Issues on China-Africa Trade and Development​ Relations.[part 1]

“China is a sleeping giant, let her sleep for when she awakes she will astound the world”~Napoleon Bonaparte

“Politics is a war without bloodshed whilst a war is politics with bloodshed”~Mao Zedong

The Chinese dealings with Africa have since received a lot of attention in many different scholarly camps. Some are regarding China as an imperialist, red coloured, not different from the West, some a saviour and some have tried to balance between the two. Sino-Afro-relations are complicated no one should hide that. None again can answer this question perfectly; ‘Could Africa have been better with or without the Chinese?’ Jackson argues that the Sino-Africa relations during the past decades had evolved from being unbalanced to balanced in all dimensions that are political, social and economical. However, it is due to the increasing concern on political issues that the cultural relations are eroding. Again, D Guthrie once interjected a clever remark; “One of our greatest ironies of our time is, today the largest communist society in the world is also the world’s dynamic and business-friendly capitalist.”

Now, it is clear that the Chinese government, though not fully fledged, is following a Western principle of capitalism, whilst sticking to its traditional communists sort of political leadership —the government controls everything. But, for a long time, China has been advancing all its economy in a different way, conservative and yet progressive. The transition which followed, starting after the downfall of the Soviet empire, (albeit the open up reform has been existing for years) pushed the Chinese into a wave of globalisation, and an open-rapid industrial advancement. In a time of not less than 20 years, China’s top multinational companies like the Sinopec and Lenovo assumed leadership in the whole world.

The background: Why Africa is trading with China?

The dragon has been since creating both political and economic example to the African leadership. Both are in the same cart of late industrialisation where it seems logical to adopt a path different to the West. Trade follows politics; the relations between China and Africa arises from the same notch of self-interest (somewhat related to political realism). Thus the Chinese influence over Africa becomes both political and economical, in fact, it is practical to say the economic aspect has been the late comer than the latter. This is clear from the timeline of the Chinese relations with Africa below.

The timeline of China-Africa relations

When the Dragon started to deal with Africa, beginning with Egypt in the 1950s, but her involvement was not much inclined to trade. It was merely a Maoist response against the Western capitalists, in these early days of the cold war. Following, from the 1960s China addressed the issue of African colonialism, together with other Eastern bloc countries which are Cuba and Russia. During this epoch, Africa received weapons and other forms of military aid from China. The construction of the TAZARA (Tanzam) railway in the 1970s was a Chinese open project meant to help Zambia (and Zimbabwe) to attain independence from the Rhodesian elite. Now, albeit the fact the decolonization of Africa was already a guaranteed is always true the presence of the Dragon (China) sped up the process. China, therefore, stood as a patron of this region over the past years.

At that point, the increasing feeling of liking for Maoism amongst the African pioneer politicians and the declining democracy, on the part of Africa, meant that the West was not to be tolerated better than the Chinese.

During the 1980s China introduced an open up reform, which brought up a new China as we know it today. When the Cold War ended the world witnessed an increasing Chinese presence in Africa, starting from 1990, due to several reasons. Firstly, it was during this period that all the Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP) under the initiative of the IMF sourced loans had proved to be weak and straining the African economy. Secondly, after the downfall of the Soviet empire, from the 1990s the superpowers were no longer interested directly and ideologically on the African continent (and other developing countries) and the presence of China was no longer anything to raise international tensions as of the cold war era. Thirdly, all these were triggered by the Chinese transformation from communism to state capitalism, in an unusual path of building a market economy.

Between 1970 and 2002, Africa received $29 billion in loans from IMF institution. It had already paid 55 billion (by 2002) in interest and principal. In comparison, China tends source loans at a zero interest. Moreover, all loans from the IMF weakened the African economy. All these failures pushed African leadership to seek for an alternative. During the 1990s, the Islamic finance model had proved to be stronger; banks offered free loans and gain only from profits acquired by borrowers if they had managed to invest on a generative business. Sub-Sahara Africa decided to find a perfect finance sourcing partner ready to follow the Islamic model.

Features of China-Africa relations

Diplomatic tours are more than frequent. Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign ambassador is reported to have visited more than four African countries and five African countries in 2016 and the first quarter of 2017 respectively. All these, strengthen the mutual understanding between Africa and China.

FOCAC (Forum on China-Africa Cooperationand CATTF China-Africa Think Tanks Forum are public assembly boardies for open discussions between the Chinese and African leaders, and masterminds respectively. (A think tank/think factory is generally a company that does research for hire and source accounts on implications.) Individuals from both sides of this win-win cooperation, from both Africa and China, exchange their ideas, listing factors, as derived from their observations, hindering the progress of all the Sino-Africa deals as well as outlining an extensive outlook of the past deals and their progress.

2015 Johannesburg FOCAC Conference

In 2015, at a FOCAC conference in Johannesburg, Xi Jinping unveiled his plan to offer 60 billion, an open fund reserved for the trade with Africa. Out of that, a multi-million partition was anticipated to solve food and hunger issues and 5 billion of it was to serve for the African development on zero interest. This was a part of a win-win progressive deal. The Chinese premier President Xi Jinping claimed that his country contributed by $177 million in response to the Ebola crisis of 2014.

Controversies, Cases and Considerations in Sino-Africa Relation

It seems the Chinese increased trade with Africa is boosting the growth of the latter, but considerable controversy is incessantly attracting scholarly attention. It is clear that the dragon favours both countries with poor government institutions and those with strong and democratic systems. It seems, however, their involvement in dictator-dominated countries is higher than the latter and this attracts more tense criticism. The protagonists of this view tend to use countries like DRC as their ‘top model’. In DRC, the dragon won a deal to access approximately 600 000 tonnes of cobalt and 10.6 million tonnes of copper, worth 80 billion, in exchange of 10 billion worth of infrastructure aid. The country is too corrupt and has never known modern democracy. Corporate tax deals are merely agreed in coffee bars and never to be signed. Infrastructure is at the heart of the people and many think individuals accept it as the only base mark for economic growth.

If corruption and bad governance are the factors limiting the development of Africa, China will always be blamed for this. Even some of the upcoming and anticipated projects including the Chinese, dominating newspaper headings, are largely phoney— and never come into existence. No one will ever understand whose problem it is, the government or the Chinese.

When Dealing With Africa, Is China Different from the U.S and the European Union?

A lot of things has been said about the French firm Areva in Niger, of course, coups and civil unrests have been driven by the cooperation’s delusions of grandeur and a warm fever which they thought could only be treated if the nation they dea is not stable or the government threat is removed. The truth is, the so-called Francofonia organisation was set to ruin former French colonies. This is not the focus of this post, but it can help anyone to understand before blaming the Chinese for everything.

Since the dragon became an oil importer it has turned back on Africa and over the time retail networks were created over the continent. China decided to follow a non-intervention but, behind the scenes, she is a master of neocolonialism, yet she tends to blame the West for everything. The existence of Chinese Multinational Companies in Africa is now a gateway for Africa to obtain loans from the Chinese government. As noted above, unlike those granted by IMF Chinese loans tend to be free from monumental interest rates―if not overstated. Most of the offers come as a result of an agreed deal in which China cooperates directly.

China has already discovered a consummate and thoroughgoing system that works when dealing with Africa that is a policy of cooperation and non-intervention. Following the nonintervention policy, China is apparently inconsistent with her promise of being a responsible power and UN’s key player. This takes us to China’s denial of the UN Security roles when dealing with developing countries, the non-interference policy, and the policy of direct assistance makes a lot of African statesmen to be much more inclined to China than any other powers. The Chinese leadership is always combat-ready and tries to be practical in each and every aspect especially when economic development is under concern as testified by much frequent diplomatic visits and conferences. In comparison, as once said by an economist― Dambisa Moyo, the USA and the EU failed to gain a higher priority in Africa because they tend to compete viciously when there is a need to cooperate.

Sources and annotations

  1. “Analyse the Perspectives of China in Africa’: A New way out of Post-colonialism”, Access article
  2. Bruno Hellendoff, “China and DRC: Africa’s Next Top Models”, Frevier 2012, European Union, Access article
  3. ‘China Offers $60 Billion in Loans, Aid to Africa,’  Voa News
  4. Dambisa Moyo, “Is China a new Idol for Emerging Economies”, Ted Podcast.
  5. ⑤D. Guthrie, “China and Globalisation: Social, Economic and Political Transformation of Chinese Society”, Routledge, 2012
  6. ⑤Malugeta G.B., “Introduction”, Malugeta G.B and Liu Hongwu(eds.) , China-Africa relations: Governance peace and security, Addis Ababa, Free access
  7. Ren Mu, “An Analysis on the Contradiction Between China’s Non-intervention Policy and Intervention Activities”, Access article
  8. ⑤Wenjie Chen, “Why is China Investing in Africa”,  Access article
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