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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Is China Good for Africa?: Conclusion, Part Two

[See part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, and part 6]

The current relationship between China and Africa is extremely beneficial for the People's Republic of China (PRC), and the leaders of the worst regimes in Africa, but not for the long-term futures of the vast majority of Africans. The PRC benefits from the availability of African resources to support the continued rapid economic growth that is giving China more power and prestige internationally. China also benefits from the support received from multiple African countries in international forums like the United Nations. This ensures that neither China nor their corrupt African partners will face multilateral sanctions that would force changes in behavior and policy.

The complexities surrounding the current and future relations between China and Africa are more complex than just what has been covered here. For instance, one subject not addressed was the impact of the lack of economic strength of African countries on their government’s ability to control terrorist organizations that may operate within their borders, such as Al-Qaeda. Furthermore, an in-depth discussion is warranted as to whether the similar economic rise of India and its own ambitions in Africa will act as a counterbalance to Chinese dominance on the continent. Finally, it is also of importance to further consider how the Chinese-African relationship will impact the United States and how America should respond to this growing threat.

As former US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick so aptly put it, China must be a "responsible stakeholder" in regional and international security issues because they have benefited economically from these policies. China demonstrated that it is capable of being a "responsible stakeholder" by applying pressure to other countries when it coaxed North Korea back to the six-party talks in November 2006.

The challenge for China, Africa, and the greater international community is how to balance the benefits of increased trade and financial aid between China and Africa with the necessity to maintain pressure on the regimes involved (including the PRC) to become more transparent, more responsive to their citizenry, and less likely to ignore or commit human rights abuses. This is a difficult task but it can be accomplished if all the parties involved understand the benefits of moving in this direction and the hazards of choosing to not.

On an ominous note, Chinese state television recently produced a 12-part documentary called "The Rise of Great Powers" which details the ascendance of Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, England, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, and the United States to global prominence. The Chinese are students of history who are trying to learn what they can from the rise of other "great" nations and every nation on that list extensively colonized foreign lands – a fact that does not bode well for Africa.

Will China and Africa establish a mutually beneficial relationship that will lift hundreds of millions out of poverty or will China become Africa's new colonial ruler? Ultimately, the answer will lie somewhere between these two extremes but one can only hope it will result in better lives for the two billion people directly involved.

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