Friday, July 28, 2006

China At Last Joins The Scramble For Africa

From the January-March 2006 issue of Socialist Banner, the quarterly journal of WSM members in Africa.

The recent announcement by the Senegalese to re-establish diplomatic ties with Mainland China did not come as a surprise to many. This move understandably signified an end to diplomatic ties with Taiwan. This comes in the wake of intensified efforts on the part of the Chinese authorities to get involved in "Africa's development". In this regard, their Foreign Minister, Li Zhaoxing officially unveiled an African Policy Paper (APP) on 12th February 2006 which outlined the future relationship between Africa and China. This was immediately followed by his tour of several African countries from 11th to 19th January.

Why, one would ask, have the Chinese authorities only just realised that they must redouble their efforts to assist in Africa's development? The policy document on Africa answers the question. As is always the case in carrot-and-stick diplomacy, it starts by promising that China, will "co-ordinate positions on major international and regional issues and stand for mutual support on major issues concerning state sovereignty, territorial integrity, national dignity and human rights." Of course, this kind of hackneyed phrase-mongering is what the bankrupt African leaders want to hear so as to justify to their suffering people the need to bring in the Chinese business interests.

The rest of the content of the APP was devoted to the real intentions of China. First, it made it clear that "the Chinese government will adopt more effective measures to facilitate African commodities access to the Chinese market." This makes it clear that the focal point of China-Africa relationship is resource-based. China's economy, measured in terms of the capitalist yardstick, is growing at an alarming rate and, therefore, it is in dire need of raw materials. As a result, the document states further that "the Chinese government encourages and supports Chinese enterprises' investment and business in Africa, and will continue to provide preferential loans and buyer credits to this end". This, it said, would be done without any political strings attached.

The policy paper also promises to promote high level military-related technological exchanges with African countries, to continue to train African military personnel and support defence and army building of African countries for their own security.

However, one does not need to read between the lines to understand this desperate more by China to increase its role in "Africa's development". The African people must take cue from the age-old adage that once bitten twice shy. The western business interests (represented by their governments in London, Paris, Washington etc) entered Africa under the guise of bringing civilisation to barbaric Africa. The rest of the story is known to all. Therefore African people, not African rulers and their masters in big business, must realise that the Chinese are only coming as competitors to the traditional exploiters.

The pledge by China to co-operate with Africans on military matters means not only that China will sell Africa its obsolete military wares but in doing so it will also equip and strengthen state security forces in Africa, enabling them to better hold down the people so that the looting Africas resources can go on smoothly.

Another equally important aspect to the Chinese design is to use African countries as a pawn in their decade-old conflict with Taiwan. African countries that do not recognise Taiwan are sure to get Chinese foreign direct investment, aid and military assistance.

How then can African people react to this attempt by Chinese business to join in the scramble for the continents resources? Do we manifest our objection to the whole issue through mass demonstrations? This will not lead anyone anywhere, as rulers and their partners in business control the forces of coercion and will not hesitate to unleash them on defenceless civilians, as has happened all too often. Do we attempt to overthrow the governments? No - this will not only lead to violence and bloodshed in which only the innocent die and experience testifies that the new group of leaders will only turn out to be the same as, if not worse than, their predecessors.

The only way forward, therefore, is to endeavour to let as many people as possible understand the nature of system that is in operation in today's world - the capitalist system. It is a system that is global in nature. It is a system in which only a minority of people control the wealth and resources of the world and in which the majority live lives of poverty, denied access to the necessaries of life. Through their control of these resources they also effectively control governments. In fact, business and government are on the same side against the majority working class. Therefore, to put an effective and a definitive end to such looting and plundering, as the Western business interests are already deeply involved in and which now Chinese big business is contemplating, the capitalist system must go.

Other articles in the latest issue of Socialist Banner include:
- NGOs: Friends or Foes?
- Kenya's Referendum Farce
- Hunger in the Sahel
- Zimbabwe
- African Leaders and the United Nations

For more details on the Socialist Banner and other literature produced by the World Socialist Movement, email