Africa, China, & neo-colonialism
(Part 1 of 3)
“China has re-shackled Africa,” the man’s baritone voice, accented with a native African language, rang from the podium. “The Chinese are our new slave masters!” Serious accusations, to be sure. Where were these stunning charges heard? Anywhere Africans and their descendents are found on the Continent, or in the Diaspora; Lagos, London, or Los Angeles—you pick the city. The mystery man’s sentiments are echoing throughout cities, towns, and villages in Africa and beyond. This isn’t an attempt to demonize China, or to suggest that it’s sinister in any way. After all, aside from the numerous invaluable things Chinese culture has given the world for millennia, as a teenager I remember being mesmerized by movies starring the inimitable Bruce Lee, China’s Martial Arts Messiah.
For example, after watching Fists of Fury (1971), my friends and I burst out theater doors with high kicks and karate chops, yelling, “Watahhh!” Make no mistake about it; instead of being Black, we wanted to be Bruce. Even young African American females got in on the action. While they weren’t trying to break wooden boards in half with one fell swoop of a karate chop, we all boogied hard to Carl Douglas’ song, Kung Fu Fighting (1974), inspired by none other than Bruce the Messiah. Remember the words? “Everybody was kung-fu fighting; those cats were fast as lightning.” Regrettably, China is now striking—as fast as lightning say critics—at the resources of virtually every country in Africa!
While Chinese leaders are quoting Bruce Lee’s “Whatahhh!”, African leaders are quoting Homer Simpson’s “D’oh!” Which African leaders? Herewith is a partial list of 15 presidents or prime ministers of African countries (listed alphabetically) who have ill-omened economic and political ties with the Chinese. (Other African countries will be listed in Parts 2 and 3 of this three-part series.) Please note how the media has documented China’s ties to Africa as reflected in sample headlines. Chinese embassies represent political ties.
(1) Algeria (Chinese Embassy): “Algeria, China strengthen strategic partnership.” “Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and President Hu Jintao meet in Beijing on the eve of the opening ceremony for the 2008 Olympic Games held in August.—China Daily, December 19, 2008. (2) Angola (Chinese Embassy): “Angola: China’s African foothold,” “As Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao visits Angola, the BBC’s Piers Scholfield examines what links the two nations.”—BBC News, June 20. 2006. (3) Benin (Chinese Embassy): “Benin president attends opening of Benin-China trade centre 16 December.”—BBC Monitoring via COMTEX, December 17, 2008. (4) Botswana (Chinese Embassy): “Botswana/China trade grows.” “Trade between Botswana and China is growing steadily, says out-going Chinese Ambassador Ding Xiawoen.” (5) Burkina Faso (Chinese Embassy): “China’s trade with Burkina Faso in November 2008.” “China’s export to and import from Burkina Faso reached 5,843,000 US dollars in November 2008, and the trade in January-November reached 105,983,000 US dollars, down 39.6 percent year on year.”—Xinhua via COMTEX, January 23, 2009.
(6) Burundi (Chinese Embassy): “China hopes to enhance cooperation with Burundi.” “Chinese chief political advisor Jia Qinglin said Monday that China hopes to enhance cooperation with Burundi so as to upgrade China-Burundi ties to a higher level.”—Nov. 6, 2006. (7) Cameroon (Chinese Embassy): “China, Cameroon Sign Economic Agreements.” “China has signed a series of economic agreements with Cameroon, giving the African country more than $54 million in loans.”—VOA News, January 31, 2007. (8) Cape Verde (Chinese Embassy): “China in Cape Verde: the Dragon’s African Paradise.” “China is willing to carry out reciprocal cooperation with Cape Verde in shipping, communications, service and tourism sectors, said Premier Wen Jiabao.” (9) Central African Republic (Chinese Embassy): “China a reliable friend to Central African Republic: president.” “China is a reliable friend to the Central African Republic (CAR), the country’s president, Francois Bozize, said on Friday, according to news from the CAR capital of Bangui”; January 6, 2007. (10) Chad (Chinese Embassy): “Chad Chooses China; Future of Chad’s Energy Sector Likely to Change Dramatically.” “Chad’s decision to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan and recognize Chinese government in Beijing is set to change Chad’s political and economic future over the long term.”—Global Insight Daily Analysis, August 9, 2006.
(11) Comoros (Chinese Embassy): “On the afternoon of June 18, 2003, President Hu Jintao held talks with Comoros President Azali Assoumani at the Great Hall of the People….He added that bilateral relations had developed smoothly over the past 28 years …saying that the two sides had continuously enhanced politically mutual trust, achieved good results in economic, cultural and health cooperation and achieved good cooperation in international affairs.” (12) Republic of Congo (Chinese Embassy): In a joint communiqué, “Both sides held that China and the Republic of Congo have huge potential for cooperation and are ready to strengthen cooperation in the areas of agriculture, energy, telecommunications, transportation, infrastructure construction and human resources development. The two governments will create necessary conditions and facility for the businesses of the two countries to enhance trade and investment exchanges.”—June 20, 2006.
(13) Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (Chinese Embassy): “Fatal Transactions—China in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).” Columbite-tantalite (or “Coltan”) is a metallic ore found largely in the mineral-rich DRC. China uses large quantities in making cell phones, DVD players, computers, and other electronics. Its illegal mining and smuggling has caused war and genocide in the DRC with militias from neighboring Burundi, Uganda, and Rwanda pillaging the Congo’s eastern borders. As odd as it may seem, in 2000, the manufacturing of the Sony PS2 exacerbated matters. Bayer, as well as over a hundred multinational companies are said to be connected to the plundering of the DRC. Billions of dollars in blood money have been made. “In 2007 DRC signed deals with Chinese for varying projects, in particular one where Chinese ExIm Bank would provide US$8,5 billion to build infrastructure and develop the mining industry. The IMF has warned of the possible effects such a loan would have on the DRC economy.” (Italics added.)
(14) Côte d’Ivoire (Chinese Embassy): “China is ready to deepen economic and trade cooperation with Cote d’Ivoire to boost bilateral friendly ties, China’s top political advisor Jia Qinglin said in Beijing Monday.”—November 6, 2006. (15) Djibouti (Chinese Embassy): “On June 5, 2008, Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Zhai Jun met with departing Djibouti Ambassador Moussa Bouh Odowa….Odowa fully agreed with Zhai’s comments on bilateral ties and thanked for China’s long-standing disinterested assistance to Djibouti, as well as the support and help the Chinese side has offered to him during his tenure in China.”
Since most of Africa’s peoples are poverty-stricken because of historic Arab and European exploitation, modern-day governments on the Continent have elected to borrow from the Chinese. Is it fair to characterize China’s politico-economic relationship with Africa as neo-colonialism? Is it economic slavery? The most popular book in the world—far outdistancing both Mao’s Litter Red Book and the Qur’an—the Holy Bible, answers: “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.” (Prov. 22:7; New American Bible) Stay tuned for Part 2.