Tang Xiaoyang: Wit­ness to Africa’s Rise

Rather than by pro­vid­ing aid, China has made a big con­tri­bu­tion to Africa’s de­vel­op­ment through even­handed trade ben­e­fit­ing both sides, help­ing African coun­tries build in­ter­nal de­vel­op­ment ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

China Pictorial (English) - - Contents - Text by Hu Zhoumeng

Tang Xiaoyang, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at the de­part­ment of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions of Ts­inghua Univer­sity, is an ex­pe­ri­enced scholar on African de­vel­op­ment and China-africa re­la­tions. Thanks to his trav­els to nearly 20 African coun­tries over the past decade, Tang pub­lished more than 30 aca­demic pa­pers and a book ti­tled China-africa Eco­nomic Diplo­macy and Its Im­pli­ca­tion to the Global Value Chain. Re­cently, he talked to China Pic­to­rial (CP) about the fast-grow­ing con­ti­nent and the char­ac­ter­is­tics of China-africa co­op­er­a­tion.

CP: What led you to aca­demic re­search on Africa?

Tang Xiaoyang: I be­gan re­search­ing Africa in 2006. At the time, Asian coun­tries such as South Korea and In­dia, and es­pe­cially China, were look­ing to in­vest in Africa. I was liv­ing in the United States. Some Amer­i­can con­sult­ing firms were in­ter­ested in why Amer­i­can com­pa­nies were hold­ing back

while Asian busi­nesses were rush­ing to in­vest in Africa. So they asked me to do re­search.

Dur­ing my re­search, I found that in­vest­ment was flow­ing into Africa be­cause of its rapid de­vel­op­ment. And the de­vel­op­ment is com­pre­hen­sive and com­pli­cated, in­volv­ing mul­ti­ple facets in­clud­ing pol­i­tics, eco­nomics, cul­ture and so­ci­ety. I stud­ied eco­nomics and his­tory as an un­der­grad­u­ate and phi­los­o­phy in grad­u­ate school, so I had spe­cial in­ter­est in re­search­ing such a com­pre­hen­sive is­sue with far-reach­ing in­flu­ence. The de­vel­op­ment of Africa is con­nected to the liveli­hood of more than a bil­lion peo­ple, so I con­tin­ued fo­cus­ing on aca­demic re­search in this area.

CP: You have vis­ited Africa many times for re­search. Which coun­tries have you been to? Who

have you met? What did you re­search?

Tang: Since 2007, I have vis­ited Africa al­most every year and trav­eled to nearly 20 coun­tries in­clud­ing Egypt, Ethiopia, Nige­ria, Kenya, Tan­za­nia, Uganda, Ghana, An­gola, Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo, South Africa, Zam­bia, Botswana and Mozam­bique. Most of the peo­ple I met there are gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and busi­ness­men. My re­search fo­cuses on eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in Africa and re­lated so­cial is­sues and en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion.

CP: What is the most prom­i­nent change in Africa since your first visit?

Tang: In gen­eral, African coun­tries have seen fast growth in the past decade, marked by in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion. This is il­lus­trated by the in­creas­ing num­bers of lo­cal fac­to­ries. Many prod­ucts that used to be im­ported from over­seas can be made lo­cally now. As a re­sult, work­ers’ wages are ris­ing, in­fras­truc­ture is im­prov­ing and ur­ban­iza­tion is ac­cel­er­at­ing.

CP: What dif­fer­en­ti­ates Chi­nese sup­port to African de­vel­op­ment from that provided by other coun­tries?

Tang: As early as in the 1960s and 1970s, China launched sev­eral aid projects such as con­struc­tion of the Tan­za­nia-zam­bia Rail­way in Africa. China has also made sim­i­lar ef­forts in re­cent years to help build hos­pi­tals and schools on the con­ti­nent. How­ever, not through aid, but through even-handed trade that ben­e­fits both sides, has China made its big­gest con­tri­bu­tion to the de­vel­op­ment of Africa. Such meth­ods have sel­dom been at­tempted by other coun­tries. Equal trade be­tween China and Africa boosts the proac­tiv­ity of both sides and pro­motes bet­ter al­lo­ca­tion of re­sources, while straight aid only fu­els pas­sive “re­ceiv­ing” from the African side. Equal trade be­tween China and Africa helps African coun­tries bet­ter un­der­stand mod­ern eco­nomic modes, ac­cu­mu­late more in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion ex­pe­ri­ence, ac­tively

par­tic­i­pate in the in­ter­na­tional di­vi­sion of la­bor, learn more about man­age­ment, im­prove com­merce and trade and re­al­ize sus­tain­able growth.

CP: Some Chi­nese en­ter­prises have had trou­ble adapt­ing to lo­cal laws and cul­ture af­ter en­ter­ing the African mar­ket. Are they do­ing bet­ter now?

Tang: These prob­lems fre­quently hap­pen to new ar­rivals. I did learn that some Chi­nese com­pa­nies in Kenya and Ethiopia were hav­ing trou­bles with em­ploy­ment and en­vi­ron­ment is­sues. Thanks to the ef­forts of Chi­nese em­bassies and con­sulates, cham­bers of com­merce and non- gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions in spread­ing knowl­edge of lo­cal laws, the sit­u­a­tion has im­proved to­day. How­ever, Africa is trans­form­ing rapidly in many as­pects, so it is hard to avoid con­flict com­pletely. New busi­ness en­trants in Africa cer­tainly need time to adapt to the lo­cal con­text.

CP: How does ris­ing anti-glob­al­iza­tion and pro­tec­tion­ism around the world threaten Africa? How can Africa and China jointly ad­dress this chal­lenge?

Tang: Trade pro­tec­tion­ism does im­pact Africa. For in­stance, Rwanda banned the im­port of se­cond-hand clothes, and the United States cut its tar­iff pref­er­ence for the coun­try in re­sponse. In this con­text, China and African coun­tries should all de­velop their own mar­kets as much as pos­si­ble and en­hance trade be­tween de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. But I be­lieve trade pro­tec­tion­ism won’t last long. The sit­u­a­tion will im­prove in the near fu­ture.

Tang Xiaoyang, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at the de­part­ment of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions of Ts­inghua Univer­sity, takes a photo with a teacher with CITIC BN Vo­ca­tional School (An­gola) at the school’s gate. cour­tesy of Tang Xiaoyang

April 4, 2018: A har­vester works at Wan­bao rice farm in Gaza, Mozam­bique. The rice farm is a key project of Chi­naMozam­bique co­op­er­a­tion. Xin­hua 1 1

Work­ers at a sisal hemp pro­cess­ing fac­tory in Tan­za­nia. cour­tesy of Tang Xiaoyang 2 2

3 A worker in­tro­duces cow breed­ing at an academy of agri­cul­tural sciences in Ethiopia. cour­tesy of Tang Xiaoyang 3

Jan­uary 11, 2017: In Mombasa, Kenya, lo­cals cel­e­brate the first batch of diesel trains man­u­fac­tured by Chi­nese en­ter­prises for the 480-kilo­me­ter-long Mom­basaNairobi rail­way. Xin­hua

De­cem­ber 13, 2017: A Chi­nese busi­ness­man shows prod­ucts to vis­i­tors at the first Ex­hi­bi­tion of the China-africa Pro­duc­tion Ca­pac­ity Co­op­er­a­tion in Nairobi, Kenya. Xin­hua

July 28, 2016: Qian Kem­ing, China’s vice min­is­ter of com­merce, ad­dresses the Sem­i­nar on China-africa Busi­ness Co­op­er­a­tion in Bei­jing. IC

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