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TOPIC: An African Perspective on China's Global Economic Rise

An African Perspective on China's Global Economic Rise 24 Feb 2014 12:41 #1

  • Orangeaid
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Last Sunday, this column focused on the rise of the BRICS and how they are trying to assert themselves in the international system. Feedback from readers has prompted me to continue this discussion by focusing mainly on what makes China the force it is – mainly in developing countries in Africa – and why this rise may not imply the fall of the United States.

For long, the United States has played a predominant role in the international system, with almost unchallenged hegemony over the rest of the world. It was for long claimed that the US was the custodian of world peace and also as the leader of the Western liberal democracies, it was at the forefront of spreading Western civilization, which was assumed to be of a higher level that the rest of the world should embrace.

The United States hegemony has been exercised through both soft power and hard power. By diplomacy, cultural exchanges, and even attracting young talent into American universities, the US succeeded in expanding its influence across the world. More so, American culture has largely penetrated many countries and influenced multitudes. This is seen through different avenues like hip hop music and Hollywood movies.

Azar Gat, in The Return of Autocratic Great Powers, says that the liberal democracies defeated authoritarianism and communism in great wars of the twentieth century. It is from this that the US emerged as a predominant power in a unipolar world that came about at the end of the cold war and fall of the Berlin Wall.

China has emerged as a major player in world politics, with different observers coming up with different explanations of the Asian country's rise, intentions and place in the international system. Whereas China has major weaknesses as a power of global influence, it is on the rise and its influence is significant. In Africa, China has made major inroads in places where it had no historical ties. Its connection with Africa does not emanate from having been a colonial power like many Western countries or the US, which sought to extend its influence in post independence Africa.

Though China made significant contributions to African liberation movements, it did not seek to extend its influence like the Western powers. It is only in recent years that China has been involved in significant infrastructure developments. A case in point is its oil concessions in the Sudan, Angola and its recent entry in the nascent oil exploration industry in Uganda. More so, the annual Sino Africa Summit has become a major event on the calendar of Chinese-Africa relations and hardly any African leader misses.

However, it is important to note that China's influence does not necessarily imply the decline of the United States hegemony.

As Tufts University Political Scientist Michael Beckley argues, America is not in decline, as it still has the initiative in terms of technological advancement and capacity to exploit globalisation for its own advantage.

Many bright and intelligent young people still migrate to study and work in the US where they are an immense human resource base in science and technology, research and development, etc.

Nevertheless, the US faces a major challenge to its unipolar dominance of the world. But this does not mean that America's hegemony and influence must be seen exclusively in light of China's rise.

Whereas China is on a major road towards assuming a central role in the international system, it still has a long way to overtake the United States. But basing on the assumption that its rise does not amount into the decline of the United States, i.e. that it is not a zero sum game, we can safely argue that world order will be radically altered into a multipolar system where several world powers play a role.

And China is the leader of the new powers in terms of influence basing on its soft power as seen through, for example, a new wave of foreign students going to study in China. On September 15, while on a visit to China, President Paul Kagame met over 100 students from Rwanda currently pursuing higher education studies in China.

This exemplifies the fact that for the first time, a massive number of students from developing countries are heading to China for studies. This has a global impact and speaks of China's new role in the world.

From the New Times - Rwanda's English daily
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An African Perspective on China's Global Economic Rise 09 Mar 2014 07:22 #2

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As you'd expect though the Chinese investment dollars have not made great in roads into lifting much of the population out of poverty.

Sub-saharan Africa has had many despotic leaders who line their pockets whilst in power and do not think about the long term. Surrounding the despot are a never ending line of hangers on who want to line their pockets with as much as they can along the way.
Africans Divided over Chinese PresenceBy Bartholomäus Grill in Bagamayo, Tanzania

Chinese companies have pumped billions into Africa to secure access to natural resources, boosting countries' economies along the way. Ordinary citizens aren't reaping the benefits, though, and have become increasingly wary of the new investors.

In a three-part series, SPIEGEL is exploring fundamental changes occurring in Africa -- a continent the West has long written off, but is now being embraced by other countries. This is Part I of the series. An introduction can be readhere, while Part II explores the digital revolution's tranformative impact on the continent and Part III shows how women in Africa are making great strides.

Everything is as it has always been: decayed rows of houses, weathered doorframes with intricate carvings, potholed dirt roads, fishing boats rotting on the beach and, in the middle of it all, the Boma, a stone fortress built by the former German conquerors in Bagamayo, a sleepy coastal town in Tanzania.

Bagamayo was the capital of the colony of German East Africa from 1888 to 1891, when the administrative seat was moved to Dar es Salaam because the shore in Bagamayo was too shallow for a real seaport. Since then, time seems to have stood still.

"But soon nothing will be as it once was in Bagamayo," says Marie Shaba, "because now the new rulers of the world, the Chinese, are coming."

The 65-year-old radio journalist is wearing a bright, mango-yellow kitenge, the traditional dress worn by Tanzanian women. She calls herself a cultural activist. For years, Shaba has been fighting to have Bagamayo, an important arena for the slave trade in the 19th century and for colonial history, declared a United Nations World Heritage Site.

But now Shaba fears that the sleepy town will disappear in the waves of progress.

This spring, Bagamayo was the focus of a story in international business news, when more than 400 newspapers worldwide reported that China was making a low-interest loan of $10 billion (€7.4 billion) available for the construction of a modern container terminal 15 kilometers (9 miles) south of the city, and also planned to fund the establishment of a special economic zone in the hinterlands behind the port.

"This is good for Tanzania, very good. It's a poor country that will be making a giant step forward," says Janson Huang, 36. It's also good for him and his company. Huang manages the local office of Chinese construction company Group Six International in Dar es Salaam. A short, wiry man with a sparse moustache, he is dressed casually in an open, gray-and-white striped shirt and dark slacks. Huang speaks English well, and he speaks openly and directly.

This is unusual, as Chinese investors tend to shy away from the media. All other inquiries SPIEGEL made with Chinese companies registered in Tanzania were either rejected or not answered at all.

The Group Six headquarters, in the Mikocheni industrial area, was not easy to find. The unpaved access road hadn't been named yet. The company is housed in an inconspicuous complex behind high walls topped with barbed wire. Across from the materials warehouse are two red Chinese lanterns, marking the entrance to the uninviting dormitory for the Chinese foremen. The manager's office next door is sparsely furnished with imitation leather armchairs and filing cabinets.

Huang, an engineer, has been working in East Africa for a decade, first in Kenya and then in Tanzania. He likes his new home and wants to stay here with his family. He would like to have a second child, preferably a son.

It wasn't easy to gain a foothold in Tanzania, he says, "but we Chinese are not afraid of taking risks. We see Africa with different eyes than the West, not as a rotten continent, but as an economic region with enormous potential."

Huang's privately owned company has had a hand in constructing many buildings. Most recently, it built the Crystal Tower in downtown Dar es Salaam. "We invest and create jobs. It's a win-win situation for both sides," he says.

The only decoration in Huang's office consists of framed photographs on the wall, which depict him during the presentation of company donations for humanitarian purposes. He is especially proud of a group photo with President Xi Jinping. Huang, a young economic pioneer from China, is standing directly behind China's first lady.

The photo was taken during Xi's state visit in late March, when China's newly chosen president signed the investment agreement for the Bagamayo port and special economic zone, as well as 17 other bilateral agreements. The president and party leader had just come from Moscow, and it was no accident that the second stop on his first trip abroad was in Africa.

China, Asia's economic superpower, is hungry for natural resources, energy, food and markets for its products. Africa can offer all of these things: about 40 percent of global reserves of natural resources, 60 percent of uncultivated agricultural land, a billion people with rising purchasing power and a potential army of low-wage workers.

"Our relations are at a new historic beginning," the Chinese president told his Tanzanian hosts. He noted that Africa is one of the world's fastest-growing regions, pressing forward like a "galloping lion."

Xi reminded his hosts of the warm relationship between the Great Chairman Mao Zedong and Tanzania's first president, Julius Nyerere. He also praised the two countries' shared struggle against imperialism and invoked the common interests of all developing countries. "We are true friends," he said. "We treat each other as equal partners."

Before giving his speech, Xi had made a symbolic gesture of handing over a monumental conference center, built by a Chinese construction company in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam, to the Tanzanian president. After his visit, he traveled to the BRICS summit.

from Der SPIEGEL
Last Edit: 09 Mar 2014 07:27 by Orangeaid.
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