Nigerian-Newspaper.com                Posted November 20, 2006

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Chinalization of African economy: Challenges for Africa Vulnerability

The economic expansionist policy of China in the recent times is an apparent understanding that China wants a balance of power in the international business frontyard. China ever growing population and its undoubted territorial size is an indication for geopolitics (living space). Chinese policy makers were daunted by the future leaving them no option than to impress the present for a better prosperous posterity. Technically, China still maintains and preserves its communist principles but pragmatically applied certain fundamentals of liberal capitalism, a necessity for balancing power among its neighbours and international contestants.

Both the American and European markets nurture the fear of Chinese expansionist policy a vivid indication of Chinese growing presence in the northern hemisphere. Of about thirty countries constituting South America, China has entrenched its economic presence in twenty-one countries leading to the propaganda of neo-colonialism sponsored by both American and Europeans. American domestic industries are on the apex of hatred for Chinese marketers due to their cheap products exploring, infiltrating, and overwhelming the American market. The implication of this fear would be the consequential effect of welcoming China into the World Trade Organization. China is of course taking chances of the free-market principle of the liberal capitalism which is an opportunity for economic tentacles expansion.

The legitimacy and continuous hegemony of every super power lies in the ability to amass wealth, resources and keep surpluses. China being a super power on its own right is actively struggling to keep pace with the world resources and that obviously explains its mercantilism policy.

The unjustifiable presence of colonial powers on the continent of Africa indicates the resources potential of the continent. Continental Africa was plundered and drained of its human and natural resources, with less rationality for its development as reciprocity. The age of colonialism though has drawn its curtain, yet the continent in still punctuated by the offshoots of colonial powers in the shape of multinational corporations. Africa is witnessing and welcoming another friend so to say, carrying the flag of the only Asian representative in the permanent seats of the United Nations Security Council.

African’s approach to China economic influence is of twofold, among the right (conservatives) it is a complement to the developmental policies stated by African leaders for the next millennium. Obviously that does not sound well before the leftist (anti-foundation) taking exception to it as a New Partnership for Africa exploitation. Be that it may, both sides of the coin might be right in their own senses, as both would claim progress and development for Africa as justification. Observing Chinese presence with critical mind from a different lens, arguably China should be accorded a second thought and welcomed on various premises.

The presence of multinational corporations on the continent has brought more harm than good. These corporations have played significant part in African domestic politics, contributing to political instability rather than harmonious existence between the rulers and the ruled. Many of the oil companies operating in Nigeria are lucid testimonies; events have shown government weakness, an inability to create balance between peoples’ demand and multinationals’ interest.

Arguably, most government are keen to establish their legitimacy, trying to maintain peace and security. Since most African government shares certain economic interest with these multinationals they rather throw support for the multinationals than their people. Legitimizing the use of violence for states security as a tool of maintaining and orderly society

Unlike the western corporations, the Chinese investors are very much distance and not ready for interference in domestic politics. This aloofness from domestic politics distinctively will make a difference between corporations that have dragged Africa into muddy wars and conflicts. The pages of African history still preserve the memories and the effect of foreign companies in the Niger Delta (Nigeria), Sierra Leone, Congo to mention few.

Perhaps if African leaders want a change of bearing and shift of policy from the west to the east, looking eastward should open a new channel for African development. Channelling African policy eastward could restage the “Flying Geese Theory” in Africa. The East Asian development in the 80s was a drastic overturn developmental wise. These countries broke away from the shadow of colonialism; they discontinued reliance on their former colonial masters, but welcomed fellow eastern Japan, hence Continental African should as well “Let the Chinese Lead”. China being a developing country and its economic viability exempt it from all shadow of doubt. The Chinese investment policy and game is win-win game, not a zero-sum game often played by the western corporation. On this platform, arguably China could be a good partner for Africans.

Chinese investors should be given appreciable respite and concern as they share same symbol of developing countries with most of the African countries. Counter-Chinalization would be less productive and would justify Machiavelli assertion that “when a weak state supports stronger state against other weaker states, a time will come when the strong will hunt on its weaker supporter”. Assuming this Machiavellian theory is true; Africa should not refuse the reception of China as that would be tantamount to assisting EU-American interest.

Even though the Chinese might be harbouring covert intention for the African market, but the outward investment concern should be closely acknowledged. What should interest Africa most is having a sound leverage with the Chinese investors. Since they are not in for zero-sum game, hence the ample opportunity is amplified for bargaining.

Japanese type of capital investment and development of East Asian countries is what should be demanded of the Chinese investment. Investment in capital intensive industries should be bargained, inflow of capital and expertise should second capital inflow.

The development of Africa lies on the shoulder of true African leaders, not surrogates and sycophants. It should be prime responsibility of African leaders to understand the Chinese mind, business interest and the needs of the continent. Chinese investors should be initiated with the realities that trouble the continent, hence thinking and believing Africa is still under style-inspired slumber of vulnerability should be out of the question, there is no room for exploitation.

Challenging Chinese penetration would save African leaders from being labelled weak. Chinese industries carry the logo of “dumpers” would ceased to be permits in Africa, thus caution on domestic market exploitation as seen in South/East Africa should avail the opportunity to leverage the market with the Chinese.

If Africa must survive the wave of Chinalization of the continent, element of protectionist policy must be adopted. Such policy was adopted by Japan in the later years after the 2nd World War and obviously aided Japan economic recovery. It gave Japan a competitive power and leverage within the international market. Africa cannot continue to share the stigma of a peripheral continent. The recent past African-China summit held in China is a further testimony that China is ready to aid the course of Africa. Believing that China is on a clandestine adventure to suck Africa dry as did Europeans and American companies would simply be early judgement. Chinese previous rapport with other developing nations should be carefully appraised by then African leaders can sit at the chessboard with their Chinese counterparts. Apparently international politics has no softness for morality instead a game of interest which is determined by flair and prudence.

The next decades should be “African Moment” for change and development, debt written off does not really plot a difference. Sincere initiative is highly demanded of African leaders. The continent should be awakened and discontinue with the past, colonialism has always been shouldered most of the problems yet fruitful and sincere initiative still lies low. Colonialism has always been the scapegoat which many African nations shoulder the blame for their underdevelopment, but many of these nations have long been independent yet no changes are seen. The colonised regions of Asia and Latin America were part of the colonial system, but their development is overwhelming so much incomparable with Continental Africa. It is African moment exploit optimally.

Bakare A. Najimdeen, a research associate faculty of Social Science, dept. Politics and International Relations. IIU Islamabad. (olaaayo@gmail.com)
 



























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