There’s been a lot of debate on the new China-Africa economic relations. The Chinese say that aid and investment in Africa, which has doubled in the last few years, is about co-operation and mutual benefit. Many in the West, however, are suspicious. They’re concerned about the Chinese self-interested pursuit of Africa’s vast natural resources, and their ulterior intent to secure political and economic clout on the continent. That China’s soft power comes with invisible strings attached, and that if we’re not careful, African countries will soon become administrative provinces of China. Because China seems not to care about trade liberalisation and financial deregulation both within and outside their borders. That they don’t care about social and environmental sustainability in their overseas operations. And that they don’t care about Western democratic ideals.
But what does Africa think? Are we inadvertently falling for China’s ‘charm offensive‘?
Do we really believe in the ‘co-operation and mutual benefit’ Chinese development finance mantra? Is it that African leaders prefer China as an alternative trading partner that cares less about bad governance and human rights? Is it that we believe more in China’s political and economic model, seeing as private capitalism and democracy are not getting us to our destination fast enough? Or is it that Africans, due to their poverty, don’t have the luxury of idealism?
In a TED talk, Dambisa Moyo, a Zambian economist offers a fascinating (and dare I say, convincing) perspective on China vs. US/European economic relations with the developing world. Definitely food for thought.