Posts Tagged ‘South Africa’

[VIDEO] China faces new scrutiny in Africa (but this time it’s different)

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

A small, yet highly energetic group of demonstrators marched through the streets of South Africa’s Umlazi Township earlier this month to protest against what they claim is Beijing’s inadequate support for the United Nations’ anti-AIDS/malaria/tuberculosis initiative known as the “Global Fund.” Organized by the internationally recognized HIV/AIDS organization AHF Ithembalabantu Clinic located along the Eastern Cape in KwaZulu-Natal, the demonstrators rallied against Beijing for not living up to its financial responsibilities in the battle against HIV/AIDS transmission in Africa.

The clinic’s central charge is that China itself has benefitted enormously from the assistance provided by the Global Fund with $941 million in grants since 2002 yet Beijing has only contributed a paltry $16 million to the fund during that same period. Moreover, they add, now that China is the world’s second largest economy and Africa’s dominant trading partner, it now has the resources to not only consume less of the Global Fund’s resources but also contribute more of its own financial assets to help the fund’s activities in Africa.

This rally went entirely unnoticed by the international media and no doubt didn’t even register among Chinese officials in Pretoria. However, everyone should take notice.  There is a growing popular perception, particularly among many in the developing world, that China is no longer a victim of the industrialized world as it now itself is among the ranks of the major powers. The AHF demonstrators clearly suggest that China is facing an entirely different set of expectations among Africans than it did in the 20th century and that Beijing now has a different level of responsibilities that  it must live up to if wants to be taken seriously as a global leader (an assumption, by the way, that still remains to be seen in Africa).

The accusations of Global Fund greed are now just the latest on a expanding list of criticisms of China’s engagement in Africa.  Allegations of widespread environmental destruction, labor rights violations and a general lack of transparency in its dealings with African governments are all contributing to a growing sense of unease among a number of prominent African observers.

China would be well-advised to take heed from the message conveyed by the women outside of the AHF clinic. If Beijing wants to continue to deepen its influence in the region, the government needs to proactively engage its critics.  Engagement does not necessarily imply that the activists’ allegations are just or even accurate, but they must be acknowledged.  If Chinese officials fall back on their natural instincts to hide behind the walls and resist dialogue with their various African constituencies, then the frustrations expressed in KwaZulu-Natal will no doubt spread.

China in Africa Podcast: The Coming Sino-African Revolution

Friday, May 28th, 2010


In this edition of the “China in Africa” podcast, Johannesburg-based blogger and academic Charlie Pistorius says the debate over whether  Chinese investment in Africa is either good or bad is entirely irrelevant.  Instead, one should evaluate the substantive outcome of China’s policies which will invariably produce a far more nuanced perspective.   In a pair of noteworthy essays published on his blog, Pistorius walks us through the difficulties that come with framing the China in Africa debate in terms of “good” and “bad.” (more…)

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.


China in Africa: What’s on the Web This Week

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Made in Cameroon Another week, another set of major Chinese deals in sub-Saharan Africa.  Cameroon took the spotlight with an announcement that a Chinese bus manufacturer (still unknown but thought to be Kinglong United Automotive Industry (Suzhou) Co) will invest half-a-billion dollars in Douala. The factory will produce buses for the West-and-Central African markets and is apparently scheduled to be on line by as early as the end of the year.  What’s interesting in this announcement is how much Cameroonian officials emphasized that local labor and local managers will be employed at this manufacturing facility.   They’re likely trying to head off growing opposition in Africa over the Chinese tendency to import their laborers and managers to work on what are supposedly “joint ventures.”

Jia QinglinSino-South Africa Trade One of China’s most senior political advisors ended a 10-day African tour in South Africa pledging to address the growing imbalance in trade between the two countries.  Jia Qinglin (pictured) committed to China importing more finished products from South Africa and what’s interesting about this is that it comes just as Beijing is facing intense pressure from the United States over its artificially low currency valuation. In a move to thwart a drive to revalue its currency or stem growing criticism in the developing world, Jia may be an indication that China seeks to import more as a way of correcting its trade imbalance with many countries.

China’s Trouble in Zambia China in Africa researcher Aleksandra Gadzala teases us with what sounds like an extremely interesting article on the growing problems that Chinese immigrants are facing in Zambia. I say “teases” us because she only includes a small snipped of an extract of a larger paper on the subject that is available on through an expensive subscription to an academic journal (alas, beyond of the means of this poor blogger).   While so much of the research and news coverage of China investment across Africa focuses on elite actors, it’s my opinion that the much bigger story here is off the main roads, far away from the elites where hundreds of thousands of low-income Chinese immigrants across the continent are moving into unremarkable neighborhoods in Kinshasa, Lusaka and countless other cities.  The sheer size of the population and the speed with which it has arrived in Africa will play a significant role in determining the future course of Sino-Africa relations.