Chinese Neocolonialism in Africa … (part I)
Author’s Note: In March 2013, I wrote a commentary entitled, “The Dragon Eating the Eagle’s Lunch in Africa?”. That commentary 1) lamented the disadvantages of American companies in Africa competing with Chinese state-supported enterprises unchained by anti-corruption laws, 2) the ludicrous idolization of the so-called China Model by African dictators (which to their understanding means suppress democratic institutions and civil liberties at the altar of economic development); 3) defended the idea of an “African Model” patterned after Ghana and 4) offered general ruminations on China’s creeping neocolonialism in Africa.
In February 2012, I wrote a commentary entitled, “The Dragon’s Dance with Hyenas”. In that commentary, I reflected on the $200 million dollar stately pleasure chit-chat dome (ironically represented in a building that looks like a gigantic inverted beggar’s bowl) for African dictators called the African Union (AU) [which I call the “African Beggars Union Hall”] gifted to Africa by China. This was my lead paragraph: “The Chinese Dragon is dancing the Watusi shuffle with African Hyenas. Things could not be better for the Dragon in Africa. In the middle of what once used to be the African Pride Land now stands a brand-spanking new hyenas’ den called the African Union Hall. Every penny of the USD$200 million stately pleasure dome was paid for by China. It is said to be ‘China’s gift to Africa’.” That building was “built largely with Chinese labor.” The African Union Beggars Hall was intended to crown and cement the “new strategic partnership” between China and Africa.
Are African countries so poor not to be able to build a meeting hall for $200 million in 2011?
In 2011 it was reported that Ethiopia “lost $11.7 billion in illegal capital flight from 2000 through 2009.” With nearly $12 billion in stolen money from Ethiopia alone, each African country could have built its own African Union hall.
In 2011, AU president Teodoro Obiang Nguema, the ruthless and corrupt dictator of Equatorial Guinea since 1979, hallucinated that he saw “a reflection of the new Africa, and the future we want for Africa” in the 20-story glass tower. Meles Zenawi, the late thugmaster of the Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front (T-TPLF) pipe dreamed about China leading Africa on a long march out of the winter of poverty and despair into an African spring of economic development and renaissance. Zenawi proclaimed China brings to Africa a “message of optimism, a message that is out of the decades of hopelessness and imprisonment a new era of hope is dawning, and that Africa is being unshackled and freed…”
Hail China! The Great African Liberator.
Zenawi believed Chinese neocolonialism was the dawn of a new freedom just as he believed his regime was democratic.
Naturally, I disagreed with Zenawi. He equated his delusions of grandeur reflected in the African Beggars Union Hall’s glass tower for the “rise of Africa” and an “African Renaissance”. I peeked behind the façade of that shiny inverted begging bowl of a building and saw a giggling gang of beggars, anxiously rubbing their palms for alms and jostling each other to get to the front of the beggars’ line. Beggary is as much a state of extreme poverty as it is a state of mind. It is incredible to me that despite the billions of dollars African dictators and thugtators have stolen from their people, they still suffer from a terminal case of beggary.
The shame of it all!
The 55 members of the AU could not pony up the $200 million ($3.6 million each) for their headquarters so they had to panhandle China to build the quintessentially iconic building for all Africans. That is what happens when begging becomes the vocation and avocation of African dictators and thugtators.
How are the Great Liberators of Africa doing in 2017?
Is the Chinese Dragon devouring the African Lion and Cheetah?
Chinese neocolonialism in Africa?
I know it is not hip to talk about Chinese neocolonialism in Africa. “What neocolonialism?”, they ask. “China is developing Africa’s infrastructure. China is engaged in ‘win-win development’. They are building dams, roads, rail lines and on and on.”
I don’t buy the canard that China is Africa’s gift that keeps on giving.
In 2017, China cares as much about Africa as the European colonial powers did at the Berlin Conference in 1894.
I know it is not politically correct to say that China is exploiting Africa just like the Europeans in the heyday of colonialism. But I am a great believer in political correctness. I speak truth to power. What could be more politically correct than that? If the truth offends anyone, hell, that means I am doing a damn good job!
Anyway, I will let the apologists for China who live in Denial-istan play their game of political correctness. I will call a spade, a spade. Better yet, a neocolonialist, a neocolonialist.
But I am not the only one asking questions about Chinese neocolonialism in Africa. This past May, the N.Y. Times Magazine headlined its detailed analysis with a straightforward question: “Is China the world’s new colonial power?”. I would add, “Is China Africa’s new neocolonial master?”
Let the evidence speak for itself, as the lawyers like to say.
First, the order of proof:
1) Does China use its mega transnational corporations and banking institutions to perpetuate colonial forms of exploitation in Africa?
2) Is China’s “new strategic partnership” with Africa a fancy phrase for China’s kinder and gentler creeping neocolonialism through outwardly benign economic relations (domination) and exploitation of Africa as a source of cheap raw materials and cheap labor?
Let me frame the foregoing questions in the language of the great Pan-Africanist Kwame Nkrumah who coined the term “neo-colonialism”, the eponymous title to his book, to describe the socio-economic and political control exercised by the former colonial countries to perpetuate their economic dominance in their former colonies through their multinational corporations and other cultural institutions:
The essence of neo-colonialism is that the State which is subject to it is, in theory, independent and has all the outward trappings of international sovereignty. In reality its economic system and thus its political policy is directed from outside… The result of neo-colonialism is that foreign capital is used for the exploitation rather than for the development of the less developed parts of the world. Investment under neo-colonialism increases rather than decreases the gap between the rich and the poor countries of the world…. Neo-colonialism is also the worst form of imperialism. For those who practise it, it means power without responsibility and for those who suffer from it, it means exploitation without redress. In the days of old-fashioned colonialism, the imperial power had at least to explain and justify at home the actions it was taking abroad. In the colony those who served the ruling imperial power could at least look to its protection against any violent move by their opponents. With neo-colonialism neither is the case. (Emphasis added.)
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