Zambian President Rupiah Banda left here Monday for China for a state visit during which he will hold discussions with the Chinese President Hu Jintao and other senior Chinese government officials.
During the visit, the two leaders will sign various memoranda of understanding (MoUs) in different fields.
President Banda is accompanied by his wife, and five cabinet ministers, including Finance and National Planning Minister, Situmbeko Musokotwane, Commerce, Trade and Industry Minister, Felix Mutati, Mines and Minerals Development Minister, Maxwell Mwale, and Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources Minister, Catherine Namugala.
While in China, Banda will meet various investors as well as undertake a tour of some leading Chinese companies and meet African diplomats accredited to China before returning home 4 March.
China’s Recolonization of Africa (The Trumpet)
Any stories about Africa currently being given air time (albeit limited at that) by news networks tend to highlight the continued suffering of many by starvation, inter-tribal conflict and bad government.
Yet there is another series of events shaping up in Africa which is destined to drag that continent even deeper into starvation, deprivation and greater need of humanitarian relief than has been evident since its despotic overlords assumed governance of old colonial territories during the post-imperial era.
Believe it or not, Africa’s biggest untold story surrounds the steady, yet sure, recolonization of its nations.
Three power groups are presently vying for control of Africa’s vast basket of natural resources: China (with Russia in support), Germany under its European Union cloak, and Iran.
Against these, fighting a rearguard action, the United States is struggling to devote more of its already too-strained budgetary resources to its campaign to “democratize” Africa.
What is really at issue here is control over Africa’s oil and mineral wealth.
Competition for these resources is heating up. In the process, Africa is destined to be pulled apart to meet the voracious appetite for energy and natural resources of three emerging power blocs. These blocs are presently involved in a race to increase influence and control in that continent’s economically most exploitable, and politically most vulnerable, regions.
Iran leads an Islamic imperial push to increase its power within the African continent via force of religion. Its penetration is strongest in the north, yet it maintains powerful connections in the south, particularly with the Islamic cabal that retains heavy influence within the South African government.
The Germans, often working through the EU, have used their traditional Bismarckian ploy of signing up African nations to treaties and agreements that vastly favor themselves at the expense of their African clients. Within the EU, Germany leads the effort to penetrate Africa, having 39 bilateral investment treaties concluded with African countries, compared to France and Britain who run second with 18 separate treaties apiece.
Russia—long having worked to educate the masses and, in particular, certain African leaders in communist ideology—though being strained in its continuing post-Soviet reconstruction efforts, still maintains strong political, economic and commercial ties with Africa. However, its current domestic difficulties mean that it is more likely to work in tandem with cash-rich China to secure deals with its African clients.
China has for decades sucked African nations into its debt by offering easy loan arrangements and providing expertise to develop infrastructure.
What is behind these strategies?
In a series of three articles we will consider each of these geopolitical initiatives separately, beginning with China.
China has been steadily pushing its way into Africa since the 1950s. As the cry for independence arose across Africa following World War ii, China threw its weight behind emerging independence movements, penetrating academia and the school systems. This resulted in generations within Africa becoming steeped in the communist ideology. Bright young Africans often finished their education within the Soviet system in Russia. South African President Thabo Mbeki is a product of intense Russian communist training. In fact, both Russia and China competed for favor with Africa’s anti-colonialist movements during the Cold War era.
In the mid-1990s—with the Anglo-Americans and the EU distracted by events in the Balkans and Middle East, and Japan’s economy sliding into the doldrums—the Chinese initiated a more aggressive policy to push into Africa.
All this effort has consummated in the development of significant links economically, politically and militarily by China with most of the Dark Continent’s 54 countries.
The Wall Street Journal reported some months ago that a former U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs exclaimed that “China has simply exploded into Africa ….” In the same article, the Journal reported, “There’s more at stake than just fuel for an economic juggernaut … say senior Chinese officials, executives and Western diplomats. In Africa, as in many other parts of the developing world, China is redrawing geopolitical alliances in ways that help propel China’s rise as a global superpower” (March 29).
From rebuilding oil-rich Nigeria’s railroads, paving Rwanda’s main roads, operating a major timber outfit in Equatorial Guinea and Zambia’s largest copper mine, to inroads into supermarket and textile companies in Lesotho, China’s African penetration is aggressively on the increase. Further, the Chinese are active in widespread searches for oil and gas throughout the continent, in addition to rebuilding neglected electricity grids and telecommunications infrastructure.
In short, the Chinese are mending the gap between old colonial development and post-colonial neglect in many African nations.
Where Anglo-American nations resist or refuse assistance to rogue regimes in Africa, China thumbs its nose at their foreign policies and all-too-willingly steps in to supply the need—no matter how brutally corrupt that regime may be. Zimbabwe and Sudan are two cases in point. The West is the loser on both counts.
Though the U.S. and the EU imposed sanctions on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and many of his corrupt government officials in hopes of bringing that administration to heel, China has deliberately worked against this by boosting its aid and capital investment in Zimbabwe.
What’s more, China has encouraged mutual exchanges and top-level visits between its officials. It has feted Mugabe at state banquets on seven occasions since he came to power in 1980.
Just returning from a six-day visit to China, the Zimbabwean president is intent on pursuing an outlandish economic development plan. His idea is to secure lines of credit from China to support much-needed infrastructure projects, then to let the contracts for such projects out to China.
To a sound-minded economist this might sound, at best, naïve—and at worst, sheer craziness! Yet, pure reason, it seems, has never been Mugabe’s long suit when it comes to running his nation.
The point is, for the Chinese it’s a sweet deal. Floating in cash up to their gills, the Chinese can certainly afford to fund such projects. But what attracts them to such an idea is the prospect of Chinese strategic ownership of important foreign infrastructure and also being Johnny-on-the-spot when it comes to any possibility of Zimbabwe’s leader being toppled. In such a case, China will be in the box seat to influence the installation of a leader of their own—and not the West’s—choosing.
In Sudan, the Chinese have gone to the extent of funding, building and operating the nation’s munitions factories that supply the hardware employed by the government in its ethnic cleansing campaign in Darfur.
Again, it’s a two-way deal of convenience for Sudan and China. Sudan wants to rid the country of its pesky southern rebels, and the Chinese want to eliminate any prospect of sabotage of their oil projects in southern Sudan. So China makes the bullets, and the Sudanese government funds the militias that fire them at the citizens of Darfur.
A pipeline is needed to transport the precious oil across land to Port Sudan. Who gets the contract? The Chinese!
The strategic Port Sudan, on the Red Sea, needs development. Once again the Chinese are successful in the bid for that project.
However, to appreciate the strategic considerations behind China’s move into Sudan, we need to think back to another crisis of which it took powerful advantage: the 1990s war between Eritrea and Ethiopia. The difference between oriental and occidental thinking is starkly revealed by comparing the reactions of the U.S. and China to this affair.
The U.S. response when Ethiopia attacked Eritrea was to immediately issue a security warning to resident American citizens and businesses, evacuate Peace Corps volunteers, and reduce its military aid.
The Chinese did the opposite. Seizing the initiative, they increased the number of their diplomats in Addis Ababa, and sent additional schoolteachers, engineers and businessmen to fill the gap in Ethiopia. Financial aid and the obligatory lines of credit were soon added.
As the Wall Street Journal observes, “A decade later, Ethiopia has become a reflection of China’s wider ambitions in Africa and the changes it portends for the region.” Noting that, unlike Sudan, which possesses resources precious to the development of the Chinese economy (particularly oil, with ready sea port access), the poor, landlocked nation of Ethiopia “has something else Beijing craves: geopolitical clout in the region. … It is the meeting ground between largely Muslim north Africa and the Christian south. And it’s the seat of the African Union, the political body that represents the continent” (ibid.).
Long-term, strategic thinkers, these Chinese. Nothing, it seems—not even their exacerbating a humanitarian crisis—will stop them from gaining access to energy and resources to fuel their economy, nor will it inhibit their desire for political gain.
Considering China’s history—from the red butcher Mao, to Tiananmen Square—that nation’s leaders have no real reputation for initiating, nor supporting, humanitarian acts. To the contrary, the perpetration of such acts on the continent of Africa has been seen by the Chinese leadership as simply opening the way for their attempt to colonize huge tracts of that ailing, suffering continent, to be exploited in their great push for global power.