The Stark Differences Between Western and African Views on China

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.

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