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China’s African Adventure: Where the West Sees the Need for Reform, Beijing Sees Nothing but Resources and Opportunities

Introduction

There has been an exponentially increasing presence of the Chinese in Africa. Today, most African countries can ‘boast’ a form of contact or the other with the Chinese. What is China doing in Africa? What does she want? Do the African people stand to gain from this relationship? What trades-in and compromises? Are both parties making ties in order to create a mutually beneficial relationship? By examining the presence of the Chinese in Angola, this paper will seek to shed some (modest) light on the various questions.

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Angola

This country, located in the southern bloc of Africa had been steep in a devastating civil war since 1975 that was triggered by the exit of the Portuguese colonial masters. The war was between the government, backed by Cuba and the Soviet Union, and Unita, a group of rebels backed by the United States and South Africa; the country had been caught smack in the middle of the cold war. The war lasted until 2002 leaving more than a million people dead and about 4 million people displaced from their homes.

The Angolan infrastructure suffered heavily; many of the towns were reduced to rubble from artillery fire. The country depended heavily on loans from the IMF and food donations from the international community. Most of the country’s revenues went to buying weapons to fight the rebel forces.

The end of the cold war marked a turning point for the country. The government had lost its backer with the fall of the Soviet Union; on the other hand, the west no longer needed to support dictatorial regimes; they had a bad taste in the mouth from previous experiences.

One of the sectors that were not adversely affected by the war was the oil industry; although Unita forces could wreak havoc on land, they couldn’t spread the war to the ocean; Angolan oil is mostly offshore within its territorial waters. Most of the money generated from this resource however went into fighting Unita. Additionally, a large amount of money just ‘disappeared’; corruption is a major issue in Angola. In a study carried out by the IMF, the Angolan government received at least USD 4.2 billion between 1997 and 2002 from oil exports. Most of this money cannot be accounted for. The pressure put on the Angolan government by the international donors to improve the government’s accountability led to the fallout between the two. Angola was headed for dark times; then in came China.

The Chinese in Africa

Early into the new century the increasingly confident china has strived to stamp its presence in the third world; the country has in the recent past been spending vast amounts of money to secure the supply of oil and gas to fuel its energy-hungry economy.

Contrary to the west’s perennial policy of inducing growth of economies through the marketplace and democratic reforms, china came up with a new policy; that of offering aid without ‘conditionality’. Dubbed by the Chinese as a ‘new type of strategic partnership’, the policy ‘respects African countries independent choice of the road of development. Basically what this means is that so long as China is getting the resources they want and the African country is getting the money, then no questions will be raised about issues of governance, democracy, and human rights in the African country. This relationship has heralded the entry of china into Sudan, Zimbabwe, Eritrea, and other countries with records of gross human rights and corruption issues.

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This partnership is undoubtedly very attractive to the many African countries that have had problems in securing money from international donors due to the stringent measures attached to it. 2006 was declared ‘the Year for Africa’ by the Peoples Republic of China. The Chinese sort to cement their relationship with the African countries that advocated for mutual benefits, reciprocity, and common prosperity. They even went ahead to call a summit in Beijing attended by all but five African heads of state and hosted by the Chinese president Hu Jintao; during its sessions, the host pledged USD 5 billion in loans to Africa, effectively doubling aid to the continent.

The Chinese approach is the exact opposite of the moral crusades and empty promises of the G8 countries to increase trade and aid to Africa. The IMF estimated that the trade between China and Africa has topped USD 50 billion and will hit USd100 billion by the year 2010.

The Chinese in Angola

Angola has replaced Saudi Arabia as the largest supplier of oil to China; the Chinese stunned the world when they bid a staggering USD 1.2 billion for the right to develop two deepwater blocks off the coast of Angola; this is the largest bid ever made.

The Chinese government is also backing Angola financially; in November 2003, the Angolan finance minister traveled to china to discuss a financial package; one year later, china announced a USD 2 billion oil-backed loan to Angola. China is also making massive investments into rebuilding the infrastructure of Angola much of which was destroyed in the war.

Questions are however being raised about the accountability of the Angolan government. The picture may look rosy from all the figures being quoted and all the constructions coming up; however, whether the benefits of the national resources are benefiting the impoverished population is questionable.

The administration is still littered with the cronies of the president, who maintains a firm grip of the state with no sign of relenting. No elections are held in this country; the political class is completely unaccountable to the public.

When will the impoverished people of Angola start reaping the benefits of their country’s success?

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Conclusion

What is the significance of the Chinese excursion into Africa to the West and to the World? The Chinese policy in Africa seeks only to empower authoritarian leadership with little or no effort to raise the living standards of the citizenry; as long as they get their oil. This will only precipitate civil strife in the long term. Already the world has learned that failed states affect the security of the whole world; lessons can be learned from Afghanistan and Somalia.

Secondly, as the traditional oil sources diminish or stabilize, Africa, with its unexploited resources, is increasingly becoming an important source of the commodity; already, the United States is importing 15% of its oil from this continent, the figure is bound to rise.

If China was to control the oil sources of Africa, then the stage is set for a major shift of political and economic power in the world.

References

James Traub, China’s African adventure: where the west sees the need for reform, Beijing sees nothing but resources and opportunities. New York Times Magazine, 2006. pp.74.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, January 17). China’s African Adventure: Where the West Sees the Need for Reform, Beijing Sees Nothing but Resources and Opportunities. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/chinas-african-adventure-where-the-west-sees-the-need-for-reform-beijing-sees-nothing-but-resources-and-opportunities/

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StudyCorgi. (2022, January 17). China’s African Adventure: Where the West Sees the Need for Reform, Beijing Sees Nothing but Resources and Opportunities. https://studycorgi.com/chinas-african-adventure-where-the-west-sees-the-need-for-reform-beijing-sees-nothing-but-resources-and-opportunities/

Work Cited

"China’s African Adventure: Where the West Sees the Need for Reform, Beijing Sees Nothing but Resources and Opportunities." StudyCorgi, 17 Jan. 2022, studycorgi.com/chinas-african-adventure-where-the-west-sees-the-need-for-reform-beijing-sees-nothing-but-resources-and-opportunities/.

1. StudyCorgi. "China’s African Adventure: Where the West Sees the Need for Reform, Beijing Sees Nothing but Resources and Opportunities." January 17, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/chinas-african-adventure-where-the-west-sees-the-need-for-reform-beijing-sees-nothing-but-resources-and-opportunities/.


Bibliography


StudyCorgi. "China’s African Adventure: Where the West Sees the Need for Reform, Beijing Sees Nothing but Resources and Opportunities." January 17, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/chinas-african-adventure-where-the-west-sees-the-need-for-reform-beijing-sees-nothing-but-resources-and-opportunities/.

References

StudyCorgi. 2022. "China’s African Adventure: Where the West Sees the Need for Reform, Beijing Sees Nothing but Resources and Opportunities." January 17, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/chinas-african-adventure-where-the-west-sees-the-need-for-reform-beijing-sees-nothing-but-resources-and-opportunities/.

References

StudyCorgi. (2022) 'China’s African Adventure: Where the West Sees the Need for Reform, Beijing Sees Nothing but Resources and Opportunities'. 17 January.

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