China’s economy has been on a steady rise in the past two decades. China is emerging as an economic superpower, rivaling the western powers such as the USA. In its quest for more recognition in the global scene, China has significantly revised its foreign policy allowing taking a more active role in international matters (Ayodele & Sotola, 2014). The third world countries have for a long time depended on the western powers for financial aid. However, with the emergence of China, many such countries are willing to turn east and embrace China as their primary development partner.
Since independence, Africa has been ranked as the least developed continent. It’s, however, known that Africa is well endowed with more natural resources than any other continent. Therefore, there exists an enormous potential in Africa which has not been exploited. The greatest barrier to Africa’s development has been poor governance. Many African states are characterized by political instability, corruption, ethnic wars, and high levels of poverty (Ayodele & Sotola, 2014). Western countries have in the past tried to use financial aid to improve the governance in the continent (Holslag, 2011, p.3). Financial aid from the western countries have restrictions which if not met will invite economic sanctions many African countries are not happy with this kind of relationship (Realityofaid.org, 2013, p.39). China provides an alternative to these African countries because of her non-interference policies. China’s engagement in Africa has drawn a lot of contrivance from many quarters. Some parties view China’s activities as exploitation to Africa countries. Others are of the opinion that China’s engagement is of importance to all the parties, and it can achieve what the western powers have been unable to obtain for a long time. The issue can be looked at from several perspectives such as economic interest, politics and governance, and the environment.
Economic interests are at the top of the Chinese foreign policy. Africa has a wealth of natural resources such as crude oil and iron ores (Manji & Marks, 2007, p.21). On the other hand, the Chinese economy is manufacturing based. Therefore, China needs the natural resources to power its economy and move it to the next level. Trade between African countries and China has been rising simultaneously. In the late 1900s, this business grew by more than seven hundred percent (Harneit-Sievers, Marks & Naidu, 2010, p.252). The balance of trade has, however, been in favor of China (Brautigam, 2009). China’s imports to Africa have tripled in the 21st century. Many African countries import similar products to those produced by China in the field of agriculture. However, China has many manufacturing industries that export most of their goods to African states.
The industries in China require a constant market for their goods. China’s engagement in Africa can, therefore, be viewed as a way of finding a new market for its products. Africa has a fast growing population. It, therefore, can serve as a sustainable market for the Chinese goods.
China is an emerging economic power. However, it has continued to portray itself as developing to African countries (Tull, 2006, p.462). China, therefore, views African countries as strategic partners. African countries look at China as a perfect model for their quest for economic development. China was colonized like many African countries. It also had a high poverty level before 1985. The Chinese developed their economy and reduced poverty levels from 85% to 15% in less than thirty years (Tull, 2006, p.463). Many Africans are attracted by this economic model.
The concern raised by many people is how the African countries benefit from their engagement with China. There are many benefits derived from African-China relations. The amount of China’s foreign direct investment to African countries has increased too simultaneously. Chinese state-owned corporations have funded the constructing of massive infrastructure that is highly needed in Africa (Harneit-Sievers, Marks & Naidu, 2010, p.256). By the year 2006, there were a total of 772 Chinese enterprises authorized to operate in Africa. The enterprises create employment to citizens of the African states they invest. They also facilitate a massive transfer of capital and technology to Africa.
African exports to China increased by 99% between 1996 and 2006 (Kaplinsky, McCormick & Morris, 2008, p. 6). The increase can be associated with the Chinese investment in Africa and increased trade activities. Chinese impact in Africa was best felt in 2005 when Africa’s economy grew by5.5% in its GDP (Realityofaid.org, 2013, p.36). Growth in Africa economy can be seen as a result of Chinese willingness to invest in areas neglected by western powers. Sectors such as mining and infrastructure help in growing the Africa economy however many western companies consider them too risky to invest.
African nations have viewed China as an alternative to international financial institutions and Western countries (Realityofaid.org, 2013, p.37). The Chinese financial aid is preferred because it is free from restrictions unlike the support given by western countries. Many western countries and institutions use their economic power to influence political in a country the offer financial assistance. The Chinese foreign policy does not allow the interference into the affairs of local government (Realityofaid.org, 2013, p.37). Therefore, African economies can develop uninterrupted by sanctions if they choose China as their development partner. The African continent has many debts owed by other countries. China has waved a huge amount of debt it owes to Africa hence improving the African economy.
Politics and governance
Governance around the world is an essential reason China altered her foreign policy to allow her raise its profile in international matters. A lot of tensions exist between China and the western countries such as the USA (Saich, 2010, p. 352). Issues of Conflict include governance, human rights, military development and china’s boundary with her neighbors (Manji & Marks, 2007, p. 26). The China government therefore sought to increase its influence around the world by engaging strategic partners some of which are African countries.
Western powers support the development of a self-reliant Africa (Manji & Marks, 2007 p. 26). However with china’s entry into Africa, many countries rely on resources from China to supplement their government budgets and to fund massive infrastructure projects such as projects in Zambia and Madagascar. China is often criticized because of its poor governance record. It does not encourage African countries to develop strong institutions that will help them to practice democracy and respect human rights (Saich, 2010, p.352). Africa countries often experience coups; China is criticized for condoning this kind of behavior and working with leaders who use force to ascent to power (Holslag, 2011, p.5).
China is also accused of using it’s employing its citizen in carrying out the development it does in Africa and not the African natives (Brautigam, 2009). The cultural differences between China and African countries have also been a matter of concern for the Chinese, who travels to Africa, prefers Chinese items hence leaving a small economic gain to the native Africans.
In the wake of global warming because of habitat degradation, the activities of China State Corporation have been cited as environment insensitive. Many African countries have not exploited their natural resources. They need to utilize them with caution and avoid polluting their environment like many developed countries. China, which has been spearheading the exploitation of natural resources in Africa, has been accused of using non-environment friendly means to carry out her activities (Brautigam, 2009). China has also been accused of producing low-quality products that can be harmful to humans and the environment (Guerrero & Manji, 2008).
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