The April 2009 street unrest in Guangzhou where dozens, possibly a hundred, African immigrants rioted through the streets to protest against the PSB’s more frequent visa checks brought to light the presence of the growing African community. That China even has an African immigrant community will likely come as a surprise to most. It shouldn’t though given that China has a very long history of hosting overseas students from across Africa. What is new though is the emergence of Guangzhou as the African emigre center. Until recently, Beijing was home to a majority of overseas Africans as former students found more promising job prospects in China than back home. Guangzhou is now home to thousands of Africans whose population is largely made of up traders who have frequently overstayed their visa and now reside illegally in China.
Archive for the ‘China in Africa’ Category
Before 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.
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
profile 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.
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 comparison 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.
One 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.
The BBC appears to be the only major international media company that recognizes the tremendous geopolitical changes going on across Africa and the developing world at large. In this two-part series, the BBC’s flagship evening news program “Newsnight” explores China’s growing influence in Zambia. What is so remarkable about the BBC’s coverage is how they successfully visualize the trends that are re-shaping China’s foreign policy and the effects it is having in countries far beyond Beijing’s traditional sphere of influence in Asia.
There is some excellent journalism emerging about the growing influence of China in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo. A great starting point is the BBC Newsnight mini-documentary hosted by correspondent Tim Whewll. Click below to view the story (opens in a new window):
The U.S. business magazine Fast Company produced an excellent multi-part series on China in Africa that provides a well-written overview of the key challenges facing China in the region. Reporter Richard Behar’s report is just over a year old but nonetheless offers quite a bit of valuable facts on the issue.
More recently, Time Magazine wrote a piece that mirrored many of my observations: China Woos Africa and not just for its Natural Resources.
And for some insights on China’s use of government loans to African countries, the New York Times ran a story this past week on Beijing’s new drive to provide 10 billion dollars in low interest loans to various governments across Africa. The use of low interest loans and grants by China is an interesting trend to follow as this financing can be used a lever against the West and its multinational NGOs who often attach political reform strings to their financing packages whereas the Chinese have much looser terms.
The first time I was in Kinshasa in 2006, I didn’t see a single Chinese person or recognizable product. Kinshasa, the sprawling capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo, was for all intents and purposes as foreign to the Chinese as any of the most remote places on earth. Yet in these past three years since that initial visit, China’s foreign policy is seemingly unrecognizable and no where is that more evident than in places like Kinshasa. Africa is among the most visible places where China’s increasingly assertive foreign policy and public diplomacy initiatives are unfolding. There is nothing subtle about it. The Chinese have landed in Guinea, Algeria, Zambia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo among other African countries. Their geopolitical footprint is both broad and deep as they pursue a colonial-style quest for raw materials and seek to open new export markets to hundreds of millions of low-end consumers. What I found most interesting about the Chinese presence in Kinshasa was how it transcended so many different levels of Congolese society. Along the way, I collected a few anecdotes that will mark the beginning of a deeper analysis we will pursue on China Talking Points about the rise of China’s involvement across Africa and the developing world at large.
WASIT PROVINCE, Iraq — When China’s biggest oil company signed the first post-invasion oil field development contract in Iraq last year, the deal was seen as a test of Iraq’s willingness to open an industry that had previously prohibited foreign investment.
Today’s article in the New York Times about the new role China is playing in Iraqi oil politics is very similar to the challenge Beijing is facing in other parts of the developing world where it is scraping up as many raw materials as possible. Nowhere is this more evident than across Africa where China’s oil and mineral interests are now becoming vital to its overall foreign policy. Just as in Iraq, though, China is struggling to come to grips with how to engage the local political class and interact with civilians.