Skip to content

China, Africa’s dance of development and exploitation

October 1, 2010

As uncomfortable as it may be, it seems that China’s wholly self-interested approach to investment in Africa may be a more effective development tool that the West tying investment with human rights, environmental and development goals.

China’s “no-strings” investments, friendships with African pariahs like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir, and its disregard for environmental, labour and safety standards, have elicited howls of moral outrage in the West.

And so a new set of questions is being heard above the din: could China, which has, over the past few decades, moved hundreds of millions of its own citizens out of poverty, be a better agent for change than the West? Can clear-eyed self-interest, and commercially justified investment, succeed where Bono and decades of aid programs have failed?

Is it also possible that Western programs have failed not because they demanded too much accountability, but not enough?

Take war-shattered Angola, which has stirred some of the shrillest complaints about Chinese involvement in Africa. Three oil-backed loans from Beijing have provided roads, railways, schools, water systems and hospitals. Western institutions, meanwhile, have provided loans to the Angolan government—ranked one of the world’s most corrupt by Transparency International—without demanding transparency, while exporting the country’s oil and effectively ensuring business as usual.

All these are from a great article that seeks to explain the dichotomy of the Sino-African relationship, which seems to be based on one part exploitation, and one part economic development.

The hard-headed facts-on-the-ground seemed to be best summed up here:

Pollution, low wages and dirty jobs are the unfortunate realities of early industrialization, says Deborah Brautigam, one of a handful of experts deeply familiar with both China and Africa. “It is very hard,” she adds, “to industrialize into a microchip factory.”

via Beijing’s new playing field – World –

From → Emerging Markets

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: