinese timber operators are decimating Mozambican forests.  Locals call it the “great Chinese take out.”
  • China is now the world’s top consumer of timber and is looking to Africa as a new source of raw timber.
  • Any African nation that accepts money from Beijing must sever ties with Taiwan.
  • 1-2 million DR Congolese workers are “indentured” to Chinese mine owners earning $3 per day (“on a good day.”)
  • China now obtains a 1/3 of its oil from Africa and Equatorial Guinea is central to their oil strategy in Africa.
  • China is getting most of the new oil contracts at rates U.S. and other international companies cannot match.
  • Africans and Chinese see Western hypocrisy in their talk of political reform while funneling World Bank money to dictators.

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