Review: China into Africa–Trade, Aid, and Influence

4 Star, Country/Regional, Diplomacy, Economics, Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity
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4.0 out of 5 stars One of Two “Best” on China in Africa

February 22, 2010

Robert I. Rotberg, contributing editor

Of the modest number of books focused on China in Africa, this is one of the two best, and both are unique–if you buy only one, at least read my summary of the other, China Safari: On the Trail of Beijing’s Expansion in Africa. Whereas t his book is a best in class collection of academic essays, China Safari is direct journalism with wonderful color photos and direct ground-truth stories.

While this book good easily be five stars in terms of staid academic documentation and reasonable insights, is just does not give me–nor does the other book–a 360 degree view aided by a few maps and charts. This is all print, and while there is a great deal of detail, the over-all synthesis and analysis is not there–each piece stands on its own. Here are my distilled notes.

01 Rotberg China’s Quest for Resources, Opportunities, and Influence in Africa
+ Third era in Chinese-African relations, first was in the 600-700 AD period
+ Since 2006 China has displaced Europe and is set to displace the USA within the decade
+ India and Japan are pushing back in Africa, but weakly
+ China is building infrastructure as a means of capturing below-market price direct access to natural resources
+ China’s neutral non-interventionist policies have opened doors closed by Western human rights badgering
– Downside is the substandard goods that China is dumping, and sub-price, displacing local economy suppliers
– Downside is Chinese labor brought in, thousands as a time, not hiring or training local labor
– US Government generally “ill-prepared” to monitor or understand China’s broad presence in Africa
– Neither the African Union nor any of its regional economic commissions have a China strategy or policy

02 Anshan China’s New Policy Toward Africa
+ 1970’s key turning point when China opened relations with all parties not just communist parties
+ China now ideologically neutral focused on national-commercial objectives
+ 1980’s started to focus on education, building schools in Africa, training African diplomats in China
+ General focus on “win-win” and attempt to avoid charges of “new colonialism

03 Jiang China’s Emerging Strategic Partnerships in Africa
+ 2006 named year of Africa by China, kicked off full-course press in all countries with oil, other resources
+ China effectively managing Third World perception of China as a developing country that is a model to follow
+ US and China both need a stable Africa, could do more to work together to that end
– China does not have a pan-Africa or Southern Hemisphere strategy

04 Rupp Africa and China–Engaging Postcolonial Interdependencies
+ African resources combined with China’s needs puts Africa at center of geopolitical map
+ Partnership without preconditions is rocking especially as Europe and US have pulled back or failed
– China focusing on good will of leaders while flooding markets with cheap good that alienate public
– Chinese refusal to employ locals in most countries a major issue
– Chinese characters for Africa translate into “negative continent”

05 Broadman Chinese-African Trade and Investment
+ Vanguard of South-South engagement
+ China and South African especially interesting

06 Lee and Shalmon Searching for Oil–China’s Oil Strategies in Africa
+ 2006 was year China began investing heavily in direct access to oil all over the world
+ Buys in to oil with win-win package deals (e.g. infrastructure in exchange for oil futures)
+ Angola, Libya, Nigeria, Sudan all have high probabilities of future discoveries of oil
+ Using cheap (interest free and condition free) loans as a major offering
+ Not hiring or training locals a continuing issue
– Sudan was a gift from the West, the West totally blew the possibilities off

07 Davies Special Economic Zones–China’s Developmental Model Comes to Africa
+ 2006 initiative, both in China and in Africa
+ Creating East-West railway for sub-Saharan Africa
+ Russia still the major arms dealer, around 25% of market, China climbing from 2% toward 14%
+ 2006 China expanded attaché presence across the region, and joined all the UN peace missions in Africa
– At this time China completely dependent on foreign owned tankers for moving oil to China

08 Shinn Military and Security Relations–China, Africa, and the Rest of the World
+ China’s blue water Navy predicted in 2006 by Shinn, in relation to protecting African and Middle Eastern oil
+ – 24 character strategy: observe calmly, secure our position, cope with affairs calmly, hide our c capacities and bide our time, be good at maintaining a low profile, and never claim leadership–later added “make some contribution.”
+ Has not signed landmine treaty
+ great review country by country

09 Brautigan China’s Foreign Aid in Africa–What Do We Know?
+ 2006 is when Chinese aid to Africa became huge
+ Agricultural loans, technical assistance, some technical training
+ Eight billion and over

10 Hubbard Chinese Concessional Loans
+ Concessional loans have no conditions–an IMF killer app
+ One billion a year
+ Relatively transparent

11 Eisenman China’s Political Outreach in Africa
+ Political outreach has been occurring for 30 years
+ 2001 was when seven guidelines established including non-ideological, win-win, future focus
+ Methods include hospitality, cadre training, information/perception management, opposition party outreach, and interparliamentary exchanges

12 Brown and Sriram Chin’s Role in Human Rights Abuses in Africa
= China avoids human rights issues
– Sudan receives arms from China, China receives oil from Sudan
– Zimbabwe a pariah state, just ripe for China to befriend
– No legal culpability for China is clear on human rights

13 Obiorah, Kew, Tanko “Peaceful Rise” and Human Rights–China in Nigeria
+ Nigeria is HUGE
+ Overall positive impressions both ways
+ China’s rise favored as means of moving toward multipolarity in African affairs
– China’s engagement has helped extend repressive regimes
– China undercutting local textiles
– Chinese do not learn local languages
– Neither Nigeria nor Africa have a coherent strategy for dealing with China

14 Huang China’s Renewed Partnership with Africa–Implications for the United States
+ China has a track record of “friendly, respectful, and helpful”
+ China clearly sees Africa’s potential for a huge economic take-off
+ China using Africa to supports its claim to being leader of the developing world
+ Some work on poverty alleviation, health
– Language, culture, religion, racial bias tangibly present
– US has increased dollars for Africa but lacks the human capital, knowledge, and strategy to be effective in Africa

Final paragraph in the book:

“In sum, any future U.S. strategy or policy option regarding Africa will require both a far greater understanding of evolving African opinions and approaches toward China’s growing presence in Africa and the world, as well as a far more sophisticated understanding of the complexities of Chinese motivations and decision-making vis-a-vis Africa.

This book did NOT add appreciably to my understanding of how the Chinese are orchestrating information sharing among the eight tribes of intelligence (academic, civil society, commercial, government, law enforcement, media, military, non-governmental). This is a fine academic background work, it is not a strategic, operational, tactical, technical analysis, that book has yet to be written.

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