In the Western press, China is accused of treating Africa like a quasi-colony. The typical narrative is that China enters African nations, takes their resources, then leaves.
Nothing could be further from the truth, argues Wang Xioyang, a research scholar at the Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Writing in the China Daily, a government-friendly English language paper from China, Wang takes on the biggest criticism of China’s approach to Africa: it does not use its considerable financial and political clout to pressure countries to reign in human rights abuses or corruption.
Regarding the development of African countries, the Chinese government spares no effort in promulgating supportive policies. What is of utmost importance is that China does not attach political or economic strings to its promises, reflecting that it respects the development modes that African countries have chosen.
But Wang says China is not just in Africa to suck commodities from the soil. He says China has trained 30,000 Africans and sponsored another 30,000 students. Many Chinese companies hire African workers, he says. He highlights how PetroChina built a sewage treatment plant in Sudan and donates money to the country’s hospitals and schools. It also funds training and development programs in Sudanese universities.
Wang argues that major Western powers fear losing their dominance, which he blames on “the Cold War mentality, which assumes, erroneously though, that Sino-Western relations in Africa are still zero-sum games rather than dialogues and cooperation.”
Besides, Wang notes, China does not have nearly the presence on the continent that Western powers do. He says China’s mineral and petroleum imports from Africa are less than 10 percent of the continent’s total output, versus more than 30 percent each for the U.S. and the EU.
If China, a small stakeholder, were to be blamed for denuding Africa of its natural resources, how can the West, the big player that it is, be exempted from the same criticism?
In other words, how can you in the West be angry if the Chinese follow in your footsteps?
What do you think?