In this edition of the “China in Africa” podcast, host Eric Olander speaks with Africa scholar Dr. David Robinson, Phd. of Western Australia’s Edith Cowan University about his recent article “Hearts, Minds and Wallets: Lessons from China’s Growing Relationship with Africa.” This is a very compelling piece of work that highlights several critical double standards that Western observers often employ when evaluating Chinese activities in Africa. Right off the top, Dr. Robinson debunks the myth that China’s presence in Africa is a relatively new phenomenon, echoing Dr. Deborah Brautigam and other scholars by pointing out that Chinese activities have been recorded in Africa dating back as early as the 14th century. With respect to contemporary issues, Dr. Robinson explains how he does not seek to defend Chinese economic and political activity on the continent per say, which he adds deserves intense scrutiny, but rather highlight the gross inconsistencies of many of China’s Western critics in the aid, academic and diplomatic communities. These critics, he contends, seemingly think the Chinese are employing extra-legal methods to “conquer” Africa when, in fact, Beijing appears to be using the very same economic and political levers used by European and American powers for over a century. (more…)
Archive for the ‘China in Africa’ Category
Xie Yajing is among the legions of faceless Chinese officials who are little known outside of their own bureaucracies. Despite his prominence as a senior Chinese commercial counselor for Africa and West Asia, not a single image of Xie appears in a Google image search of her name (quite an accomplishment, really, in this day and age). Her low profile aside, Xie is among the leaders of China’s intensifying battle for influence in Africa between Beijing and the West. In a recent announcement that went entirely unnoticed by the international media, Xie unveiled a bold initiative that some experts believe could represent a defining turn in Sino-African relations. (more…)
It may be hard to believe but half of all construction work underway in Kenya is now being done by Chinese firms, according to the U.S. public radio program “The World” (audio link below). It appears the Chinese infrastructure building juggernaut in Africa is showing no signs of slowing down. Kenya’s Business Daily newspaper reports the capital’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport has received a new round of funding for expansion and modernization where much of the work will likely go to Chinese contractors. Already, China National Aero-Technology International Engineering Company (CATIC) is on board to build out the airport’s new terminal four and a larger parking facility. One would likely expect Chinese construction and engineering firms to compete vigorously for the millions of other dollars that have yet to be assigned.
Transparency is a loaded word in the development business. The idea that aid and investments in places like Africa should be subject to external audits and review is a sacrosanct principle within the industry. Never mind the irony that organizations like USAID, the United Nations and the World Bank among others devote a majority of their time/effort with their aid programs to sorting through a byzantine bureaucracy that is anything but transparent — nonetheless, these very organizations maintain the “black box” that is China’s aid and investment agenda in Africa is alarming. However, transparency can cut both ways and ultimately the West may regret its insistence that China pull back the curtain. (more…)
In this edition of the China in Africa podcast, host Eric Olander talks with Washington, D.C.-based writer and journalist Te-Ping Chen. Chen is an editor for change.org where she writes extensively on sustainability and social entrepreneurship in the developing world. In a recent post on What the West Can Learn From China in Africa, Chen addressed the sensitive issue about China’s investment and development initiatives in Africa that diverge from traditional Western aid strategies. Many Westerners reject the Chinese approach over concerns that Beijing’s longheld disdain for transparency breeds corruption. However, Chen contends that the issue is far more textured than just the transparency argument presented by critics. The Chinese, she says, employ an entirely different mindset in their approach to African economic development, one that is often misunderstood by Western journalists and observers. The fact that Chinese investment is not tied to civil and political reform as is often required by Western aid agencies is not because they’re fundamentally corrupt, Chen argues, but rather evidence of Beijing’s agnosticism on non-economic issues. This non-ideological, agnostic approach to development that emphasizes practical, tangible results over process “falls outside of the traditional aid umbrella,” according to Chen, and will most likely force the West to re-evaluate its own policies that have produced mixed results at considerable expense. (more…)
In this edition of the China Talking Points “China in Africa” podcast, host Eric Olander speaks with Kinshasa-native and veteran Congolese television producer Tunga “Mimi” Mbia about the remarkable growth of the city’s Chinese community. Just five years ago, the Chinese presence in Kinshasa was insignificant. Today, tens of thousands of new immigrants reside in the capital where they have opened small businesses, work on the major construction projects and are assimilating themselves into daily Congolese life with unprecedented speed. Yet despite their impressive numbers, the Chinese are now part of a complex matrix of Kinois race relations that offers both promise and peril. (more…)
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 www.toseque.com, Pistorius walks us through the difficulties that come with framing the China in Africa debate in terms of “good” and “bad.” (more…)
The idea for this new podcast series was born from the constant frustration of talking with Western “development experts,” diplomats and aid workers in Africa. In every instance, Westerners were either strikingly ignorant of Chinese engagement there or summarily dismissed the Chinese presence in Africa as “counter productive” because China is not a democratic country. There was little nuance to their opinions about the Chinese in Africa and it reflected a broader ignorance within the aid community as a whole about non-Western methods of development.
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.
The Canadian Broadcast Corporation sent their Beijing correspondent to do some rather extensive reporting on the surge of Chinese investment in Africa. In contrast to much of the other recent coverage of the topic, Anthony Germain’s reporting from Zambia was refreshingly balanced. The highlight of his reporting centers on the question of how China is taking full advantage of the failures of 50 years of Western aid. Several of his sources pointed out that despite spending hundreds of billions of dollars in Africa, Western aid programs have very little to show. The Chinese, by contrast, move quickly and efficiently and demonstrate visible results from their engagement. That said, Germain rightly points out that Beijing asks for very little in return from its African partners in the form of political accountability and transparency. While I fully appreciate the importance of this kind of political pressure, it always strikes me as ironic to hear this perspective from Western critics, most notably through the Western media. Specifically, the West (and by default the Western media) appear to be rather selective with their demands for political accountability. While the international aid industry spends billions of dollars each year in the very same countries that China is (more…)