China’s Role in Africa

Very interesting interview by Ning Er of the Southern Metropolis Daily, with Li Anshan, international-relations professor at Beijing University, about China’s role in Africa. First part here, second part here.

Well worth reading the whole thing, but in this extract Li deals with the accusations of colonialism:

NE: But there has been criticism from the international community about China’s linking of “aid” and “investment” in Africa. The claim is that bundling aid and commercial activity together is a new form of colonialism.

LA: In February 2006, the United Kingdom’s foreign secretary [Jack Straw] said during a trip Nigeria that what China is now doing in Africa is the same as what the British did 150 years ago, and this sparked a discussion about China’s “new colonialism”.

But it’s a ridiculous comparison. Colonialism is an application of force, and China is in Africa on a foundation of equality and mutual benefit. In December 2007, I met with Nigeria’s consul-general to Hong Kong during a lunch meeting at Hong Kong University of Science & Technology. He said that they wanted to do business with China – why? Because we can sit down as equals, to discuss and negotiate, and they don’t have that status when dealing with the west.

Or again, due to the unrest in Sudan, other nations pulled out and Sudan came to invite the Chinese in. In 2003, Canadian firm Talisman Energy withdrew from Sudan and CNPC wanted to take over Talisman’s interests [in an oil pipeline and production project] – but for the sake of diversity the Sudanese government opted to sell to an Indian firm, which was offering a higher price. But this didn’t affect CNPC’s partnership with Sudan. If China was colonialist, Sudan wouldn’t have been able to do this.

During my trip to Mali in April, we visited a sugar company in Ségou, the country’s second largest city. The plant was built with Chinese aid, but after completion and handover it failed to make a profit and became a joint venture. The president is a Chinese woman, but the vice-president is Malinese, as are many of the senior officials. Once the company was profitable, it was able to make significant improvements to its local area, which is now a small town with a residential area and a school – it was really moving to see that. One European academic on the trip was dubious, saying aid is aid, business is business, why mix them up? But in fact, whatever you do, as long as the area benefits it’s a good thing.

The west’s traditional aid model in Africa is in trouble, it’s moribund. Meanwhile China has been combining aid and investment since the 1990s, and that has provided huge stimulus to the projects involved. Zambian academic Dambissa Moyo wrote a book last year called Dead Aid, which was controversial in the west. She laid into western aid-giving, saying that the trillion dollars of aid poured into Africa over the last half-century had failed to have any positive outcome – and had, in fact, been damaging. I think the western model is unsustainable, and China should look to its own experience.

133 comments on “China’s Role in Africa

  1. Good article, the days of jumped up little twats like Mark Thatcher deciding the fate of peoples is coming to an end and China is playing its part.

  2. http://www.zambianwatchdog.com/?p=9473

    Chinese investors who shot at workers protesting poor working conditions would be charged with attempted murder., inspector general of police Francis Kabonde has said.

    Twelve workers at Collum Coal Mine in of Sinazongwe were injured on Friday when Chinese managers fired randomly at the protesting workers.

    ‘The managers are likely to be charged with attempted murder and this may be on Monday or Tuesday,’ Kabonde told journalists.

    ‘A warn and caution statement has already been recorded and what should be realised is that there is no one above the law, as it had been portrayed by some people,’ he said.

  3. #2

    It is somewhat laughable that an American would post an example of an isolated gun crime as evidence of China’s bad behaviour in Africa; whereas in contrast the USA’s military tears around the world killing hundreds of thousands.

  4. Yes, for Louis Proyect US imperialism is just one of those damned things, whereas when former victims of imperialism and colonialism stand up against US domination it’s Yellow Peril time.

  5. David Ellis on said:

    It is not colonialism but neither is it proletarian internationalism. The chinese bureaucracy is ultra-chauvinist against minorities in China so it is hardly likely to have much more than contempt for Africans. In any case it is securing raw materials for imperialist owned factories in China so that those materials can then be exported to the West in the form of cheap commodities. Bloated Western consumers 1, Chinese and African workers 0. Chinese Stalinism: the usual off the top percentage.

  6. The deal proposed to sell 50% of Madagascar’s arable land to a Chinese company for one dollar is an interesting example of China’s African resource grab.

    No technical training was to be provided in-country, all technical skills, management and equipment was to be imported from China- all infrastructure, such as new ports and the logistics to get the produce from the point of production to the ports was to belong to and be for the exclusive use of the company.

    The role of the locals was to provide the labour for the grunt work.No labour unions were to be allowed. Policing on the plantations was to be provided by the company.

    No wonder the deal was one of the major factors in the overthrow of the government. The first act of the new government was to cancel all negotiations with the Chinese.

  7. SteveH on said:

    I am sure Louis P is able to distinguish between US/Western imperialism/colonialism and the Chinese ‘aid model’.

  8. Pete’s point is spot #8 on. Ning Er is only very partially right when he says “Colonialism is an application of force”. It can also be grossly unequal trading relations or building infrastructure project which facilitate the movement of extracted materials rather than benefit the people who live there.

    Given the brutality with which the Chinese bureuacacy treats its own working class it’s not really credible that anything it does in Africa has anything to do with a tender concern for the people of the continent.

    Articles like this one really do need a bit of a health warning.

  9. #7

    “The chinese bureaucracy is ultra-chauvinist against minorities in China so it is hardly likely to have much more than contempt for Africans.”

    examples of such “chauvinism” positive discrimination in access to higher education, exemption from the one child policy, protection of languages, etc, etc.

  10. #10

    And yet the main argument of this article conforms to Deborah Brautigam’s assessment in “the Dragons Gift”, but what would an academic who has devoted her entire life to studying development and aid in Africa know about it.

  11. The only problem with my superb comment at 8 was I got the country wrong -apologies

    The company in question was Daewoo Logistics of South Korea.

    9 out 10 for effort, 0 out of 10 for result.

    See http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7952628.stm

    It doesn’t totally invalidate my point about the great resource grab that is under way across Africa with Saudi firms buying huge swaths of farmland, China propping up dodgy dictatorships with similar deals to the above example and the European’s post colonial mining interests doing business as usual.

  12. as a further example of the stupidity and irrelevence of Deborah Brautigam, she has based her positive assessment on China’s role in Africa by the wasted effort of living in China and Africa, being a consultant to the UN, Word bank, and has learnt about the subject through the obvioulsy flawed approach of decades of research in the field.

    Clearly, she is not to be relied upon, as there is not a single reference to Lenin or Trotsky in her entire book, I don’t think she even subscribes to Louis’s Marxmail list

    How much more reliable she would be if she had simply subscribed to Internatinal Viewpoint, and learnt about Africa from some white blokes.

  13. #5 the foreign policy of the PR China was never guided by emancipatory principles, not during the maoist period and not under Deng and his successors, … a red flag flying over the company director’s villa and a Lenin picture hanging above the check clock do not constutute socialism

  14. #14 Thats the clincher for me..she works for the world bank. Well that must make her right. By the way Andy why do the Chinese in Africa make their pitch with reference to no strikes/no unions allowed.

  15. China respect’s the local labour laws of the country they are operating in. Brautigam, for example, details a series of strikes by workers in Sierra Leone at the Chinese Magpass Sugar plant.

  16. Let us look again at Pete’s error at #8, descibed by Liam at #10 as being “quite right”.

    Pete says he got the country wrong, meaning that a casual follower of this thread might make the mistake of thinking he was refering to chinese investment in another African country.

    No, pete was referring to SOUTH KOREAN investment in madagascar.

  17. “Clearly, she is not to be relied upon, as there is not a single reference to Lenin or Trotsky in her entire book, I don’t think she even subscribes to Louis’s Marxmail list”

    Irony alert! Contrary to your clichéd right wing characterisation of the UK left it’s your friends in the Chinese bureaucracy who excuse their ruthless oppression of other nationalities using these symbols. Your minority of one supplication to Chinese chauvinism is thankfully an isolated instance on the UK left.

    It’s telling that Tate Britain is currently showing an art work dealing with the way the Chinese are cheating Africans out of land and resources with the collusion of the African ruling class. If the consumerism obsessed contemporary art world has noticed the contradictions within so-called “Chinese aid” then why not you?

  18. Stephen Hero on said:

    19: “Let us look again at Pete’s error at #8, descibed by Liam at #10 as being “quite right”.

    Pete says he got the country wrong, meaning that a casual follower of this thread might make the mistake of thinking he was refering to chinese investment in another African country.

    No, pete was referring to SOUTH KOREAN investment in madagascar.”

    Well, that’s pretty unlikely considering he immediately went on to say the company in question was South Korean…

  19. It seems that the big difference between China and Western countries in Africa is that China isn’t a western country. Aside from that whats the difference exactly?

  20. #23

    Huge differnces in the aid model; much of which is related to China’s wn expereince as a developing country; for example Westrn aid is often linked to programmes on governance, formal democracy (which often weakens local power structures reative to the infleunce of Western corporation) and privatisation; Chuinese aid is simpler, linked to capacity building and comes with less strings.

  21. Firstly Andy, I think I was quite clear in my apology, secondly unlike you I was brought up in Africa and have spent a lot of time in and around Southern Africa.
    I have had dealing with Chinese mining and oil companies, and worked in mining communities.

    The company tactics used by Daewoo Logistics was modelled on previous negotiations a Chinese company was having with the Madagascan Government.

    Similar deals are in place with the murderous Sudanese Government by the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation.

    The workers health and safety conditions conditions in Nigerian Uranium pits is sub-human. The Cobalt Mines in the Congo are little more than indentured sweat shops guarded over by mercenaries.

    Ever heard of the BGRIMM Explosives Plant incident in Zambia in 2005 when 51 workers were killed due to the appalling safety conditions of the Chinese owned and run plant?

    And as for “China’s policy is to deal with the governments that exist”- as if that was a good thing, well if you accept bribing and enriching the elites and exploiting the poor labour legislation to set up low wage, high danger working conditions then you should really ask yourself some serious questions.

    I strongly suggest you get out to Africa and smell the shit you are shovelling.

  22. #25

    Well that is all just moralism, isn’t it?

    Firstly, China’s model of aid has a much lower capablity of corruption than Western aid models, as the development outcomes are directly funded, without the 10% admin charge typical of Western aid contracts which encourages graft.

    Secondly, dealing with the governments that exist is clearly better than the Chinese state using its economic, military and diplomatic clout to change other countries’ domestic politices to suit China’s interests. The US and European model of using an aid carrot to interfere in deleveloping countries has hardly been a benign expereince.

    Of course we can all list working conditions that do not come up to first world standards; but the questions here are are those conditions worse in Chinese linked developments than in non-Chinese enterprises in the same country? Is the Chinese aid and economic deevlopment beneficial to the host country? and, are the low wages and poor conditions the reasn the Chinese are there?

    It seems that you would rather there was no development at all. that way there would be no exploitation, after all.

  23. David Ellis on said:

    It is odd that Andy and the SWP both have a program for `democratic’ counter revolution in china. The SWP thinks China is simply state capitalist, maybe even itself imperialist, and therefore any toppling of the regime would be a good thing (class analysis or a program specifically for the working class does not enter into their minds) whilst Andy thinks it is a capitalist economy but with a left wing regime which, given a fair wind and further development, will eventually evolve naturally into a democracy. Both will cheer as the gains of 1949 are overturned and the bureaucracy allies itself with the petit and big Chinese bourgeois under imperialist tutelage to dismember both the economy and the country and impose a regime of colonial and semi-colonial misery on the Chinese working class.

    A program for political revolution sweeping the bureaucracy out of power and instigating a regime of workers democracy with a socialist internationalist outlook is what is required.

  24. “Huge differnces in the aid model; much of which is related to China’s wn expereince as a developing country; for example Westrn aid is often linked to programmes on governance, formal democracy (which often weakens local power structures reative to the infleunce of Western corporation) and privatisation; Chuinese aid is simpler, linked to capacity building and comes with less strings.”

    Just like the Chinese 58 million credit facility to the Zimbabwean Government, and the 1.3 billion contract to re-build the national grid for unlimited access to minerals, particularly Chrome, coal and diamonds- the devil is in the details, which are about access to resources Zimbabwe controls, not just those in Zimbabwe- such as the mines the country has illegally seized and is exploiting in the Congo.

  25. christian h. on said:

    Good to see that Chinese academia and media are so critical of their government’s policies. For his next trick, Andy is going to quote a Hoover Institution academic from the WSJ to refute allegations that the US wants anything but democracy and ponies in Iraq.

  26. #28

    Pete it would help if you confined your observations to facts.

    China’s support for Mugabe’s regime was largely a figment of Mugabe’s imagination. They have held him at arns length for a long time.

    China has not even been Zimbabwe’s main backer: Ukraine suplied Zimbabwe with arms worth $12 million between 2007 and 2009; A French bank underwrote Zimbabwe’s fuel imports using nickel deposits as collateral; a South African mining company loaned Mugabe’s government $100 million for developing paltinum mining; in 2008 Anglo-American invested $400 milion in the Unki Chromium mine. It was Malasia that funded the new presidential palace in harare.

    China has consistently said that it will follow the guide of the African Union and the South African Development Community (SADC). Indeed it was Chinese pressure – following increasing instability in Zimbabwe – that led Mugabe to offer power sharing to Morgan Tsvangari and the MDC, which was lubricated by a very large Chinese loan.

    Prior to power sharing China ‘s aid to Zimbabwe was limited, for example Economic Inteligence Unit observed that ties between China and Zimbabwe “do not seem to have been translated into hard cash”

    So the extent of China’s “support” for Mugabe is that China and Russia have both vetoed sanctions against Zimbabwe in the UN Security Council, over which China and Russia were certainly correct in law, as sanctions against Zimbabwe would be outwith the scope of Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

  27. 1. “Firstly, China’s model of aid has a much lower capablity of corruption than Western aid models, as the development outcomes are directly funded, without the 10% admin charge typical of Western aid contracts which encourages graft.”- you have got to be kidding, I mean seriously right? Haven’t you a clue how totally and utterly corrupt the Chinese bureaucracy is? Probably the two only comparable systems would be the Ottoman Empire and the British East India Company.They don’t don a new suit when they get on a plane to Africa, bribery is a way of doing business that they are just as use to doing as any Tiny Rowland.

    2. “Secondly, dealing with the governments that exist is clearly better than the Chinese state using its economic, military and diplomatic clout to change other countries’ domestic politices to suit China’s interests. ” Sudan, Zimbabwean occupied Congo, Zimbabwe- there involvement is an intervention, one to actively support the regime in power, fund the ruling elite and exploit the natural resources and people for the company’s and the existing elites benefit. Now to be charitable it is no better of worse than say Rio Tinto involvement with the Apartheid regime in Namibia- but personally I was demonstrating outside of their AGMs and calling for a boycott of their goods. But is that really the low standards that you hold by?

    3.”Of course we can all list working conditions that do not come up to first world standards; but the questions here are are those conditions worse in Chinese linked developments than in non-Chinese enterprises in the same country? Is the Chinese aid and economic deevlopment beneficial to the host country? and, are the low wages and poor conditions the reason the Chinese are there?” On the first point I think you are right, Chinese companies behave no better or worse than the others but whereas Western companies can be influenced by campaigning such as was the case during the Rhodesian and Apartheid years Chinese companies are relatively immune from it. On the second point however you are once again off the ball- the whole point is that Chinese companies behave just as Western ones do, all the benefits are exported, with a small % handed back to the ruling elites. The countries as a whole do not benefit and are in fact depleted of their natural resources and impoverished environmentally.

    “It seems that you would rather there was no development at all. that way there would be no exploitation, after all.” Now you are just projecting and arguing with a self made straw man. My point is that Chinese economic expansion into Africa is no more benign or well meaning that any other forms of capitalist expansion at present at play in Africa.

  28. Andy, tell us about that gun shipment to Zimbabwe again?

    You must be over the moon that China is now the biggest oil investor in Sudan. The British ones disinvested because of pressure over Darfur. China is now the biggest supporter of that chap whose wanted by the UN for crimes against humanity.

    You must be so pleased.

    ‘In fact Southern Metropolis Daily is a Guangzhou newspaper renowned for its critical reporting of government.’

    hahahahaha

    Andy mate, I know these places. Stop making shit up.

  29. I don’t know about the rest of Africa but from talking to union activists in Nigeria Chinese companies are hated even more than Western multi nationals. According to them when there is a strike Western companies will generally try various manoeuvres to undermine the strike like talks that go nowhere, attempts to buy off the leading militants, works councils etc and then if all else fails, send in the riot police. The point they were making was that most Western companies do at least acknowledge there has to be some sort of process of talking to unions, while not being afraid to call on the coercive power of the state where necessary.

    For Chinese companies however there is no such compunction. At the first sign of serious, organised unrest, in go the riot police.

  30. Really Andy- you are arguing with that straw man again
    I didn’t way that China was the only country investing in Zims did I?

    However April 2007, Zimbabwe’s parliamentary speaker, John Nkomo, said
    “It is heartening to know that China is the largest investor in Zimbabwe. Her investments now stand at more than $600 million,” he said. That week China also gave the repressive Mugabe regime a $58 million credit facility, which Zimbabwe will pay off in tobacco over two years.”

    And really Andy you can’t have it both ways “China has consistently said that it will follow the guide of the African Union and the South African Development Community (SADC). Indeed it was Chinese pressure – following increasing instability in Zimbabwe – that led Mugabe to offer power sharing to Morgan Tsvangari and the MDC, which was lubricated by a very large Chinese loan.”-either Chinese investment is really cool because they don’t interfere with whatever dodgy dictatorship is in power or they do interfere which sort of makes them just like everyone else- which is my point.

  31. That copy paste from ethical corp should have read

    “It is heartening to know that China is the largest investor in Zimbabwe. Her investments now stand at more than $600 million,” he said.

    The second bit was editorialising from Markus Reichardt

  32. #33

    Well there is no doubt that Chinese fighter jets and RPGs found their way to Zimbabwe, and that the sort of funds slushing around in arms sales may well have allowed Mugabe to spread that largesse among his ZANU-PF supporters, and that the arms deliveries will have cemented the loyalty of the military.

    But so what? China was one of many suppliers to the Harare government.

    There is no question that China has been opportunist in its relations with both Zimbabwe and Sudan; but i) there is scant evidence that Western approaches to geting these rogue governments to behave difefrently have been any more effective than Chinas; and ii) this is largely irrelevent t whether or not China’s aid model help development in Africa or not.

  33. #36

    “either Chinese investment is really cool because they don’t interfere with whatever dodgy dictatorship is in power or they do interfere which sort of makes them just like everyone else”

    China largely doesn’y interfere in the soveriegn affairs of other nations, that simply is a fact; however, in the cases of Burma, Zimbabwe and Sudan they have pragmatically bent with the wind a bit; in particular in Zimbabwe they saw that the growing political instablity migt jeopardise the Zimbabwean state’s ability to repay Chinese loans.

  34. #32

    “Chinese companies behave just as Western ones do, all the benefits are exported, with a small % handed back to the ruling elites. The countries as a whole do not benefit and are in fact depleted of their natural resources and impoverished environmentally.”

    Wel you would be on the money if you said that Chinese enterprises exhibit scant regard for environemental and workers welfare issues; this is a legacy of their own pattern of development in village and township enterprises in rural china; but it would also be true that this is improving in both China (through president Hu’s push towards a harmonious society) and also gradually in Africa, as the need for greater social responsibility becomes clearer to them, and through partnerships with Western MNCs.

    However, your point about patterns of investment is not correct; China has increased manufacturing and processing capability in Africa; and it has also provided loans to governments without world bank strings towards deregulation and privatisation. In most cases Chinese investemtn in manuacturing is in the form of joint ventures with local firms.

    As such it provides options for national economic development for African governments which do not exist through the cooperation with the West.

  35. So China intervenes politically to defend the interests of it corporations capital investment- well no change there then.

    That is the point Andy, as the resources of the world tighten up someone would be investing in those that remain unexploited. The fact that China is developing huge capacity in Africa is more a question of timing rather than any unique Chinese economic or political structure. They are behaving like anyone else- just later.

    They are playing catch up, they are still trailing way behind “Western” capitals investment in Africa- hence they are pushing at the frontiers, doing business with the likes of Sudan, is not an ideological commitment to non-interference it is the only basis they would be allowed in.

    The policies you seem so pleased with are purely commercially driven- all the rest is fluffy window dressing.

  36. paul fauvet on said:

    As a journalist working in Mozambique, I occasionally come across examples of how Chinese companies treat their African workforce.

    So brutal and racist was the behaviour of Chinese foremen of the Nantong Construction company, working in the northern province of Niassa, that last week, the Mozambican Labour Ministry threw three of them out of the country.

    According to the Labour Ministry, one of them, Cai Bingjun, had committed “repeated acts of physical aggression against his Mozambican colleagues’, including hitting them with hammers, planks and other tools.

    Wei Hongfeng had behaved in similar fashion, and when a Mozambican worker questioned what he regarded as unjust deductions from his wages, Wei fired him on the spot. To make matters worse, Wei tore off the man’s working clothes, and sent him home dressed only in his underwear.

    Lin Cheng was accused of injuring a Mozambican worker by spraying hot cooking oil over him.

    The Ministry added that Nantong Constructions has repeatedly violated Mozambican labour law by failing to provide workers with written contracts, failing to insure its workforce, and failing to register workers with the National Social Security Institute (INSS).

    We’re not talking about proletarian internationalism here – we’re talking about very basic standards for how companies should treat their workforce.

    We can denounce western imperialism as much as we like, but I don’t know of any western investor in Mozambique that has treated its workers in a similar fashion.

  37. #42 “We’re not talking about proletarian internationalism here – we’re talking about very basic standards for how companies should treat their workforce.”

    Spot on. Your reports of woeful attitude to workers rights chimes with what I have heard about how they operate in Nigeria as well

  38. “However, your point about patterns of investment is not correct; China has increased manufacturing and processing capability in Africa; and it has also provided loans to governments without world bank strings towards deregulation and privatisation. In most cases Chinese investemtn in manuacturing is in the form of joint ventures with local firms.”

    Well yes and no on that one- look carefully at the majority of the countries that China is building up manufacturing capacity in, this doesn’t apply to all of them I concede.

    Many of the countries that the manufacturing JVs are being set up in are ex-colonies such as Algeria. I’m using Algeria as an example because I know a little bit more about it than some of the West African French colonies.

    The French rag trade has crossed the Med to exploit the lower labour costs in Algeria, France and Algeria have special trading agreements which lower the importation taxes of garments- it’s the French fashion lobby at play. That same fashion lobby has been quite effective at setting high tarrifs for imported garments from China.

    So a Chinese JV with an Algerian garment maker gives the Algerian company a much needed investment in Chinese manufactured machinery, and the Chinese company a way under the tarrif wall. So the Chinese investment returns to China in the form of buying the machinery and half the profits return to China as thier returns from the JV.

    To be fair a JV does mean that some of the profit does stay with the Algerian owners, and more local semi-skilled employment is created.

    Whether import replacement and a reduction the countries balance of trade ensues I think remains to be seen.

  39. We used to hear much about the African debt. Then China got involved and now the debt seems to have disappeared.

    The main criticism I hear about China in Africa (from Chinese socialists) is that they often set up mini towns to extract resources in deals that are certainly fairer than doing it at the point of a gun the way European states did, but that the jobs are often taken by Chinese and not shared out among the local population and that’s at least one thing that should change. But Straw’s comment that what China is now doing in Africa is the same as what the British did 150 years ago is illiterate and disingenuous.

    If China leaves a trail of destruction like Western businesses such as Shell and BP then they should be condemned. But largely they haven’t as a rule. That’s not to say that the Chinese business class are angels — they clearly aren’t and they absolutely should treat their workforce well. And many do (well, better than the European colonialists did). But the Yellow Peril arguments just smack of racism and chauvinism and I thought we were supposed to have a class perspective. Some of the contributors here seem to yearn for the good old days of Western imperialism in Africa because it was OUR imperialism.

  40. This is a discussion completely at cross purposes.

    Undoubtedly, Chinese enterprises have a delinquent attitude to labour rights and environmental concerns; not a million miles away from the problems that exist in Village and Township Enterprises in China itself. Pointing that out is hardy pertinent.

    The issue however is whether Chinese investment in Africa is nevertheless beneficial for Africa’s economic development, and in the interests of deveoloping economic soveignty for African states.

    I don’t know of anyone who has argued that Chinese involvement in Africa is based upon “proletaran internationalism”

    I don’t know of anyone who has argued that Chinese involvement in Africa is an example of the best imaginable practice.

    However, in a real life situation with all its limitations, it is a progressive development.

  41. “However, in a real life situation with all its limitations, it is a progressive development.”

    No Andy it isn’t- its just a development, Chinese capitalism plays catch up with Western capital to into exploit Africa’s natural resources. I see no signs of anything more ‘progressive’ about Chinese capital today than post -colonial Western capital.

  42. The issue however is whether Chinese investment in Africa is nevertheless beneficial for Africa’s economic development, and in the interests of deveoloping economic soveignty for African states.

    I don’t know of anyone who has argued that Chinese involvement in Africa is based upon “proletaran internationalism”

    I don’t know of anyone who has argued that Chinese involvement in Africa is an example of the best imaginable practice.

    However, in a real life situation with all its limitations, it is a progressive development.

    TINA.

  43. Andy, we are talking about this.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/africa/article3772113.ece

    This was at a time when the other UN Security Council members (including Russia) were at least ‘expressing concern’ about an absolutely vicious crackdown against MDC voters. Not only did the P.R.C not care, it send small arms it would knew full well would be used against civilians.

    So, tell us then? Who were the forces of progress here? The democratic SA dockers union or your benign dictatorship that was sending guns it knew would be used to shoot women and children?

    This is what is happening in Africa. We are trying to give you examples of whats really happening on the ground. You can’t behind all thay marxist mumbo jumbo forever.

  44. paul fauvet on said:

    Andy accepts that Chinese companies have a “delinquent” attitude to labour rights – and then dismisses this as “not pertinent”.

    That’s an extraordinary position for a socialist to take! I thought the whole point of socialist politics was to advance the interests of the working class.

    Andy excuses gross abuses of workers’ rights on the grounds that Chinese investment somehow furthers African economic sovereignty.

    This seems based on the fallacy that all Western investment comes with nasty strings attached. In reality Western and Chinese companies alike invest where they think they can make a profit, and sometimes their governments interfere and sometimes they don’t.

    One of the major areas of Chinese investment is construction – and why do you think Chinese companies win so many tenders? It’s nothing to do with economic sovereignty, and everything to do with the fact that the Chinese put in the cheapest bids!

    The bids are cheap in part because the Chinese refuse to pay more than the minimum wage. In the Mozambican case, the minimum wage in construction is about 40 pounds a month. Try bringing up a family on that!

    Inevitably, such a policy leads to strikes. Two of the main prestige Chinese construction projects in Maputo, the new national sports stadium and the new terminal at the airport, were repeatedly hit by strikes over wages, and so ran months behind schedule.

    In one case, when the Mozambican workers demanded they be paid for their overtime, the Chinese company offered them a cup or tea and a chunk of bread. Yes, they really did – I am not making this up! What’s more, so poor were the workers’ conditions that they accepted this offer.

  45. paul fauvet on said:

    Incidentally, I note that the picture at the top of this boats shows Hu Jintao with one of the most corrupt men in Africa, the loathsome French puppet Omar Bongo, who ruled Gabon for 42 years, from 1967 until his death in 2009.

    Gabon’s oil wealth could have made every man, women and child in its population of just 1.5 million rich. Instead most of the money went to the obscenely wealthy elite, headed by the Bongo family.

    When a US Senate sub-committee investigated Citibank, in 1999, it found that Bongo had salted away 130 million dollars in Citibank accounts – money stolen from the Gabonese treasury.

    The French oil company Elf Acquitaine paid Bongo personally 50 million euros a year in order to keep drilling in Gabon.

    Bongo loved France more than he loved Gabon, and bought 33 luxury properties in France, including a mansion in Paris valued at over 17 million euros.

    He was rich enough to dabble in French politics, bankrolling French politicians, including Jacques Chirac in the 1981 Presidential campaign.

    Clearly Hu Jintao does not care who he shakes hands with.

  46. Darkness at Noon on said:

    “Clearly Hu Jintao does not care who he shakes hands with.”

    As long as there’s money in them there hills, the Chinese ‘Communist’ party will shake hands with anyone. The government will do deals with anyone, will rape any commodity and resource, and suck up to any despot if it brings home the RMB & $.

  47. @54

    The “communist” Chinese also built blood soaked kleptocrat Mobutu’s absurd palace. Newman is now a mere husk of a socialist — his prostration before “Red” Ed Miliband and his craven grovelling into New labour look principled next to this.

  48. #47

    Since no socialist parties have opened factories and scores of Western firms have — by your logic Western firms are morally superior to any socialist party or its members. Good God you’re a joke — you remind me of idiots like Harpal Brar and his ilk.

  49. Duncan on said:

    Colonialism is an application of force, and China is in Africa on a foundation of equality and mutual benefit.

    Phew, that’s alright then.

  50. Read the article.

    The larger and more influential of the Chinese firms in Africa are state-owned enterprises [SOEs] and their investments often have positive effects beyond just increasing tax revenues, and so many African nations are keen to work with China. An example of the positive impact is employment. In Sudan, China is involved in the Khartoum oil refinery and Merowe dam projects. When campaigning for re-election this year, president [Omar al-] Bashir used slogans referencing both of those projects. The Merowe dam alone, built by China International Water & Electricity Corporation, employs 16,000 locals. That’s no small number.

    These projects have also upgraded the technical skills of local workers. For example, the refinery that China National Petroleum Corporation [CNPC] is helping to build in Khartoum now employs 1,100 locals, up from just 200 originally, all of whom are receiving training. And the entry standards are quite high. Sudan was originally an oil importer, but now has a complete oil industry – from exploration to extraction to refining – and is a net exporter of oil. Many African presidents who have seen the refinery in Khartoum have said they want one just the same.

    Another advantage of the investment for Africa is that the presence of Chinese firms increases the choices and opportunities available. Niger has rich uranium deposits, but previously a monopoly held by a French firm kept prices low. Niger isn’t large, but it has long been one of the least developed of nations. Uranium sales should have allowed it to develop, but this didn’t happen – why not? That monopoly was the main reason. Once Chinese firms arrived, things changed and the price of uranium and raw materials increased, to the dismay of the French.

    Many Chinese projects also involve infrastructure such as railroads and highways – often there’s a whole package of contracts and that improves Africa overall.

    You bet it is to the dismay of the French that they can’t rip off Niger’s uranium any more now there’s Chinese competition. The presence of China has made it harder for the West to screw Africa and it’s made it harder for them to impose sanctions on pesky governments and threaten “humanitarian intervention” The US and the EU hate the China because they don’t like it up ’em.

  51. Stephen Hero on said:

    45: “But the Yellow Peril arguments just smack of racism and chauvinism and I thought we were supposed to have a class perspective. Some of the contributors here seem to yearn for the good old days of Western imperialism in Africa because it was OUR imperialism.”

    Christ, this is appalling. As far as I can see, not one single person objecting to the article in this thread has used any ‘yellow peril’ arguments nor have they given any indication of preference, still less a yearning, for Western imperialism in Africa. You can’t just make stuff up to make it look like you have a semblance of a point.

  52. ‘Kleptocracry, violence, ethnic cleansing, murder’- no materialist ideas here.

    ‘Politician sanctions murder shocker’, what world do you inhabit?

    Socialists begin not from what they would like to be, which is idealism, but from what is, ie social relations.

    A point made repeatedly here, but never answered is China’s role in creating African joint ventures which allow Aficans to reap the profits of oil refining, both in Nigeria and Egypt. No firm based in the imperialist world ever did this, precisely for the reason that imperialism exists to provide a meachanism for the expansion of capital on a global scale, not its dimunition.

    Why is this point never answered?

    Because we now live in a time hen the imperialists have begun to wage an overtly anti-China campaign and the forces of the British Left, true to form, ‘discover’ Chinese ‘imperialism’. Congratulations on your timing, if not your socialism.

    We gave been here before. As the global tide of revolution was being pushed sharply backwards, after the defeats in Germany, Italy, China and elsewhere the international campaign began anew against the Soviet Union.

    And Lo, ‘socialists’, ‘Marxists’ and ‘Trotskyists’ discovered that Soviet ownership of the Chinese Eastern Railroad was….imperialism.

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1929/08/sino.htm

    China built the Tanzara railroad in the 1970s in order to be able to free the landlocked Zambia access to Dar Es Salaam. British imperialism had long considered the project but could never justify on grounds of profit. China did it. The main thing that has changed since is China’s ability to deploy capital to achieve much greater results, benefitting both the donor and the recipient.

  53. “China built the Tanzara railroad in the 1970s in order to be able to free the landlocked Zambia access to Dar Es Salaam.”

    Bullshit. The TanZam railroad was built to win support from African nations for the the exclusion of the PRC’s rival the USSR from attending the Asia-Africa summit in Algiers. The result was a great benefit — and to Zimbabwe too as it meant that ore could be shipped to Dar not through the Portuguese controlled Angolan ports. The motive — was Chinese self interest.

    If your metric if the building of factories and the provision of jobs then the most progressive of groups are multinationals like Anglo-American which employ hundreds of thousands of Africans in mines and factories. O and these workers are often unionised and are not shot “accidentally” by managers with impunity.

  54. “Clearly Hu Jintao does not care who he shakes hands with.”

    As long as there’s money in them there hills, the Chinese ‘Communist’ party will shake hands with anyone. The government will do deals with anyone, will rape any commodity and resource, and suck up to any despot if it brings home the RMB & $.

    Curiously, Pinochet’s popularity extends to the People’s Republic of China, which he has visited twice. China is a major client for Chile’s copper exports, and Pinochet has nurtured his relationship with Beijing. “They are very fond of me,” he says. “Because I saw that Chinese Communism was patriotic Communism, not the Communism of Mao. I opened up the doors to Chinese commerce, letting them hold an exposition here, in which they brought everything they had—and they sold everything they brought.” On both his trips to China, Pinochet says, the Chinese treated him with great respect. “The first time they put me in a house, but the last time it was a palace. And I became good friends with General Chen, a warrior who fought in Korea, in Vietnam, and who doesn’t like the Americans very much.” Pinochet shot me a sidelong glance and grinned.

    full: http://www.antimedios.cl/site/el-dictador-por-jon-lee-anderson

  55. Darkness at Noon on said:

    “#63 Great post.

    Go China!”

    It was a terrible post. Just empty rhetoric. China is simply a capitalist non-democratic state. I wonder what Andy Newman has to say about the huge bilateral trade China has with Israel? The massive weapons and high-tech sales between the two countries, much to the consternation of the US?

    Today Netanyahu announced he was visiting China owing to the increased economic co-operation between the two countries!

    Israel and China get on so well because they keep shtum about abuses in each other’s countries…this whole adulation of China is ridiculous.

  56. The intellectual emptiness of the China Worshipers is neatly summed up by the moronic boosterism of “Go China”. This is as idiotic as Tea Party members punching the air and shouting “USA USA”.

    I had to smile at “little black sisters” post because of her previous lionisation of muslim resistance to American foreign adventures. She is obviously ignorant of the fact that China’s expansionist behaviour is similarly “resisted” by Muslim Uyghurs (whom Beijing has tried to paint with the Al Qaida brush). But I suppose this is just another aspect of imperialism with Chinese characteristics.

  57. jock mctrousers on said:

    I notice repeated accusations here against Andy Newman of ‘China worship’. Because he described that article as ‘interesting’? Interesting enough, it seems, to everyone else here too, to the tune of 60 plus comments.
    We all seem to be agreed that China has its good and bad points, but at least it doesn’t kill as many foreigners as the USA – so far anyway. So what’s all the fuss about?

  58. We all seem to be agreed that China has its good and bad points, but at least it doesn’t kill as many foreigners as the USA – so far anyway. So what’s all the fuss about?

    None, if this blog changed its name to fabianunity.com or labourunity.com or liberal_diarrhea.com

  59. jock mctrousers on said:

    What? You can’t be a socialist if you even give a fair hearing to the proposition that China may not be doing so much harm abroad as the West? Even acknowledging that it’s probably just because they can’t, and nothing to do with comradely solidarity? That’s another one to add to the long list of ‘ you can’t be a socialist ifs’ to add to the Spanish Inquisition that will greet any disenchanted prole who is driven to despair by the ‘age of austerity’ and toys with the idea that they might find support and fellowship with the Marxist left.

  60. Evan Pritchard on said:

    Louis Proyect’s cv tells us that he has written books, so people should have more respect for him, and understand why he gets frustrated at having to deal with those of us who have a inferior intellect to him.

  61. #47 That is unworthy of you and patronising to Nigerian trade union activists struggling under appalling conditions to build the labour movement and better the lives of their members.

  62. #74

    No, the point is that economic development is a necesity as a precondition of economic sovereignty in Africa.

    Using the yardstick only of labour relations to judge the impact of Chinese ecnomic and aid activity n Africa is completely inadequate.

  63. #75 No one should get a free pass for the mistreatment and exploitation of workers. I am astounded that a trade union branch secretary and a self proclaimed socialist does not believe the treatment of African workers in the factories the Chinese set up is not a yard stick to judge the impact of Chinese economic activity. I take your points by the way about Chinese investment. My problem with your article is its lack of balance.

    Your dismissive response to the treatment of African workers is a glaring example of this.

  64. Or to put it another way. Is banning trade unions in Chinese factories in Africa and using the coercive apparatus of the state to back up the power of management a “precondition of economic sovereignty in Africa”?

  65. Stephen Marks on said:

    Pambazuka Press is pleased to invite you to the launch in London of our latest book

    Chinese and African Perspectives
    on China in Africa

    There will also be a panel discussion with
    Sanou Mbaye, Senegalese economist, a former member of the senior management team of the African Development Bank, and the author of L’Afrique au secours de l’Afrique (Africa to the rescue of Africa). He is a contributing author to Chinese and African Perspectives on China in Africa.

    Stephen Marks, an editor of Chinese and African Perspectives on China in Africa, and a regular contributor to Pambazuka News.

    Lucy Corkin, Research Associate at Africa-Asia Centre, SOAS.

    Jing Gu, Research Fellow with the Globalisation Team at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex.

    This new book in the Pambazuka Press ‘China and Africa’ series explores China’s deepening engagement in Africa from the rarely heeded perspectives of African and Chinese civil society organisations.

    The book will be on sale at a special launch price
    of £13.50, discounted from £16.95.

    Tuesday 16 November 6–8pm

    Brunei Suite, SOAS, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG

    Details are in the attached flyer and on the Pambazuka Press website.

    Please forward details to anyone you know who would be interested, and forgive us if you receive news of the launch more than once.

    Do let us know if you do not wish to receive future mailings.

    The Pambazuka Press Team

    Through the voices of the peoples of Africa and the global South, Pambazuka Press and Pambazuka News disseminate analysis and debate on the struggle for freedom and justice.

  66. #77

    “Or to put it another way. Is banning trade unions in Chinese factories in Africa and using the coercive apparatus of the state to back up the power of management a “precondition of economic sovereignty in Africa”?”

    But that is not a serious question, is it?

    China’s involvement in Africa is not predicated upon poor labour relations, even if poor labour relations are an unfortunately too common feature of Chinese enterprises in Africa.

    It would therefore be entirely possible to have Chinese aid and investment in Africa without these negative labour relations aspects. That is shaped by the nature of collaboration with African states and civil society partners.

    It is perfectly possible to recognise the generaly prpgressive nature of China’s involvement with Afrca, and still promote the idea that African workers need a better deal from that engagement.

  67. But Special Economic Zones and the philosophy behind them, whether in Mexico, Bengal, or Africa, or whether promoted by the US, the Indian capitalist class, or the Chinese state, pretty typically involve restrictions on trade union rights. And whilst I recognise the argument that a competing power in Africa gives room for manuever for smaller states, it seems a tremendous hostage to fortune to draw the conclusion that this means that Chinese investment is generally progressive whilst other foreign investment is generally reactionary. It just strikes me as built on an idealist interpretation of patterns of foreign investment built on inter-state capitalist competition for cheap labour.

  68. #80

    i) China doesn’t need to go to Africa for cheap Labour

    ii) There is a different pattern of investment, where Western aid has been linked to reform of governance and deregulation; whereas Chinese aid has been linked to productive investment

    iii) Through cooperation with China, some African states are increasding their manufacturing and processing capability, whereas their relationship with the West has been as raw materials exporters.

  69. Chinese investment in Africa is about cheap resources, rather than cheap labout, and I don’t think there’s a shred of evidence that logging, diamond-mining or oil-extraction is any less environmentally destructive, or any less exploitative of the workforce, when the end product is destined for China.

    What is true is that for African governments China is a much better partner than the West. China will happily sell arms or riot-control equipment to any regime in Africa, whatever its human righs record. Whether you think that is to the benefit of ordinary Africans depends on who you think those arms and equipment are going to be used against.

  70. I bow to the combined greater knowledge about African investments. But SEZ’s are generally associated with anti-union agreements, and my understanding is that the SEZ model is one of the models used by China in Africa. Like I said I have no problem recognising that China is undercutting western powers in terms of the deal it offers African states, and no problem recognising the hypocrisy of western states complaining about this. But it just does seem to me that this is not a reason to dub one or other pattern of investment as ‘progressive’. It just seems a hostage to fortune to me.

  71. #82

    “China will happily sell arms or riot-control equipment to any regime in Africa”

    Werll spcificaslly China was criticised for selling fighter jets and RPGs to Zimbabwe.

    However Mugabe’s police used neither RPGs or planes in their domestic repression, reprehensible though that was.

    We can speculate that the arms deals placated an itchy military, and that kick backs from the commision will have lubricated some ZANU-PF support; but in reality it is hard t see how these arms sales made much difference to Zimbabwe’s domestic politics.

  72. Only jets and RPGs, eh? Maybe that’s because South African dockworkers refused to unload the small arms shipment that was bound for Zimbabwe in spring 2008 after the disputed election.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7366599.stm

    “The An Yue Jiang is a container ship owned by China’s state-run shipping company COSCO, reported to be carrying millions of rounds of assault rifle, ammunition, mortar rounds and rocket-propelled grenades.”

  73. The problem on the left of this debate is the notion that China’s focus in Africa should be judged according to the Trotsykist barometer of permanent revolution.

    This is delusion writ large. China’s clear objective is developing its own economy in order to protect both its sovereignty from the malign effects of unfettered capitalist penetration and US domination. Africa is a continent ravaged as a consequence of both and China’s investment there is having the secondary effect of filling a vaccuum of underdevelopment left by Africa’s tortured history of exploitation at the hands of the West.

    That there will be contradictions in this process is self evident. However, it can only be progressive that Africa is receiving desperately needed investment that does not consist solely of extracting its resources.

  74. #85

    If you paid attention, you would note that the contents of the four containers on the An Yue Jiang destined for Zimbabwe were mainly PRGs and ammunition for RPGs.

    Meanhile the Zimbabwean police favour the club and the truncheon as their weapons for internal repression.

    My point is a valid one, that under Chapter VII of the UN Charter there were no grounds for sanctions against the Zimbabwean government; and the arms shipped were not those typically used for internal repression.

    China has exhibited no specific support for the Zimbabwean government, and has indeed held Mugabe at some distance (unlike Margaret Thatcher, who gave him a knighthood).

  75. 79: ““Or to put it another way. Is banning trade unions in Chinese factories in Africa and using the coercive apparatus of the state to back up the power of management a “precondition of economic sovereignty in Africa”?”

    But that is not a serious question, is it?”

    Actually it is, once again I’m surprised this has to be spelt out to a trade unionist.
    Increased Chinese investment that grows the industrial base of a country and increases the size of the working class is objectively progressive. Chinese companies bringing labour practices that are often worse than Western multi nationals is not. Both are equally relevant in a discussion on China’s economic activity in Africa.

    Where is the problem in acknowledging that?

  76. “economic development is a necesity as a precondition of economic sovereignty in Africa.
    Using the yardstick only of labour relations to judge the impact of Chinese ecnomic and aid activity in Africa is completely inadequate.”

    This is the most shocking sort of neo-liberal justification I’ve seen by a socialist. This is precisely the sort of argument used by governments and business leaders throughout the developing world to justify sweat shops and repression of labour rights.

  77. #88

    “Increased Chinese investment that grows the industrial base of a country and increases the size of the working class is objectively progressive.”

    I agree.

    “Chinese companies bringing labour practices that are often worse than Western multi nationals is not. “

    I agree, however in many cases the Chinese enterprises are at the same low standard as Western ones.

    However, the way you link these issues is as if the poor labour relations as a necessary condition of China’s activities in China. We see from enterprises in the PRC itself that there is considerable variablity of labour practices.

    What China seeks to gain from Africa is not cheap labour; and therefore the poor practices can be improved upon, and should be improved upon.

  78. “My point is a valid one, that under Chapter VII of the UN Charter there were no grounds for sanctions against the Zimbabwean government; and the arms shipped were not those typically used for internal repression.”

    Oh, is that the United Nations that underwrote the invasion of Afghanistan, establishing the ISAF? Or the UN that backed the first war against Iraq in 1991? That has played such a progressive role in Africa from Somalia to Rwanda to the DRC?
    What sort of legal fetishism allows you to talk about chapter this and verse that without reference to actual conditions on the ground and the role that the various parties play in reinforcing or challenging those conditions?

  79. #89

    “This is the most shocking sort of neo-liberal justification I’ve seen by a socialist. ”

    well clearly it is not a neo-liberal argument as it is not predicated upon any of the foundations of neo-liberalism.

    The question of economic development, and capacity building toards economic soveignty of African states cannot so easily be excluded from the blance sheet.

  80. #91

    What sort of legal fetishism allows you to talk about chapter this and verse that without reference to actual conditions on the ground and the role that the various parties play in reinforcing or challenging those conditions?

    Well it is you who are fetishising an arms sale to the Zimbabwean military, without establishing at al that these weapons were intended for internal repression.

    Indeed, there is still a divided opinion among the African left over Zimbabwe, and the power sharing outcome between ZANU-PF and MDC, to an extent brokered by China, is far from the worst result, allowing as it does for the consolidation of the land reforms and some constarint upon the pro-market and priovatisation inclinations of MDC, while also to an extent restraining the ZANU-PF repression. It is too early to say, but it may provide some space for civil society and small-holding agriculture to advance.

  81. as for Zimbabwe’s weapons:
    “The An Yue Jiang, a property of the state-owned China Ocean Shipping Company, is reportedly carrying 1,500 rocket-propelled grenades, 3,000 mortar rounds and mortar tubes, as well as 3 million rounds of AK-47 assault rifle ammunition.”
    http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2008/04/22/china-recall-arms-shipment-headed-zimbabwe

    In fact, every article that mentions the contents of the arms shipment always includes mention of ammunition separate from rockets. What’s more it was the South African dockworkers union that stopped the shipment – not “sinophobic leftists” in the UK or racist leaders of the western world. The dockworkers have consistently been the leading edge of militant unionism on the African continent and beyond, supporting Palestinians, opposing the war in Iraq, supporting Mumia Abu Jamal, et al.

  82. “Well it is you who are fetishising an arms sale to the Zimbabwean military, without establishing at al that these weapons were intended for internal repression.”

    1) the Zimbabwean regime is a repressive regime that attacked independent unions and political activists.
    2) it is effectively a dicatorship – though this has been mediated somewhat as a result of the power-sharing agreement, the arms shipment occurred prior to this and at a time when the ZANU-PF was unleashing heavy repression against political opponents.
    3) therefore, China was happy to sell weapons to an election-stealing, repressive government and was only blocked from doing so on its schedule because of South African trade unionists.

  83. #94

    Well we may have different sources, I recall that they were mainly RPGs. As we know 53 tons of Chinese arms then arrived in Zimbabwe via an airlift from the DRC, and we know that they were then not in fact used in internal repression, as relatively shortly afterwards the ZANU-PF / MDC power sharing deal was brokered.

    The judgement of the dockers should be respected of course, but not all of the African left have taken a uniform view of the Zimbabwean situation. Some have argued that the ZANU-PF and MDC represent different but equally serious dangers; and that the power sharing deal may result in some space for rebuilding grassroots opposition to both of them.

  84. “ZANU-PF and MDC represent different but equally serious dangers; and that the power sharing deal may result in some space for rebuilding grassroots opposition to both of them”

    christ andy a trotskyist deviation? Its unclear though why this view is incompatible with the actions of the dockers.

  85. #97

    As i understand it, the dockers were following the pro-MDC position of South African leftists like Patrick Bond; but I may have misunderstood.

  86. “As we know 53 tons of Chinese arms then arrived in Zimbabwe via an airlift from the DRC, and we know that they were then not in fact used in internal repression, as relatively shortly afterwards the ZANU-PF / MDC power sharing deal was brokered.”

    All of the figures of the original shipment suggest that it was 77 tons, perhaps they dropped the AK-47 ammo as a concession (?!).

    In any case, China is certainly playing power politics in Africa and using money and weapons as levers to gain influence. This article in the magazine of the Council on Foreign Relations is actually quite balanced – going out of its way to note that America is hypocritical in its political stances viz. human rights, also notes the evolution of China’s policy of so-called non-interference.

    “The Chinese approach to foreign relations is officially termed “noninterference in domestic affairs.” Chinese leaders say human rights are relative, and each country should be allowed their own definition of them and timetable for reaching them…
    But China’s foreign policy appears to be evolving as it realizes the need to protect its economic interests. For instance, it has altered its policy of blocking UN Security Council resolutions authorizing peacekeepers for Darfur and placed modest pressure on Khartoum to allow a UN peacekeeping deployment. “Beijing’s recent handling of the situation in Sudan shows that it is learning the limitations of noninterference, however much that principle remains part of its official rhetoric,” write Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt and Andrew Small in Foreign Affairs. “China has found noninterference increasingly unhelpful as it learns the perils of tacitly entrusting its business interests to repressive governments,” they write.
    But China also continues to sell arms to Sudan, among other African countries. The Congressional Research Service reports that China views these sales as a means of “enhancing its status as an international political power, and increasing its ability to obtain access to significant natural resources, especially oil” (PDF). In the period from 2003 to 2006, China’s arms sales to Africa made up 15.4 percent ($500 million) of all conventional arms transfers to the continent. Notable weapons sales include those to Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Burundi, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. Beijing has also sent Chinese military trainers to help their African counterparts…”

  87. Evan Pritchard on said:

    Without wishing to defend any specific practices of Chinese companies in Africa, or internal repression by the Mugabe government, or indeed criticising the SA dockworkers, I would like the various trotskyist commentators to answer 2 questions:

    1) Do you believe that it is never justified for anyone to interfere with trade union rights or to otherwise impose repressive management practices on workers?

    2) In the event that Zimbabwe was made the subject of an imperialist military attack, would you want them to have fighter planes and rpgs to defend themselves or not?

  88. Redbedhead

    The position you are arguing at #95 is a caracature, you wuld do well to read more of the output of your sister organisation in Zimbabwe.

    ZANU-PF did not “steal” the election, nor do they have no bases of mas support, I wrote about this before here

    http://www.socialistunity.com/?p=3709#more-3709

    extract:

    the formation of the coalition confounds the popular narrative in the West of Robert Mugabe being without domestic support and hanging on to power only due to repression. Now of course this narrative is not without substance, there has been appalling levels of violence in Zimbabwe, reminiscent of the Idi Amin era in Uganda. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), has judged that political violence in the country has reached alarming if not catastrophic proportions.

    But in truth, ZANU-PF and the MDF both have substantial support from parts of the population, with ZANU-PF having greater support in the rural areas, among state employees, and the armed forces. The economic isolation of Zimbabwe has led to a highly interventionist state whose main policy has also been to promote an indiginous Zimbabwean capitalist class, whose survival depends upon the ZANU-PF protectionist policies; and there has been reversal of the privatisations that were caused by the structural adjustent programmes a decade or so ago, and a growing state sector has been created to cope with what is effectively a war economy. Many Zimbabweans see their economic and social interests tied to the survival of ZANU-PF, particularly the tens of thousands of small farmers who have benefited from the seizure of white owned farms.

    MDC has more urban support, including from the trade unions, from international capital, global companies operating in Zimbabwe, from Western governments, as well as from the South African trade unions, and from progressive, democratic figures in the region such as Graca Machel, and Desmond Tutu. But MDC is an unstable coalition united around contradictory programmatic platforms. On the one hand it is pro-democracy, and opposed to the political violence of the Mugabe government, but on the other hand it is committed to opening Zimbabwe’s economy to liberalisation and privatisation. Given that the greatest social gain in Zimbabwe has been land nationalisation, and the creation of thousands of new, small farms, the MDC represents a significant threat. The fanatical privatiser, Eddie Cross, who even advocates privatising the health and education systems remains their primary economics spokesperson; and they have nominated white colonialist farmer, Roy Bennett, to be agricultural minister. Indeed, the composition of the ZANU-PF / MDC government already shows the betrayal of the working class constituency of MDC, with trade union and left figures from the MDC, like Makuyana, Gwiyo and Mativenga left out of the cabinet.

    The deadlock preventing the removal of Mugabe is not that Zimbabwean society lacks the courage or vision to do remove a dictator, but that the land seizures represented a social revolution in the countryside, and Mugabe still has mass support resting on that process. In contrast, the most organized and decisive forces within the MDC are those allied with Western business interests and neo-liberalism, despite its trade union and working class mass support. The MDC could not gain government power without compromising with ZANU-PF, because to confront Mugabe would have put too great a strain on the fragile alliances within the MDC. Mugabe could not be dislodged by mass popular protests because the MDC leadership fears such a democratic mobilization as much as Mugabe does.

  89. “there has been appalling levels of violence in Zimbabwe, reminiscent of the Idi Amin era in Uganda. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), has judged that political violence in the country has reached alarming if not catastrophic proportions.”

    “On the one hand it is pro-democracy, and opposed to the political violence of the Mugabe government…”

    How has Mugabe sustained his power…see your comments above. That is a validation of my point.
    And I never said that he had no mass support. He obviously does. That doesn’t alter the fact that he has used political violence to try and eliminate all political opposition and that this wasn’t about suppressing a counter-revolution or any such thing – notwithstanding the contradictory bag of politics and forces that make up the MDC. Mugabe is for Mugabe and China’s support of him is not progressive in any way. If he didn’t use the jets and RPGs on internal opposition, he certainly used them to strengthen his disastrous and brutal adventure into the DRC.

  90. #102

    “Mugabe is for Mugabe and China’s support of him is not progressive in any way. ”

    This is a dishonest argument, seeing as no-one has suggested that providing arns to Muagba was progressive.

    Your original point seemed to be that because of Chinese arms sales to Zimbabwe, then China’s role in Africa was tainted, and the economic aid and development could not be broadly progressive.

    I countered that that the account of Chinese support for Zimbabwe was exaggerated, (not least by ZANU_PF for their own prestige) that it had not directly related t internal repression, and that some of the Western interests pushing this line had their own agendas. But mainly that no-one is suggesting that the Chinese givernment are saints descended into this imperfect world from heaven, only that ther aid and development policies – notwothstanding the negatives – is progressve in terms of developing African economic sovereignty.

  91. 1) Pretty much. Certainly you’d have to tell me exactly why this was ‘neccessary’. 2) Yeah I’d oppose an imperialist attack. Its hardly very likely is it? And the idea that this is why China supplied them with weapons is good for a belly laugh if nothing else. Look, I understand whilst disagreeing with Andy about where he is coming from (in any case its not worth spilling much blood over because to consider an alternative to neo-liberalism, whatever it is, will require mobilising real forces on the ground, and people like Andy will be a part of that eccentric ideas about China notwithstanding). But you, if you’ll forgive me, seem to be making a David Ellis type mistake. Imagining that we’re living in the 1940s. Debates about the Bolshevik trade union policy etc, or what Trotsky said in 1920 has no relevence at all to debates about the attitudes of activists in Zimbabwe, or other countries in Africa, about the attitude to be taken to Chinese investment today in Africa. We are really discussing whether the existence of a major power which is a rival to western imperialist interests in the region should be regarded as a political alternative by activists in Africa and elsewhere. Its just a different kind of discussion. Historical re-enactment societies are good fun but not greatly relevent. It isn’t as if any of the players themselves see things in that kind of a light. For the very good reason that its totally ridiculous to do so.

  92. It’s really not difficult to document the riot-control gear – see here http://www.humanrightsfirst.info/pdf/080428-CAH-china-zimbab-arms-fs.pdf for instance.

    “In 2004, it was reported that China and Zimbabwe concluded an arms deal worth U.S. $240 million. The deal included 12 fighter jets, 100 military vehicles, armored personnel carriers, riot gear, mobile water cannons, and other equipment.”

    Internal repreassion is not distinct from the wider question of ‘African economic sovereignty’ – trade with China does indeed benefit Africa’s rulers. But is this necessarily in the best interests of the mass of the population, or are there class contradictions between rulers and the ruled?

  93. Incidentally, while the belief that this website can’t descend any lower is regularly disproved, i think it will be a while before anyone improves on Evan Pritchard at #100:

    “Do you believe that it is never justified for anyone to interfere with trade union rights or to otherwise impose repressive management practices on workers?”

    Well, yes, on balance, taking one thing with another, at the end of the day, I think I do believe that, yes.

    It may be worth turning it back – under what conditions would Evan Pritchard consent to have his trade union rights interfered with, or have repressive management practices imposed on him?

  94. Evan Pritchard on said:

    #106 Good, a qualified answer- honest give your guru’s record on the subject.

    As for me, I can’t think of many such situations myself, which is why I would wholeheartedly agree with workers in Africa standing up for their rights, whoever the employer is.

  95. Andy Newman #98: “As i understand it, the dockers were following the pro-MDC position of South African leftists like Patrick Bond; but I may have misunderstood.”

    To be fair to Patrick Bond, he has criticised the MDC’s neo-liberal programme of support for total privatisation of industry and services in Zimbabwe.

    And Professor Bond & his associated academic ‘leftists’ don’t hold that much sway in the organised working class movement in South Africa. More significant on the ground is the anti-Mugabe position taken by the South African Communist Party & COSATU.

  96. redbedhead: “If he [Mugabe] didn’t use the jets and RPGs on internal opposition, he certainly used them to strengthen his disastrous and brutal adventure into the DRC.”

    The record of Robert Mugabe and Zanu-PF can be justly criticised in many respects. However, Zimbabwe’s armed reinforcement of the Democratic Republic of Congo government- helping it oppose Western-backed military invasion- was one of Zimbabwe’s best international policies; and was endorsed by most of the states in Southern Africa.

    It was Zimbabwe’s action in solidarity with the DRC that prompted the USA to impose sanctions against Zimbabwe, and was the reason / pretext for the refusal of the hitherto promised financial support by the Britain and the USA for Zimbabwe’s land redistribution programme.

    Redbedhead, your purist ‘leftism’ on this issue- as on several other matters- is perfectly aligned with the agenda of Western imperialism.

  97. …was the reason / pretext for the refusal of the hitherto promised financial support by the Britain and the USA for Zimbabwe’s land redistribution programme.

    As Blair and Short were threatening not to pay in 1997 I’m sceptical of that. Still, I’m cool with the government not supporting these atrocities.

  98. Noah,
    While Zim’s motives in supporting the DRC may have been done for all the right reasons as you say, because Zims had no direct security issues involved in the War, unlike Angola, the problem is not that they went in- it’s that they seem to be rather reluctant to leave.

    There reluctance probably has nothing to do with the fact involvement of Ridgestone with Gecamines, nor the deal between COMINEX and OSLEG to form COSLEG – which doesn’t seem to have made any returns to the Congolese national treasury- but does seem to have dumped rather large sums of money into the out of continent bank accounts of a lieutenant-general in the ZDF and a former Defence Ministry official. Nor have anything to do with the KMC Groups deal for the cobalt and copper concessions occupied by the ZDF.

    One reading could be that the Zims regime needs external sources of capital to keep the army onside, and if that is from robbing the Congo then so be it.

    Or the soldiers could just like the weather, and the fact that they are being paid regularly from the profits of the mines they occupy.

  99. Just a note on the idea of ‘purist leftism’. This is pretty remarkable given the actual diversity of activism in the world and the fact that very large parts of it would not share the general world view of Noah, whose ‘purism’ seems pretty well developed to me. Of course one leftists purism is another leftists dogmaticism.

  100. #100

    “Do you believe that it is never justified for anyone to interfere with trade union rights or to otherwise impose repressive management practices on workers?”

    Thomas Sankara’s government in Burkino Fasu, possibly the most generally progressive government ever on the African continent, did restrict trade union rights.

    IIRC, the main base of trade unionism was among people who had been closly linked with the former French colonial regime, and wanted to preserve their sectional privilages at the expense of the general population. Sankara’s regime was characterised by a dramatic reduction in the privilages of the urban elites (including slashing the salaries and perks of himself and other government ministers).

    The other more general question is that where a socialist state is the employer, then it needs to have a different relationship wth trade unions; though this does not apply in the current discussion about Africa.

  101. #100

    “Do you believe that it is never justified for anyone to interfere with trade union rights or to otherwise impose repressive management practices on workers?”

    Thomas Sankara’s government in Burkino Fasu, possibly the most generally progressive government ever on the African continent, did restrict trade union rights.

    IIRC, the main base of trade unionism was among people who had been closly linked with the former French colonial regime, and wanted to preserve their sectional privilages at the expense of the general population. Sankara’s regime was characterised by a dramatic reduction in the privilages of the urban elites (including slashing the salaries and perks of himself and other government ministers).

    The other more general question is that where a socialist state is the employer, then it needs to have a different relationship wth trade unions; though this does not apply in the current discussion about Africa.

  102. Evan Pritchard on said:

    #104 Fair point. It was a rather silly comment, and quite easily misunderstood, as demonstrated by #106. Again, I am not defending repressive management practices against workers or their unions.

    #112 Interesting point about dogma.

    When does a political framework become an ossified semi-religion changing from a tool to interpret the world (and help change it)into a hinderance?

    As far as Africa and China are concerned, I would be interested to see some study of the relationship between China and African states/ economies now and that which existed in the 60s, 70s and 80s.

    I have a copy of a pamphlet by Lenin, printed in Beijing, which was given to me by someone who was a friend at university and who was issued with it when he served with ZANUs military wing (ZANLA I think) in the liberation war against the Smith regime. I read later that before he tragically died from AIDs he became a strong critic of Mugabe’s regime.

    Chinese influence was incredibly strong (and certainly not always for the best as we know from Angola) on liberation movements and governments in Africa.

    To what extent is current Chinese involvement a completely separate phenomenon from that of this earlier period and to what extent is it linked?

  103. Noah – “Redbedhead, your purist ‘leftism’ on this issue- as on several other matters- is perfectly aligned with the agenda of Western imperialism.”

    I think that Pete Shield and johng have responded appropriately to your missive. I will add that this article by an African-American trade unionist and leftist who has written widely on Africa is worth reading for a fairly detailed look at the relationship between Zimbabwean military enrichment and the war in the DRC. This quote is worth highlighting and, frankly, deflates Noah’s attempt to bully leftists into supporting a corrupt regime on the basis of a false polarity that either we do or we support western imperialism.

    Despite having no territorial interests to defend in relationship to the DRC, as did Angola, for example, Zimbabwe’s leaders signed agreements with then DRC President Laurent Kabila to provide Zimbabwean combat troops in exchange for permission to establish Zimbabwean corporations to exploit Congolese raw materials.

  104. #116

    How is DRC’s natural wealth in raw materials going to be realised witout there being corporations to undertake the extraction, processing and marketing?

    Are you suggesting that an indiginous African corporation is a worse outcome than the Western corporations who were hoping to use the US backed invasion of DRC to their advantage?

    Or ar you saying that you would prefer DRC’s wealth not to be developed at all?

  105. A better way of putting that question would be to ask: how is the DRC’s natural mineral wealth ever going to benefit the population of the DRC if its extraction is organised by multinational corporations seeking to maximise their profits?

    On Burkina Faso (#113 and #114), it’s worth remembering that independence from France came in 1960, and Sankara took power in 1983. Even if the main basis of trades unionism in 1960 was among people closely linked with the former French colonial regime, rather a lot would have changed in 23 years…

  106. #118

    “rather a lot would have changed in 23 years…”

    I think the whole basis of Sankara’s movement was that very little had changed, and that “independence” from France was more a question of form than content.

    In particular the suspicious proximity of Mitterand’s son to the coup that overthrew Sankara suggests that the colonial power retained influence.

  107. Andy, re:117
    I wasn’t arguing that the DRC natural resources shouldn’t be developed, but not at the end of a gun, with the profits being pocketed by senior members of the Zim’s military establishment.

    If the Government want to sign contracts with Chinese companies or Rio Tinto for that matter that is a concern for them- but with an occupying force who’s leaders pocket the dosh in Swiss bank accounts, is that really how you define sustainable and ‘progressive’ economic development?

  108. Nobody said it was the ZANU-PF who originally invaded the DRC but they clearly have used their involvement in the conflict as a way to extract concessions, the benefits of which went into the pockets Zimbabwe’s military elite. And, as chjh notes, that is a rather more relevant point than the national origin of who was exploiting the DRCs resources.

  109. #122

    “the benefits of which went into the pockets Zimbabwe’s military elite”

    so in your view, black self-rule in Africa is just “meet the new boss, same as the old boss”?

  110. “so in your view, black self-rule in Africa is just “meet the new boss, same as the old boss”?”

    This is an excellent example of a straw man based upon nothing that was ever said or implied.

  111. In this case its a bit naughty. As he knows very well that redbedhead believes no such thing.

  112. BenSix. Responding to my point that Zimbabwe’s military intervention in the Congo was ‘the reason / pretext for the refusal of the hitherto promised financial support by the Britain and the USA for Zimbabwe’s land redistribution programme’ you said (#110):

    “As Blair and Short were threatening not to pay in 1997 I’m sceptical of that. Still, I’m cool with the government not supporting these atrocities.”

    You skepticism is totally unfounded.

    Of course, the UK was already seeking to renege on its commitment to fund the land reform. Then, when Zimbabwe sent forces to back the DRC government in 1998, opposing the US & UK supported invasion by Uganda and Rwanda, that provided a further reason / pretext to refuse financial support, and other Western countries and Western-controlled financial institutions followed suit.

    As The Independent reported in December 1999:

    “The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other donors have suspended aid programmes to Zimbabwe because of differences on economic management, especially government spending in the Congo.”

    Check:

    http://21stcenturysocialism.com/article/in_the_shadow_of_empire_01694.html

  113. redbedhead #116: “Noah’s attempt to bully leftists into supporting a corrupt regime on the basis of a false polarity that either we do or we support western imperialism.”

    What a bizarre riposte. How exactly am I trying to ‘bully leftists’? As I said very clearly: ‘The record of Robert Mugabe and Zanu-PF can be justly criticised in many respects.’

    But I’m against the Western sanctions against Zimbabwe, and against your condemnation of Zimbabwe’s military help to the DRC, combating the British & US backed invasion.

    When Third World governments act together to oppose Western imperialist machinations and invasions, that should be explained and supported, not caricatured as ‘disastrous brutal adventures’ etc.

    In the case of Zimbabwe’s armed action in assisting the DRC, that took place under the auspices of the SADC (the Southern African Development Community). Angola and Namibia also sent troops.

    And your claim that this action was ‘disastrous’ is sheer drivel. It was a good example of Third World nations acting in solidarity, to prevent a dreadful situation becoming even worse.

    Check:

    http://www.nation.co.ke/News/africa/-/1066/654710/-/136x1b2z/-/index.html

    Quote:

    “Joseph Kabila reiterated his gratitude to the SADC States for the military assistance DRC received from them during the 1998 war which threatened the security of the country. This DRC second war, called the Great War of Africa broke out in Eastern DRC in August 1998. It directly involved eight African countries, as well as 25 armed groups. The then president of the DRC, Laurent Kabila, sought help from fellow SADC member states who responded by sending in troops which prevented the rebel offensive on Kinshasa.

    “DRC people are generally aware of the military support the SADC provided when the country was facing attacks from various rebellions supported by some neighbouring countries, namely Rwanda and Uganda. “Without Zimbabwean and Angolan military assistance, the city of Kinshasa could have fallen in to any of the rebellions which were fighting the government”, Mafuta Ngoma, a businessman based in Kinshasa recalls.

    “In fact, SADC troops from Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia saved the DRC government and pushed the rebel frontlines away from the capital, preventing the occurrence of general chaos in the country.”

    As for the matter of whether you do or don’t support Western imperialism- that is hardly a false polarity.

  114. Noah – you are attempting bullying by the simple use of the old “slippery slope”, i.e. I point out the widely known fact that Zimbabwe’s military and political elite has used the intervention in the DRC as a means to enrich themselves – and you imply that ‘m calling for sanctions and therefore a supporter of imperialism. Or that pointing out the verifiable evidence that Zimbabwe signed a resource extraction deal as part of the deal to enter the DRC conflict somehow suggests the innocence of the US, the UK or other European powers in this terrible war.
    Now, you may disagree with the implications of those facts and may choose to assert other ones. But attempting to smear and bully by slippery slope anyone who disagrees with your view is not only dishonest it speaks to a rather pathetic defensiveness.

  115. redbedhead: “you are attempting bullying by the simple use of the old “slippery slope”, i.e. I point out the widely known fact that Zimbabwe’s military and political elite has used the intervention in the DRC as a means to enrich themselves – and you imply that ‘m calling for sanctions and therefore a supporter of imperialism.”

    Followed by various epithets: “smear and bully”, “slippery slope”, “dishonest”, “pathetic” etc etc.

    As anyone can see by checking the thread above, you are talking utter nonsense.

    My first post in which I took issue with you (#109) dealt with your egregious characterization of Zimbabwe’s military support for the DRC, which faced US & UK backed invasion, as a “disastrous and brutal adventure”. On that basis, I put to you that you are aligning yourself with Western imperialism.

    I have not commented on your remarks about Zimbabwean involvement in resource extraction in the DRC. Not that this is not an important matter, however it isn’t the issue I took you up on. So please don’t pretend otherwise.

    Nor have I claimed that you support the Western sanctions against Zimbabwe. I have no idea whether or not you support the sanctions.

    However, in your post #116 you bizarrely accused me of trying to “bully leftists into supporting a corrupt regime”, by which ‘corrupt regime’ you presumably mean Zimbabwe.

    To which it was entirely appropriate for me to include in my reply that though many aspects of the record of Robert Mugabe and Zanu-PF can be justly criticised, I’m against the Western sanctions against Zimbabwe.

    I did not expand on this point, but I will very briefly do so now. As exemplified on this thread, one of the Western criticisms of China is that it trades with & invests in Third World countries, eg in Africa, irrespective of the Western provision / witholding of trade & aid to impose economic & political policy domination on the ‘recipient’ countries. One example being Zimbabwe.

    It’s a good thing, in my view, that- by and large- China does not follow this Western agenda.

    And, as I said before, the matter of whether you do or don’t support Western imperialism is hardly a false polarity.