Africa doesn’t need US ad­vice on China

Bei­jing is much more of a nat­u­ral ally be­cause it di­rectly sup­ported con­ti­nent’s strug­gles against colo­nial­ism and op­pres­sion

China Daily European Weekly - - COMMENT - By GER­ALD MBANDA The au­thor is a jour­nal­ist based in Ki­gali, Rwanda, and is a com­men­ta­tor on po­lit­i­cal is­sues in Africa. The views do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect those of China Daily.

The re­cent visit to some African coun­tries by Rex Tiller­son, who was then US sec­re­tary of state, ap­peared to have one ma­jor pur­pose: to arm-twist African coun­tries into aban­don­ing flour­ish­ing trade deals and ties with China. The state­ments Tiller­son made on Africa-China re­la­tions were con­sid­ered by many Africans as ar­ro­gant, undiplo­matic and abu­sive to African coun­tries.

Af­ter his meet­ing with African Union Chair­per­son Moussa Faki at the AU head­quar­ters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Tiller­son, who has since been fired, said Amer­ica thinks it is im­por­tant that African coun­tries care­fully con­sider the terms of Chi­nese in­vest­ments in Africa be­cause, to the United States, China’s in­vest­ments do not cre­ate a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of jobs or train­ing pro­grams, or en­able African peo­ple to par­tic­i­pate more fully in the fu­ture. He also said China needs to fol­low in­ter­na­tional rules and norms.

Th­ese state­ments and as­ser­tions are not only in­sin­cere — given the con­duct of the coun­try he rep­re­sents and the nature of US in­ter­na­tional en­gage­ment — but out­right lies.

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts de­scribed th­ese re­marks as a sign of des­per­a­tion and poor diplo­macy that will not change the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Africa and China, but in­stead raise more ques­tions about the mo­tive of the US to feel that its do­mes­tic pol­icy of “Amer­ica First” will also be im­posed on Africa when it comes to the con­ti­nent’s re­la­tions with the rest of the world.

More­over, to as­sume that Africa is get­ting a raw deal from China and there­fore needs ad­vice from the US is an in­sult to African coun­tries, in­sin­u­at­ing that African coun­tries don’t know what they are do­ing or what they want.

Tiller­son should know well that, in busi­ness as well as diplo­macy, a re­la­tion­ship is de­ter­mined by in­ter­ests. The US can en­gage with Africa with­out nec­es­sar­ily un­der­min­ing China, as only in­ter­ests de­ter­mine the nature of the re­la­tion­ship and en­gage­ment.

Why does the US feel that it is more con­cerned about bet­ter trade deals for and the well-be­ing of Africa than China, and what would make African coun­tries be­lieve this kind of view? Suf­fice it to say that China is more of a nat­u­ral ally to Africa than any other coun­try that claims so, be­cause China di­rectly sup­ported African coun­tries in their strug­gles against colo­nial­ism and op­pres­sion.

What has been Africa’s his­tor­i­cal re­la­tion­ship with the US? From the 16th to the 19th cen­turies, Africa was sub­jected to the worst hu­man rights abuse in the form of the slave trade. This evil trans-At­lantic trade not only took Africans as slaves to Amer­ica, but also de­pleted African re­sources in vast quan­ti­ties, while hun­dreds of thou­sands of Africans were killed in the process. The African peo­ple lost their dig­nity, and their wealth en­riched the US. The slave trade rad­i­cally im­paired Africa’s po­ten­tial to de­velop eco­nom­i­cally and main­tain its so­cial and po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity. His­to­rian Hugh Thomas es­ti­mates that at least 13 mil­lion Africans were shipped to the Western hemi­sphere, out of which 11.3 mil­lion were de­liv­ered to the new world, while more than 1.7 mil­lion Africans were mur­dered in the process.

The re­cent threat by the US to im­pose

Why is the US openly at­tack­ing China for its ac­tiv­i­ties in Africa? Is it be­cause the US in­flu­ence not only in Africa but also in the rest of the world is threat­ened by China’s lu­cra­tive deals and for­eign pol­icy of non­in­ter­fer­ence in other coun­tries’ in­ter­nal af­fairs?

sanc­tions on East African coun­tries for ban­ning the im­ports of sec­ond-hand clothes, in or­der to pro­tect their nascent tex­tile in­dus­tries, was an eye opener to many African coun­tries to the un­fair trade re­la­tions be­tween Africa and the US. If for hun­dreds of years the US has ex­er­cised pro­tec­tion­ism for its home in­dus­tries, why does it seek to stop African coun­tries from pro­tect­ing their in­dus­tries against un­fair com­pe­ti­tion, es­pe­cially that of used clothes? This is an out­right dou­ble stan­dard, and it has been openly re­jected by African coun­tries.

Renowned African econ­o­mist Dam­bisa Moyo says in her book Dead Aid that Africa has re­ceived more than $1 tril­lion (810 bil­lion eu­ros; £712 bil­lion) of de­vel­op­ment aid from Western gov­ern­ments (in­clud­ing the US), but rightly ob­serves that the money has not helped Africa but ru­ined it. Most of the aid money has been si­phoned back to the Western coun­tries through fraud and cor­rup­tion. Her ad­vice to African coun­tries to emerge out of poverty in­cludes a rec­om­men­da­tion en­cour­ag­ing the Chi­nese pol­icy of large-scale direct in­vest­ment in in­fra­struc­ture, which is al­ready hap­pen­ing in many African coun­tries un­der China-Africa co­op­er­a­tion agree­ments.

The world of se­crecy seems to be get­ting nar­rower and cheaters ex­posed. Amer­i­can au­thor John Perkins has ex­posed how the US cheats coun­tries around the globe out of tril­lions of dol­lars in the era of glob­al­iza­tion. In the book Con­fes­sions of an Eco­nomic Hit Man, Perkins gives de­tailed ac­counts of how the US, through in­ter­na­tional en­ter­prises, con­vinces poor coun­tries to ac­cept huge de­vel­op­ment loans and en­sures that the projects are con­tracted to US com­pa­nies. Once a poor coun­try is en­gulfed in enor­mous debts that can­not be paid back, the US ad­min­is­tra­tion de­mands more fa­vors, such as “ac­cess to nat­u­ral re­sources, mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion and po­lit­i­cal sup­port”, to give it more time or de­vel­op­ment loans to re­pay the debt. There is a lot of in­trigue, greed and cor­rup­tion link­ing the US ad­min­is­tra­tion and US cor­po­ra­tions on how to steal from un­sus­pect­ing African and other poor coun­tries.

Why is the US openly at­tack­ing China for its ac­tiv­i­ties in Africa? Is it be­cause US in­flu­ence, not only in Africa but also in the rest of the world, is threat­ened by China’s lu­cra­tive deals and for­eign pol­icy of non­in­ter­fer­ence in other coun­tries’ in­ter­nal af­fairs?

The China-pro­posed Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive is con­sid­ered a grand vi­sion for in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment and con­nec­tiv­ity. Econ­o­mist Pi­eter Bot­te­lier says that it is a ma­jor vi­sion of how China can col­lab­o­rate with its neigh­bors, Europe and Africa, adding that the sig­nif­i­cance of the ini­tia­tive has been un­der­rated in the US and the West in gen­eral. Tiller­son’s re­cent re­marks on China-Africa re­la­tions there­fore smack of ag­gres­sion by a coun­try that has just come out of its slum­ber to re­al­ize that it has been out­smarted in terms of eco­nomic in­vest­ments and en­gage­ment, and can­not think of a smarter alternative to get back what it thinks it has lost.


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