21.7.06

Chinese In Africa


BBC NEWS | Business | China defends its African relations

If there is one continent in the world that still elicits feelings of uncertainty in the minds of global political and economic leaders it is unquestionably Africa. The cradle of civilization now faces rampant disease, famine, violence and economic malaise, while Western diplomats sit on their thumbs on the upper-east side and squabble over the merits of peacekeeping missions to halt genocidal slaughter in Sudan. For decades UN policy has utterly failed the people it was established to benefit above any other, and no end to the destitution is in sight, at least until recently.

There is no government in the world more experienced with and successful in the implementation of development policy than the Chinese. Its population has demanded that its leaders climb down from their perch in Beijing and travel to the villages, so as to better understand the nature of poverty and conceive of realistic and effective policies to combat its debilitating consequences. Well, the proof is in the pudding.

The Chinese economy is booming, its peasantry is becoming increasingly self-sufficient and educated, and few people would argue that the future for the Chinese people is not bright and their international prestige and influence not growing. This leaves Western leaders in the precarious position of having to confront a Communist government, who's success challenges the legitimacy of their own democratic systems as they battle for the hearts and minds of impoverished, war torn countries in the Middle East, which are far more valuable to their self-interest than trying to tackle the complicated problems that plague the African continent.

It seems logical to me that governments in the developed world both feel threatened by the rapid ascendancy of such a formidable competitor, but I doubt that they have the resources necessary to combat the Chinese as they begin to spread their wings and establish friendships with countries that have felt slighted by the West for years. Therefore, I think it would be in the West's self-interest to allow the Chinese to expand into Africa unabated, so as to both relieve themselves of the distraction it poses to progress on initiatives currently under way elsewhere, as well as to make sure the Chinese do not become too ambitious for their own good but rather stay focused on international projects that they are best suited to manage.

The Chinese are well aware of where their comparative advantages lie, and I don't think they are eager to bite off more responsibility than they can chew.  We will have to wait and see how the US and other governments engage the Chinese, but with any hope they will be viewed as a partner who shares our goals of global prosperity and alleviation of destitution around the world. Until we are given a reason to feel otherwise, it would be both irresponsible and ignorant to act otherwise.

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