Nicknamed the “Mother Continent”, Africa continues to provide human and natural resources to the modern industrial world. During the colonial period, the continent’s human and material resources were exploited by many powers. China and Africa have remained engaged in various mutual relations for long. Even during the colonial period, China sided with the African countries in their struggle for freedom. However, after the globalization and subsequent to China’s policy to be influential in this arena, the economic strategy and mutual alliances in trade diplomacy sharing market have caused the mutual relations grow significantly. China intends not only to access the vast markets Africa offers but also to use the natural sources of the continent to meet its energy needs. To give its stated intentions of helping Africa, China has invested in many areas other than the natural resources and infrastructure. It also claims to have set up and funded hospitals and schools, initiated railways, spent in energy extractions, contributed to the Textile industries in different African countries (Moyo, 2009; French, 2014). However, considering the mode of China’s involvement in the African countries and the net effects of China’s cooperation with the African governments, it can be argued that the mutual cooperation is tilted in China’s favor.
There is no questioning the fact that China’s entry into the scene has great potential benefits for the African countries. China has contributed in many sectors in African countries including for example technology, employment, infrastructure, trade and others (French, 2014). They can also share knowledge, train human resource and help each other in myriad ways. If this mutual cooperation between the two sides has to be profitable for both the partners, they have to look for a real win-win relation. However, the African countries do not seem to face the challenge posed by the cheap Chinese labor and goods (French 2014). Moreover, Chinese companies and corporations working in African countries are not expected to abide by the labor laws and protect environment properly. Therefore, China is leading the African countries to economic dependency rather than providing them help to grow themselves as independent prosperous economies. French has quoted the perception of China in the view of many Africans who believed “China was seen to be exporting its labor, dumping cheap goods, despoiling the environment, dispossessing powerless landholders or flouting local laws, fueling corruption, and most of all, empowering awful governments” (French, 2014).
China’s activities are exploitative rather than developmental. Abdoulkadre Ado and Zhan Su studied more than forty articles on the issue of China-Africa relations appearing between 2001 and 2011. They concluded that most of the authors were of opinion that Sino-African cooperation is not a win-win cooperation. China approaches Africa mainly due to the natural resources. The selected authors were not in agreement on the question whether China has colonialist ambitions to Africa. They were also divided on that China cares or does not care about the human rights. China’s claims to promote industrialization of Africa were also subject to great difference of opinion among the select authors. China’s presence in Africa harms the local economy (Ado and Su, 2016).
Similarly, Margaret C. Lee has asserted that Sino-African relations at present are mainly motivated by “China’s (i) insatiable desire to have access to Africa’s natural resources and markets, and (ii) effort to become a hegemonic power, historically, these relations have been extremely complex and dynamic” (Lee 2006). This proves that there is little consensus on the benign nature of China’s interaction and involvement in the African countries. It is, therefore, not strange that the independent analysts would question China’s involvement in Africa and its role there.
However, the African leaders have found it very cooperative and positive. Due to Chinese support for the African people’s struggle for independence from the western colonial powers, the people and the leaders of African look at her with favor. Moreover, China does not press the African countries which it lends financial support to achieve the western ideal of democracy, good governance, transparency and observance of human rights (Moyo, 2009). This means that China is not interested in the real development and progress of the people of the continent. Though China would call it peaceful development and declare it a harmonious world, yet in reality, this silence on human rights violation and suppression of the people means nothing less than supporting it (French 2014).
China has also been accused of supporting the despotic regimes that don’t find it uneasy to engage in a gross violation of international laws. For example, it has supported Khartoum’s National Islamic Front regime and prevented intervention by the international community in Darfur genocide mere in order to protect its oil interests (Reeves, 2006). To side with the oppressive regimes and extremist parties means putting the African countries in particular and the world in general in a real threat. China, on the other hand, claims that she follows the principle of non-interference and believes that it should opt for constructive engagement rather than employ military force and sanctions. To China, the controversies are always domestic and can only be undone by the concrete economic development of the land in question. This doctrine suits of the Chinese authorities many African regimes. This is why in a few decades China could make Africa a solid proof of the success of its diplomacy and business styles. The African leaders consider the western model of sanctions and conditions as an assault upon their sovereignty.
China has also been engaged in Africa’s health sector. According to the latest data from Aid Data regarding finances in Africa by China, we see a picture of a positive trend. It has been noticed that China is running as many as “255 health, population, water, and sanitation (HPWS) projects from 2000–2012” (Grépin, Karen et al., 2014) Beginning from 2000, China has developed an interest in investing in health projects in Africa. It is one of the top ten donors to African health sector. According to the report, “over 50% of the HPWS projects target infrastructure, 40% target human resource development, and the provision of equipment and drugs is also common” (Grépin, Karen et al, 2014). Grépin, Karen et al posit that contrary to the popular notion, there is “little evidence” to prove that China only donates to the countries rich in natural resources. This shows that China is contributing to the betterment and uplifting of sectors other than oil and natural resources in Africa. Moreover, 900 Chinese doctors were serving in Africa during the year 2006 (Moyo, 2009).
To conclude one can say that though China’s involvement in the African countries has grown very much curing the globalization period. China has benefited from the western policy of imposing conditions on aid to African countries with regards to human rights, democracy, and transparency and due to its non-interference and soft power policies gained access to many African countries. There is no doubt in that China like any other political and economic power is looking for natural resources for its growing economy at home and a vibrant market for its productions. Yet however, it is not proven that China is trying to gain unfettered access to the natural sources of the African nations turning the mutual cooperation into a sort of naked imperialism. China has not only invested in the natural resources sectors such as oil and gas but also in infrastructure, education, health and human resource development. These facts indicate that China is contributing to a good extent to the African economy and there is a kind of win-win cooperation process instead of exploitation of one party, that is, China in the entire process of the interaction between itself and African nations.
Ado, A., & Su, Z. (2016). China in Africa: a critical literature review. critical perspectives on international business, 12(1), 40-60.
French, H. W. (2014). China’s second continent: How a million migrants are building a new empire in Africa. Vintage.
Grépin, K. A., Fan, V. Y., Shen, G. C., & Chen, L. (2014). China’s role as a global health donor in Africa: what can we learn from studying under reported resource flows?. Globalization and health, 10(1), 84.
Lee, M. C. (2006). The 21st century scramble for Africa. Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 24(3), 303-330.
Moyo, D. (2009). Dead Aid (London: Allen Lane).
Reeves, E. (2006). China in Sudan: underwriting genocide. Retrieved November, 4, 2007.