The Secret Weapon of Globalization: China's Activities in Sub-Saharan Africa

By Langmia, Kehbuma | Journal of Third World Studies, Fall 2011 | Go to article overview

The Secret Weapon of Globalization: China's Activities in Sub-Saharan Africa


Langmia, Kehbuma, Journal of Third World Studies


INTRODUCTION

The continent of Africa has become the place where advanced nations have resorted to scramble for its natural wealth. Since the era of slave trade and colonization, Africa has become the victim of exploitation from external forces. The reason for this state of affairs can be attributed to a plethora of factors. Firstly, Africa is very rich in mineral and natural resources that is attracting outside forces. Secondly, it is still recovering from the throes of slave trade and colonization. As a result, these outside forces take the opportunity to cripple it further under the guise of aiding the ailing continent. Thirdly, Africa is riddled with dictators who have connived with some Western powers to reduce the continent to a beggarly state. So the people of Africa have been yearning for democratic governance that will ensure equitable distribution of the national cake. Fourthly, the continent of Africa has a high rate of malnutrition, disease, and death, making emigration an alternative choice. Talented Africans are leaving the continent for greener pastures abroad. This makes the continent vulnerable.

This paper, therefore, seeks to examine the role of China as another outside force that is playing a double-edged role in the economic, political, and technological development of Sub-Saharan Africa. The paper will examine in greater detail existing literature on the state of affairs in Sub-Saharan Africa with the arrival of China under the guise of "global development." Research articles selected under the rubric of purposeful non-probability sampling techniques will be used to critically examine China's new role in Sub-Saharan Africa.

CHINA'S ACTIVITIES IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA: AN OVERVIEW OF LITERATURE AND ISSUES

It was Rodney who said in his most acclaimed book "How Europe Underdeveloped Africa"' that "'the capitalists of Western Europe were the ones who actively extended their exploitation from inside Europe to cover the whole of Africa." (2) This is the fate that has befallen Africa since independence. For this trend to continue in the 21st century is regrettable. Africans are still suffering from the pains of colonization. This period in the lives of Africans has made them subservient to their colonial masters. They have never been masters of their own destiny in their own land. They were forced to stoop low and expose all they had to the stranger who exploited them with impunity. That is why even after most African countries gained their independence in the 60s, they were still beholden to the Western colonial powers. They were introduced to new socio-political, economical and cultural modes of life that made theirs despised and downgraded. Consequently, we had Africans who assumed the helm of power, and instead of practicing democratic governance to make sure genuine development was taking place in the continent, chose rather to march to the tune of Western drum beats of exploitation and marginalization. Today the same song seems to be played under a new name called 'globalization'. And China is playing that leading role in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The term globalization as we know it today is actually a tradition that started thousands of years ago. States and governments practiced interdependence of shared love, culture and trade. The Han dynasty in China is credited for having made the first visit to the African continent with the dispatch of Du Huan (3) around A.D. 759. He met with the ancient Nubian cities in Eritrea and Sudan. This was followed by another dispatch, this time by the Ming Dynasty. Zheng He (4) is credited for making over seven trips to East Africa from 1405-1433. Though ruled by an Emperor, China never conquered Africa like its Western counterparts did in later years. The Cold war with the Soviet Union greatly affected Sino-African ties though China still maintained minimal roles. In some states in the continent. Now they are returning to play a much larger role under what is now commonly referred to as globalization which has assumed new and broader dimensions. …

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