Posts Tagged ‘非洲’

Question and Answers About Chinese People in South Africa

Friday, May 7th, 2010

QA in South Africa

The Dutch-based new media organization Couscous Global recently posted an interesting little gem of a video on You Tube that asks young South Africans to express how they feel about the country’s Chinese population. It opens with a young Chinese guy asking the question in English and then turns to a racially diverse group of South African teenagers for their responses.  On the surface, it just sounds like kids giggling and fumbling through their answers.  Yet there were some very interesting, and extremely important, points they used to explain why they get along quite well with Chinese immigrants.


A Behind the Scenes View of the Chinese in Africa

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

For most outsiders, the Chinese operations in Africa run largely as an opaque mystery.  Seemingly every Western book or in-depth news article on the subject features the same complaint of not receiving any help from either Chinese officials or businesses there about how the mechanics of their investments in the region function.   Basic questions like how are factories acquired or what kind of support do Chinese embassies offer local businesses in the region largely go unanswered.

The Chinese in AfricaFor some perspective on these issues, I came across a fascinating bulletin board site (BBS) that offers remarkable insights into the inner-workings of Chinese business on the continent: The site is exclusively in Chinese, so for the benefit of CTP’s English-only readers, here are some highlights of recent entries:


How Chinese Businesses in Africa see the

Chinese Embassy

One entry submitted by a writer with the handle “Old African Trader” posts what appears to be an open letter to the Chinese government appealing on behalf of business leaders for more help from Chinese embassies on the continent.   The posts starts by saying how much pride there is seeing the Chinese flag rise over Africa and the emergence of China as a global power.  However, he goes on to sharply criticize the government for its lack of support of small businesses operating in Africa:

although Chinese African exchanges are deepening and broadening and more investors are coming to Africa, and everyone can say that those in Africa live a lonely, solitary life devoted to work and the embassy offers almost no help to these businesses”


If this writer is accurate, it offers a fascinating insight into the limitations of the “public-private partnership” that so many outside observers take for granted when evaluating Chinese investments in Africa.  On several occasions in Kinshasa and elsewhere, U.S. diplomats expressed their frustration that Chinese businesses had an unfair business advantage over American companies because of the close diplomatic/corporate relationship that allegedly exists among Chinese enterprises investing in Africa.  Yet this open letter exposes that there are limits to the Chinese government’s support of businesses.  Where Chinese embassies draw the line on what business to support is hard to know, it’s obvious that major State Owned Enterprise (SOE) multinationals operating mining and telecommunications concessions among other deals in places the DRC are very likely getting a lot of support from the embassy whereas medium and small investors, as the writer appears to represent, may not be getting very much assistance.


Toothpaste Factory Seeks African Trade Partner

牙膏外盒If you are interested in importing “Angola” brand toothpaste to Africa, then this post will be of interest. The author of this post appears to be seeking business partners in Africa to import this toothpaste.  What’s most interesting about this post is the advertised price of the toothpaste at just 1.2 RMB per unit.  This sheds some light on China’s low-cost export strategy that we have been discussing on CTP.  At just 1.2 RMB per unit, this toothpaste is affordable for a wide-spectrum of consumers at the lowest end of the economic spectrum.


Togo Sinocar Auto Sales and Repair

[Welcomes/Greets] Togo-based Chinese Friends

togo sinocarIf you happen to live in the small West African country of Togo and want to either purchase a Chinese-made vehicle or get your “Great Wall” car repaired, then Togo Sinocar is the place to go.  The author of this post, seemingly the owner or manager of Togo Sinocar, explains how this venture is the first Chinese auto sales and repair company in the country.  Togo Sinocar has 10 employees and two Chinese engineers to serve the community.  What’s most interesting here is the range of services they offer. In the U.S. or Europe, an auto repair or sales dealer does just that, whereas with Togo Sinocar, the list of services is much broader. In addition to emergency tow services they’ll also help you secure either your Togo or international drivers licenses as well.

There are hundreds of other posts on this BBS that are worthy of exploration, some very personal about finding lost relatives who went to Africa and those searching for love in Africa.   We’ll bring you more posts in the coming weeks as this site offers a truly unique view into Chinese life on the continent that is hard to come by even among those living there.

The Stark Differences Between Western and African Views on China

Friday, April 16th, 2010

bloomberg_television_logo_svgThis brief interview on Bloomberg Television highlights the dramatic differences in worldview between Westerners and Africans when it comes to their view of China.  Journalist Maryam Nemazee asks Adam Mahamat of the China-Africa Business Council with seeming incredulity as to how China can succeed where the West has failed.  In what is now becoming a rather typical answer from Africans across the continent, the fact that the Chinese do not have a brutal colonial past hanging over their current activities accounts for a lot.  Furthermore, it cannot be overstated how many African governments regard the American & European political efforts to impose transparency, legal and political reforms to be paternalistic and patronizing.  On a number of occasions, African bureaucrats have publicly complained over Washington’s hypocrisy of imposing political reforms that are not even available in the United States.  So while the American government is demanding that Kenya and other governments not spy on its own citizens’ email and phone calls, the PATRIOT Act remains in force that grants the U.S. authority to do exactly that to its own citizens.  U.S. diplomats in Africa acknowledge contradictions like this but prefer to think of them as exceptions whereas many of their African counterparts find relief in the Chinese who make no such impositions.

When will Western journalists finally wake up to the reality that the European and American adventures in Africa have been a failure — be it as colonizers or in an aid & development context?  This supposition that somehow the Chinese are going to be worse than the West is objectionable on so many levels and clearly highlights the potent paternalism regarding Africa that remains in force among too many in the Western press corps.  The list of past and present Western sins in Africa is far too long, bloody and painful to give Americans and Europeans the benefit of the doubt in this debate.  While Beijing deserves careful scrutiny of its activities in Africa, it is also entitled to fair, impartial questioning from the media.

China in Africa: the BBC’s Annoying Interview of Liu Guijin

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

BBC iplayer imageIt’s not often that senior Chinese officials make themselves available for interviews with the international media, especially in English.  So when I first heard that the BBC World Service’s “Business Today” radio program was to interview Beijing’s top diplomat on African Affairs Ambassador Liu Guijin I was genuinely excited. Unfortunately, that excitement didn’t last long.  Host Steve Evans, like so many of his colleagues in the Western media, employed what has now come to be a rather standard cynicism whenever talking with Chinese officials.  It’s the same tone that we hear in the coverage over the internet in China where despite an incredible expansion in the Chinese information marketplace, journalists like Evans focus on the singular question of “what if someone wants to look up the Dalai Lama on Google?”  While I don’t dispute that China’s limitations on the freedom of speech is a legitimate issue, I do take exception when it becomes the ONLY issue.  There’s a similar trend occurring with the international media’s coverage of the Chinese in Africa.  Just as with the freedom of speech story, there are a numerous areas where China’s African foreign policy deserves credible scrutiny.  Its arm sales to despotic leaders (Robert Mugabe), support of brutal authoritarian regimes (Sudan) and active involvement in official corruption (The DR Congo) are all worthy of questioning and investigation.  However, the story of the Chinese in Africa is far more textured than just the shortcomings of Beijing’s policies on the continent.  Evans, like so many other journalists, approaches the story with a visible level of cynicism that  ultimately deprives the listener of understanding the nuances of this important story.  China’s engagement with Africa has changed the geopolitical landscape on the continent, for better and worse.  Yet, on this rare occasion to engage the Ambassador in a constructive exchange over the pros and cons of Beijing’s policies, we are led down the path of cliches about how China would respond to an African country inviting the Dalai Lama to visit.  Who cares?  This is such an extreme point with little representation of any larger issue relevant to China’s political involvement in Africa (scroll down for more on this part of the story).

Listen to the full interview here.

Here is a summary and critique of the issues addressed in the interview:


Evans opens the interview by asking Liu about “China’s motive” in Africa.  There’s nothing actually wrong with the question, there’s just an arrogance to it through the use of the word “motive.”  It’s comparable to how the BBC, CNN and other international news organizations selectively use the word “regime” to define a government.  Somehow,  Beijing is a “regime” and Washington is a “government.”  The word “regime,” as does “motive,” has a distinctly negative connotation that is rarely applied to Western governments.  I have never heard a comparable question of what “America’s motive” is anywhere in the world.   It should go without saying that China’s “motive” in Africa is multifaceted driven by a blend of economic, political, humanitarian and military interests — no different than Washington, London or Paris’ “motives” in the region.

Importantly, Liu does highlight a key difference between the Chinese perspective on Africa and that in the West.  For most government and populations in the U.S. and Europe, Africa is regarded as a basket case of war, disease, famine and decades of failed development policies.  In contrast, Liu highlights, the Chinese see Africa as opportunity.  Beyond the obvious extractive industries, the Chinese are engaging the continent as an export market that the West long ago abandoned.   Furthermore, China’s development policies in Africa are proving to be far more effective than those of bloated, expensive and ineffective Western aid agencies.  Liu rightly points that China’s effectiveness is leading to enhanced political ties in the region at the expense of the former colonial and international powers.


Following the international community’s successful sanctions campaign against South Africa’s former apartheid government in the late 80s and early 90s, a pipe dream still exists within the UN, US and the EU that sanctions are an effective tool at isolating despotic governments.   Yet after two decades of evidence to the contrary where Myanmar, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Zimbabwe and many others have defied international sanctions policies, the presumption that sanctions actually work persists.   It was refreshing then to hear Ambassador Liu challenge this conventional wisdom by clearly stating that China does not support sanctions measures because mass populations suffer disproportionately compared to the elites.  Liu was responding to Evans’ question about China’s unwillingness to join the West to coordinate a sanctions policy against Robert Mugabe and Zimbabwe.   China, as mentioned earlier in this post, should be scrutinized for its military sales to Zimbabwe but not on the issue of supporting yet another failed sanctions policy.


One has to wonder what the Western media would do without the Dalai Lama.  He is such a convenient package for journalists who are either too lazy or too uninformed to know better that a question about the DL offers very little insight on Chinese policy.  Ambassador Liu stuck to the party line with his response that the DL is a separatist political figure who seeks to divide China.    Now, I understand what Evans was trying to achieve with the question by implying that if an African country invited the Dalai Lama to visit it would no doubt complicate relations with Beijing.  The reason why it is such an objectionable question in the context of Chinese foreign policy in Africa there are so many  more pressing and relevant issues that need to be addressed with someone at Ambassador Liu’s level.


1) Describe China’s military presence in Africa specifically the PLA base in the DRC’s Katanga province.  Is the purpose of the base to be part of a multilateral peacekeeping operation or its own deployment to protect Chinese interests in the eastern DRC?  Should we expect to see a larger presence of Chinese military and armed private contractors on the continent?

2) The industrial deforestation tools the Chinese are using for logging in Mozambique, Congo and Zimbabwe among other areas is raising serious concerns that the Chinese are hollowing out Africa’s forests at rate that is unsustainable.  Is China monitoring this trend and what specific protections, if any, are in place to prevent this from occuring?

3) With hundreds of thousands of Chinese immigrants coming to Africa each year, what is the feedback he is receiving from host governments on the presence of this large, new population?  In places like Namibia and Zambia, there is growing discontent by political leaders over the presence of an increasingly large Chinese population.  How is he responding to these challenges?


The Western media’s blatant double standard for how it treats different governments is the most annoying aspect of this whole affair.  Compare, for example, this CNN feature that goes behind the scenes on how their reporter & camerawoman interact with the U.S. military in Afghanistan.  The CNN crew is embedded with Alpha Company and as such eats, sleeps and seemingly enjoys each other’s company.  ITN and the BBC did comparable puff stories embedded with British troops in both the Iraqi and Afghan theater of operations.  This chuminess with the militaries extends to their political leaders as well when journalists like Steve Evans rarely use that same cynical approach in interviews as they so often do with Chinese leaders.

It’s really too bad as we would all benefit from less fluff coverage of Western governments and more balanced coverage of China.

Message to the West: Just Open Your Eyes

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Living here in Kinshasa, it is immediately apparent that China’s engagement is re-shaping both the Democratic Republic of the Congo but the continent as a whole.    To anyone on the ground here, it should be obvious.   I said should be obvious because despite the massive infrastructure projects and the presence of tens of thousands of Chinese immigres in Kinshasa, most European and Americans still cannot seem to grasp the depth and breadth of the power shift that is happening right now.  Whenever the topic arises in discussion with Westerners here, even among development specialists and other professionals who should be acutely aware of these kinds of trends, there is this universal puzzled reaction that takes hold.  Sometimes I feel like the guy from the “Holiday Inn” commercial who just appears at NASA to help launch a rocket and after a successful take-off, the other space engineers ask the guy “do you work here?” and he answers “nah, I just slept at a Holiday Inn.”  Well, I it really feels like I am that guy.    The development business is well entrenched here and yet, whenever I inquire with any of these expat professionals about their impressions of Chinese engagement in either the DR Congo or Africa as a whole, they have nothing to say.  Nothing.  The entire subject draws a blank.  10 minutes later, this odd role reversal takes hold and the guy who’s been here for just 9 days is educating the institutional professionals with decades of experience yet appear to have little or no knowledge on this critically important phenomenon.

There is a massive knowledge gap among the vast majority of Americans and Europeans both here and in the West about the scale of  China’s foreign policy in Africa.    What so many Westerners appear to be ignore is how China is re-shaping international relations in this part of the world and that is leading to diminished influence for Washington and Brussels, potential severe climate change consequences and the likelihood that Beijing will have exclusive control of certain strategic raw materials.

The Chinese are engaged here.  They are on the ground in ways that Americans and Europeans could never conceive.  Moreover, the scope of that engagement is truly breathtaking and now researchers are beginning to get a grasp of the magnitude of their involvement in Africa.

USC China MapThe USC U.S.-China Center has produced an interactive high-level overview of where Chinese investment in Africa is flowing.   Mouse over the different countries to get a brief summary of China’s investment there.  It’s also interesting that they have highlighted the growing number of Chinese language and cultural centers known as “Confucian Institutes.”  This map is an excellent first step to better understanding the scope of Chinese investment across the continent.   What is astonishing is that the vast majority of the investment detailed on this map has happened within the past 5-7 years!  When you see firsthand the amount of equipment, people and supplies the Chinese have imported here, it gives you pause.  Simply put, the Chinese are bringing the same fanatical zeal for development that transformed their own society to the African infrastructure projects that are now reshaping dozens, if not hundreds of cities like Kinshasa.

While this is by no means a zero-sum game or Cold War-style face-off between China and the West, if the West continues to essentially ignore China’s aggressive, new global outlook, its already diminishing international standing will no doubt continue to deteriorate.

(中文) 美国人有多不了解中国在非洲的崛起

Monday, February 15th, 2010

china us oil small大多数中国人难以完全理解美国人是多么漠视发生在自己国界之外的事件。中国观察员在这方面的困惑一点都不难理解,因为从他们观察角度来看,美国是一个远比中国更为开放和全球化的国家。所以美国人怎能对重大的地理政治变化视而不见?是的,他们确实是这样的,最明显的例子就是,目前在非洲大陆,根据几个可靠的评估,美国这个最大的投资者正处在被中国替代的边缘。 “好吧,那又怎样?”那些怀疑论者会说。投资模式随着时间发生改变,有时候美国是第一,有时候不是,这是公平的。不过,我请你们考虑的一项非常重要的发展在非洲造成的后果:石油。 (more…)

BBC Newsnight: China’s $9bln Investment in the Congo (Part 1)

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

China in AfricaBefore I moved to the Democratic Republic of Congo, someone asked me if I was going to learn the local language.  I replied that “I already do speak the local language there… Mandarin.”  Obviously, Mandarin is not spoken by very many people in Kinshasa or elsewhere in the DRC, however that may not be the case for long given the growing influence of the Chinese there.  In 2006 when I first visited the DRC the only Chinese I saw were in one of the two Chinese restaurants in the capital.  Three years later, the city was unrecognizable.  Chinese were everywhere!  No joke.  They are part of a massive way of over a million Chinese across Africa who are building infrastructure, working in the mines and managing China’s growing investment portfolio across the continent.  So far, the Chinese are being treated with the kindness that Africans customarily extend to guests.  They are still to new to the region and African governments and populations are still getting to know the Chinese.  While they learn more about Beijing’s motivations and their operational style in Africa, the Chinese will likely not receive much critical scrutiny.  However, as Beijing’s commitments in Africa deepen, it will no doubt prompt renewed evaluation of the Chinese and their policies in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  BBC’s “Newsnight” program produced an excellent documentary that serves as the first critical evaluation of what China is doing in the DRC.

BBC Newsnight: China’s $9bln Investment in the Congo (Part 2)

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

The Chinese appear to be using the same strategy in the DRC as they are in other countries by offering low cost loans and high

mining in drcprofile development projects in exchange for access to the raw materials that Beijing is so dependent on to keep its industrial economy humming.  In the Congo, the equation is quite simple: investment 9 billion dollars to build roads, dams and power stations in return for mining rights valued at over $70 billion.  Part two of this BBC Newsnight report dissects the Chinese deal in the Congo and why it might raise eyebrows among some critics who contend that China may be stylistically than Congo’s former colonial rulers but substantively very similar given the perceived inequity of the resource deals currently in place.

BBC Newsnight: China’s $9bln Investment in the Congo (Part 3)

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

In so many ways, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is ground zero for China’s Africa strategy.  The DRC is a veritable supermarket for China’s mineral and natural resource needs: gold, coltan, zinc, lead, copper and the list goes on and on.  In hu and kabilacomparison to the Sudan where China’s investment is almost exclusively focused on petroleum, the Congo offers a distinct mix of resources for the Chinese.  Just as colonial powers in the past came to the Congo and other African countries to extract raw materials and discovered that it was not as easy as planned, the Chinese are designing a different approach to avoid such pitfalls. In part three of this fascinating BBC Newsnight report on the Chinese in the Congo, Beijing is opting to use more carrots than sticks to achieve its goals.

BBC Newsnight: Chinese Influence in Zambia (Part 2)

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

news_newsnightOne of the central questions to consider when watching this BBC Newsnight report on China’s growing influence in Zambia is how Beijing’s insatiable need for natural resources will clash with China’s instinctive policy of non-interference in other countries internal affairs?  For most of China’s Communist-era, the non-interference doctrine has served as one of the main pillars of its foreign policy.  Yet, what constitutes interference?  Just by the scale of China’s investments in comparably small economies like Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia, it can be credibly argued that China’s involvement does have a distorting effect to the political, economical and even cultural environments of these countries.  Is that “interference” per say?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  It is clear though that Zambia highlights the new challenges to the once simple non-interference” doctrine.