China’s Conquest of Africa – Andreas Lorenz and Thilo Thielke

In a lengthy article in Germany’s Der Spiegel, Andreas Lorenz and Thilo Thielke examine the consequences for of China’s powerful presence on the continent:

In the early 1990s, Zambia abandoned its socialist planned economy, Kaunda withdrew from politics and the ongoing slump in copper prices precipitated an economic crisis. In the late 1990s, when then-president Frederick Chiluba felt compelled to give in to pressure from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to privatize the unproductive, unprofitable state-owned mines, the price of a ton of copper was barely $900.

At the time, no one in Africa — or, for that matter, in New York, London or Geneva — foresaw India’s and China’s rise as economic powers, or the attendant thirst for resources. When rising demand suddenly drove up copper prices to previously unanticipated levels, it was yet another stroke of bad luck for poor that the country had already sold off much of its copper-mining rights to the Australians, Canadians, Indians and Chinese.

…This Chinese-African relationship is governed by the old principle of give and take. In return for defending the Chinese government against criticism for the Tiananmen Square massacre or even, as former Namibian President Sam Nujoma did, congratulating the Beijing regime for putting down the “anti-revolutionary” movement, Africans receive Beijing’s blessing for their own ruthless treatment of dissidents.

According to the Washington-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, “China’s willingness to arm and seek political support from African regimes jars with international efforts to foster democratization and good governance.” [Full text]

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