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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Is China Good for Africa?

I am going to begin a series of posts that I have been working on for some time. The subject of these posts involves two of my favorite subjects China and Africa, specifically the economic and political relationship growing between them:

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has been the most rapidly growing economic power in the world for the past 25 years and is the only legitimate potential rival to America as the dominant political-economic force in the world. China’s rapid growth and relatively limited resources have forced them to look toward developing new relationships with countries that can provide support for their continued economic expansion. One area of the world that China has aggressively pursued in this regard is Africa.

So, the question at hand is: Are China’s policies vis-à-vis their emerging relationship with Africa beneficial to the African countries involved? From an African standpoint, relations with China could either serve to pull the continent out of its seemingly perpetual downward spiral or it could usher in an age of Chinese neocolonialism on the continent.

The economic ascendance of emerging market countries, such as China and many countries in sub-Saharan Africa has lifted many millions of people out of poverty and will, if present trends persist, continue to lift out many millions more in the coming years. This makes the China-Africa question a particularly important issue when one considers that the populations of China and Africa combined account for over two billion people - almost one-third of the Earth’s population - and of those people, 300 million in Africa and 400 million in China live in poverty. Economic reforms in China have moved some 400 million Chinese out of poverty over the last 25 years (from 53% of China’s population in 1981 to 8% in 2001), a successful and mutually beneficial economic relationship could have a greater positive impact on poverty in China and Africa than every aid program in the world combined. (No exaggeration.)

All things being equal, there is great potential for positive, mutually beneficial growth in this relationship. Unfortunately, all things are not equal here and the balance tilts heavily in favor of the Chinese.

Future installments in this series will cover the following issues: the history of Sino-African relations, the relationship today, how and why China is investing in Africa now, and some of the questionable policies that result from the marriage of convenience between the PRC and some of the more corrupt regimes in Africa.

To be continued...

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