Is China Wearing Out Its Welcome In Africa? – OpEd


The following is an excerpt from my new column in Spear’s magazine.

The explosive economic growth of China over the past decade has transformed millions of lives, redefined investors’ portfolios and even shifted the global balance of power. The BRIC economies now represent 20 per cent of the global economy, four times ten years ago.

One of the most remarkable aspects of China’s economic transformation has been its growth in soft power, especially among many African nations where it has become the number one trading partner, allowing Chinese manufacturers access to critical raw materials at the most advantageous prices while also providing a market for manufactured exports.

China - Africa Relations
China – Africa Relations

But will this last forever? There are some cautionary signs which may signal a much more difficult future for China in Africa. The concerns that China may be wearing out its welcome came to a head in July when the president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, visited premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing. Among all the backslapping and platitudes shared between the two leaders, President Zuma came to China with a bold message: Africa does not intend to become China’s resource colony.

‘Africa’s commitment to China’s development has been demonstrated by supply of raw materials, other products and technology transfer,’ President Zuma said. ‘This trade pattern is unsustainable in the long term. Africa’s past economic experience with Europe dictates a need to be cautious when entering into partnerships with other economies.’

Zuma’s comparison of China to the colonial European powers that ravaged the continent is illustrative of a new attitude prevailing in a number of African capitals I have visited in the past year. A growing sense of resentment over what are perceived to be unfair terms, an infamous tolerance of state corruption and alleged human-rights abuses of workers at state-owned mines has many African leaders, such as President Zuma, arguing a tougher line with Beijing.

But China’s problems in Africa go beyond politics. Beijing was successful for so many years in creating a massive footprint in Africa thanks to loans featuring no conditionality for democratic or economic reforms, to imported skilled labour to make every project deadline and to a glut of artificially cheap manufactured goods for Africa’s underserviced consumers.

Read the full version of the article here.

Robert Amsterdam

Robert Amsterdam is an international lawyer and founding partner of the law firm Amsterdam & Peroff.

3 thoughts on “Is China Wearing Out Its Welcome In Africa? – OpEd

  • August 31, 2012 at 11:38 am

    As much as Europeans exploited Africa to a certain degree, African leaders and despots were very much part of the eploitative nature of post colonialism. Political rhetoric towards the USA and Europe continue today as a matter of expediency. Forgotten is the Soviet exploitation of Africa and the untold misery that the eporting of unworkable ideologies caused. African resources were plundered for arms and ammunition from the Soviet bloc. The Chinese have just moved into the vacuum created by the Soviets and in addition to dumping of cheap products, they are trying to maintain the “Communist” presence in Africa. In South Africa all woes are blamed on the Apartheid system, but very little is being done by the current regime other than blame the past. Corruption and state bureaucracy is no doubt being exploited by the Chinese to call in good on aid offered to the then liberation movements. However, Africans should not blame the Chinese for too much as much of the economic prosperity currently being experienced in Africa is due largely to the Chinese.

  • September 1, 2012 at 12:13 am

    successions in processes of development in number of countries natural as maturing progressing.

  • September 1, 2012 at 3:45 am

    Zuma is just bargaining. The Africans are getting a way better deal from the Chinese than they ever did from the Europeans and the Americans. “Is China Wearing Out Its Welcome In Africa?” That’s just wishful thinking. They won’t be leaving Africa anytime soon.


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