The authoritative book China Returns to Africa A Rising Power and a Continent Embrace, edited by Christopher Alden, et al, addresses key issues in contemporary Chinese-African relations.
It examines the impact of this relationship on issues of diplomacy, trade, and development. Beginning with the assertion that China is engaged in a “scramble for Africa” and that we are now on the brink of a “new Chinese imperialism,” essays transcend narrow, media-driven concerns and offer one of the first far-ranging surveys of the consequences of China’s investment in Africa.
To be or not be confronted or inquisitively challenged regarding such assertions vis-à-vis increasing China-Africa relations particularly so with regard to trade, its apparent intricacies and at times paradoxical “external interference” by the West, undoubtedly I suppose triggers an instinctive need to fill the lacuna mainly perhaps also because of the Sino-Namibia factor that forms part of the Sino-African equation.
Increasing trade between China and Africa has not fall short of conflicting views within the context of the Sino-Namibia case study, from the unwelcoming sentiments of local business communities to the recent rhetoric by Chinese President Ju Jintao at the Fifth Ministerial Conference of FOCAC (Forum on China-Africa Co-operation) held in Beijing referring to the “bullying” of richer (Western) powers namely the US.
Relations between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Africa, contrary to popular skepticism and perhaps belief, have a long history dating back since the Cold War.
In contrast to the political and military militancy of the 1970s, China’s current engagement with Africa ought to be viewed within the context of globalization in the aftermath of the Cold War.
This new relationship is voluntarily focused on economic and technological cooperation for the sake of development. In fact, the current emphasis of China’s Africa policy is based on the classical foundations of what is described as a tripod of historical legitimacies, namely historical links to liberation movements (historical legitimacy) a Third World ideological heritage dating back to the Cold War (ideological legitimacy) and an evolving partnership based on principles of non-interference and neutrality (political legitimacy).
This tripod of historical of legitimacies formed the basis with the inception of FOCAC in 2000 that consequently heralded a new era in terms of Sino-African relations especially with regard to trade that as a direct result saw
trade between China and Africa increase more than ten-fold, over US$140 billion since 2000.
In 2007, with over US$9 billion worth of investment, it dwarfed the World Bank’s money flow into Africa, and the Bank, unable to inject more than US$2.5 billion into the continent, is now, bowl in hand, persuading Beijing to partner with it in financing African projects - so far to no avail, this according to a special report of IPCS (Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies) based in New Delhi, India.
Until most recently and increasingly so are the Sino-Africa relations portrayed by the West as neo-colonialism on the part of China, which at close scrutiny seem to be the other way around. Propaganda is used to systematically implant the notion of an enemy (China) in the minds of the local population.
As far as propaganda, psychological control and the motivation of American politics of predominance and the creation of enemy stereotypes are concerned the US power elites have surpassed all previous records.
On the other hand, here we see that there is much in common with the factors leading to the world wars of the 20th century and the trend of today’s American politics. This is also true in respect of the tendency of overestimating one’s own forces in the effort to secure global predominance. The overextension of the US in its imperial efforts constitutes one of the main reasons for today’s financial crisis and the accumulation of huge public debts. American hegemony is approaching its own demise.
China’s ‘new’ Africa policy, adopted by the Chinese government in January 2006, characterizes mainly four guiding principles of the new strategic partnership namely Sincerity, friendship and equality, which means that China adheres to the principles of peaceful coexistence and respects African countries’ independent choice of development paths.
Mutual benefit, reciprocity and common prosperity, which means that China supports African countries’ economic development and is committed to cooperation in various forms, for the benefit of both parties.
Mutual support and close coordination, which includes a commitment from China to strengthen cooperation with Africa in multilateral systems and to appeal to the international community to pay more attention to questions concerning peace and development in Africa.
Learning from each other and seeking common development, which refers to strengthened exchange and cooperation in various social fields and
support for African countries to enhance capacity building and cooperation to achieve sustainable development.
How could this chain of events, regarding FOCAC, have spiraling effects on a natural resource based economy such as Namibia or Africa in general?
Africa has much that China needs: energy sources, raw materials, markets, vast and under-utilized arable land to help feed its billions and UN general-assembly votes in exchange for packages of aid and assistance measures to Africa.
These include further preferential loans and the cancellation of more debt owed by poor African countries, increase of the number of export items to China receiving zero-tariff treatment from the least developed countries in Africa with diplomatic ties with China cooperation in infrastructure facilities, communications, technology and equipment, energy and resources development.
Others are finance and insurance and the training of professional in critical areas of development such as agriculture, information technology and other equally important areas. Namibia mainly exports raw mineral commodities to China and imports manufactured goods, electronic and construction goods amongst others.
It is here where Namibia needs to put the emphasis albeit engagements on joint ventures in manufacturing industries that experience could be tapped from the wealth of China’s prowess and subsequently be of value addition to Namibia’s raw materials and transfer of the much-needed skills.
Strategically, engaging China at this juncture of its economic boom and its appetite for raw materials to fuel its robust economy would be the most opportune time than any other in the history of Sino-Africa relations.
Benedick M Louw
Karas SPYL Regional Information and Mobilisation Secretary