Posts Tagged ‘Infrastructure’

[VIDEO] China in Africa: Perspectives from Ghana

Monday, December 6th, 2010

The overwhelming majority of videos and documentaries produced about the Chinese in Africa are done through the perspective of Anglo eyes.  In contrast, “China in Africa” offers a the duel contrasts of both Chinese and Ghanian views on the changing role of China’s engagement in that country.  The video is beautifully shot and offers and a compelling narrative that is not well understood by most outsiders.  The producer also features an interview with China-Africa scholar Deborah Brautigam that offers some helpful historical context.

Deborah Brautigam on China in Africa

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Although it has the feel of a propaganda puff piece, Blue Ocean Network’s (BON Live) recent story that featured leading Sino-African affairs scholar Deborah Brautigam is worth watching.  Brautigam’s point that the Chinese have a real chance at helping Africa raise its overall living standard with the surge of infrastructure and other investments is very interesting.  Specifically, she says, the Chinese are employing a development strategy that is entirely incompatible with Western policy but one that may actually produce far more lasting results.

[VIDEO] Is China Colonizing Africa?

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Colonialism remains a very strong filter through which a sizable portion of Westerners still see Africa.  So it’s not surprising that when a new foreign power emerges, particularly one as opaque as China, that many Europeans and Americans default to that initial impulse and attempt to frame Beijing’s engagement in Africa as “colonial.”  The only real connection to colonialism is the fact that China is yet another foreign power operating in Africa in pursuit of the continent’s vast natural resources.  For the most part, the parallels end there.

Since the Chinese have no designs on “civilizing,” “converting” or involving themselves in African domestic social affairs, colonialism, in the traditional sense, is an inaccurate characterization of Chinese policy in Africa.

The Chinese are mercantilists.  Beijing’s agenda is driven by a desperate need to secure an ever growing list of natural resources to power their continually expanding economy.  Unlike their Western predecessors, the Chinese are not imposing themselves on African states.  Instead, they are using the levers of the 20th century economic system to its maximum advantage.  Whether it’s through the globalized trading system, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank or increasingly the United Nations, there is little to no evidence to indicate that Beijing is anything other than a welcome investor.

That said, it is worth noting that Chinese investments and political activities do not receive sufficient scrutiny and lack a reasonable level of transparency.   Serious concerns about Chinese labor, environmental and corruption practices in Africa are all justified, but their behavior is hardly colonial.

Les Chinois En Afrique

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

The French radio network “Radio France International” has published a very interesting interactive map detailing Chinese investments, populations and infrastructure projects across Africa.  Although the map is in French it’s nonetheless easy to follow for non-Francophones and offers a great visualization of how vast China’s engagement with Africa has become.

It is important to remember that just five years ago this map would have looked entirely, with just a fraction of the dots on the map that highlight China’s economic activity.  For better and for worse, the Chinese have moved with unprecedented speed to enhance diplomatic ties with governments across the continent.  Furthermore, the migration of hundreds of thousands of Chinese peasants, laborers and entrepreneurs is another important facet of this engagement that the RFI map nicely illustrates.

Pictures: China’s Infrastructure Building Machine Comes Home

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

The great Chinese infrastructure parade rolled right under my window and I jumped on the extremely rare opportunity to take some pictures of the operation.  This is quite exceptional in the DR Congo as it is both culturally and legally not permitted to take peoples’ pictures without their permission.  Add to this that Chinese work crews are equally camera shy, you can now understand my utter joy this morning snapping away at the road paving team that came right past my apartment early Sunday morning.

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The Chinese have completely ripped up Kinshasa’s main road “Boulevard 30 Juin.”  Ironically, this was essentially the city’s only functioning road so why the Congolese and Chinese governments thought it would be necessary to re-do this particular street remains a mystery to everyone.

China Construction5Before they decided to “improve” 30 Juin, it was a truly wonderful boulevard.  Today, it’s a barren, dust filled desert whereas until 2007 it had huge trees that lined both sides of the road and there was a center divider that did an excellent job of slowing traffic and giving pedestrians sufficient guidance as to where to cross.  Now the situation couldn’t be more different.  The whole city center along the boulevard is not considerably hotter than it was before due to the tree removal.  Sadly, several different locals have told me that due to the Chinese “renovation” there are now one to two deaths per day on this street.  Notice how they have not laid down a single drop of paint on the road for either cars or pedestrians.  It’s a very dangerous road for everyone.  We are all hoping that the Chinese are eventually going to make this boulevard safer by adding traffic lanes and crosswalks.  No one is too optimistic though.

In this particular instance, a small number of Chinese foremen and construction engineers are overseeing local Congolese crews.  The Chinese have also imported tens of thousands of their laborers to work on projects like this so it is not unusual to see construction teams that are almost entirely Chinese doing the exact same work.  It should also be noted that the temperature at 10:30 in the morning when these pictures were taken was somewhere in the low-90s already.  This is back-breaking work under very difficult conditions.

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A Chinese construction engineer (below) supervises the operation.  A fellow observer of this morning’s construction operation noted that on an early Sunday morning the Chinese are working in the hot sun paving roads.  Can you imagine an American doing this same work, speaking the local dialect and being part of a basic infrastructure project?  Americans used to do this kind of work, but it seems far fetched to think that they can rival the Chinese in this endeavor.

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China Construction2 The China Railway Seventh Group is one of several multinational State Owned Enterprises (SOE) that are operating here in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Equipment like this from other SOEs can be seen everywhere around town as the Chinese work furiously on a number of high profile projects in Kinshasa ahead of next year’s presidential elections.  The objective here, as it is in most African countries, is that the Chinese build out the infrastructure and incumbent politicians claim credit for their work just in time for national elections.   The situation in Kinshasa is no different where the President Joseph Kabila is reportedly pressuring the China Railway Seventh Group to speed up the pace of construction on Boulevard 30 Juin.

It is important to remember that none of the construction equipment the Chinese are using in the DRC was acquired locally.  Everything — that is every truck, crane, shovel, you name it — was brought in by sea and air.  It’s even funnier to walk up to the trucks and see what Chinese province they come from.  So far I have recorded heavy equipment with Henan, Jiangsu and Guangdong license plates.

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