China's Economic Relations in Africa Are a Force for Good; Beijing's Investments on the Continent Has Drawn Flak from Western Media. Is It Fair?

Cape Times (South Africa), November 25, 2019 | Go to article overview

China's Economic Relations in Africa Are a Force for Good; Beijing's Investments on the Continent Has Drawn Flak from Western Media. Is It Fair?


WESTERN media and even some in Africa have been quick to blast China's economic engagements on the continent as a form of neo-colonialism.

Without doubt, China-Africa relations have been a polarising matter, with some waxing lyrical about Africa's "Look East Policy" and to citing China as an "all-weather friend" seeking to drag Africa out of economic malaise through "win-win" trade partnerships, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and aid.

In contrast, the Western media has raised alarm, depicting the Asian giant as a neo-imperialist force using loans to trap desperate African nations into mortgaging their resources for Chinese exploitation, pushing authoritarian capitalism and exploiting Africa's natural resources and cheap labour, while undermining democracy by "siding with dictators".

In a world ruled by politics and varying political ideologies, the Western media has not been exempt from pushing the political agendas of those who own it and that China's inroads into Africa should not be viewed in isolation from the Cold War days by those opposed to communism.

As a rising superpower, China has been quick to recognise Africa, while the Americans and the Europeans dilly-dallied and lagged behind, as an investment destination.

Nothing points to China harbouring ambitions of re-colonising Africa, although some of the trade deals and loan terms may be open to further scrutiny.

That, however, could be out of a failure to negotiate better deals by the host governments.

The China-Africa relationship dates back to the days of the liberation Struggle, although it was then mainly confined to political relations.

The decision to extend that relationship to trade and economic deals has shaped a new narrative and provided new options for an African continent that has for years struggled to shake-off its Western colonial hangover.

Many African countries achieved political independence decades ago, but the economic realities on the ground were that independence came with a number of strings attached, as the West remained firmly in charge of the African economy and by extension, African politics.

An over-reliance on Bretton Woods institutions for both developmental and humanitarian aid made it difficult for African countries to steer fully clear of Western interference in their politics.

Countries that have resisted such interference have been slapped with economic sanctions and put under a barrage of attacks by their opposition parties, civil society movements and the media, mostly sponsored and backed by the West.

To wean themselves from this incessant meddling in their political and governance affairs, some African countries have shifted their focus to China in a new economic narrative.

Over the years, China has become Africa's largest trading partner, importing the continent's energy and mineral resources, with its FDI showing a stock of trillions of dollars as having gone towards Africa. …

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