Posted by: bklunk | February 12, 2007

Doing Well By Doing Good?

Beffa’s International Relations Blog queries China’s motives in its economic relations with African countries.


Yesterday in class I read an article that described China’s relations with several African countries. Also in class we discussed the idea that “ones position depends on where they sit”. I thought that this article did a very good job at describing the various points of views that China and the several other African players have.

Mainly the article presented two ways to look at China’s economic relations with Africa. The fist that China is helping several African nations, like South Africa, and China is also helping promote the development of several countries. The article states that China has aided in several works projects. But on the other hand China many nations feel that China is doing to returning Africa to its colonized state of the early 20th century.

But the fact of the matter is that China seems to be promoting its own wealth and the wealth of others at the same time, what we see depends on where we sit. Say I’m inclined to look at this through a more liberal approach I would look at China’s actions as promoting relative gains through Africa. So what if China gains more x than its partner, the fact is both countries have gained more than they had before. But if more inclined to a realist perspective I’d say that china is in fact gaining more x and therefore is becoming more powerful not only in its relation to its partner but also to all other nations who are not part of this trade.

So what is the truth? As stated before it seems that China is doing both at the same time. A student in our class who lived in South Africa recently even stated that countries like South Africa have benefited tremendously from trade with China, but other like Zimbabwe have been left in the dust. It seems as if the world is watching to see if China will become the new African colonizer or if it actually help the troubled continent.

It seems that like good capitalists, the Chinese may be concentrating their attention on the countries in Africa that offer the most beneficial relationships with China, and maybe not on those that need it most.

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  1. China’s recent overtures to various African states prove to me that Chinese leadership understands how trade can improve one’s position of power on the world stage, especially as certain resources become more valuable for their own domestic production.

    First of all, I am a firm believer in the capitalist view of trade: two parties do not trade with one another unless each party sees the trade as beneficial. If the African states weren’t benefiting from increased trade with China, they wouldn’t participate in the trade. So, from the African point of view, the new Chinese relationship is a good thing.

    As for what China is actually doing, I think that comparisons to 19th and 20th century colonization of Africa are way off the mark. In the past, the Western powers swooped into Africa to gain control of natural resources behind the barrel of a gun with little regard for the peoples who already inhabited the continent. Today, however, China has come to Africa to establish a two-way partnership that is, as I stated previously, beneficial to both parties; the situation is a far cry from the master/slave relationship that existed between the African colonies and their European “mother” countries.

  2. I believe that China’s venture to Africa displays the integrity as well as intelligence among the Chinese government. I think that it is good that they are not only making relationships with other countries, but that the countries are of Africa, a continent with many impoverished and less-developed countries that could benefit from trade with China. Also at the same time, they would be helping China with resources that they are unable to naturally produce or have.

    However, on the flip side, it could be true that China is promoting themselves, thus only making them stronger. And while Africa is being helped in the mean time, could China have other motives in mind that would in turn leave Africa dependent or locked by China? Obviously it is difficult to know all the Chinese Government’s plans and motives, and a lot would have to happen over a period of time for such an outcome, but it is just a thought as to what China could be thinking. But opposed to this, perhaps we can give China the benefit of the doubt, and that they truly are trying to make good relations with Africa, and that it may seem that they are promoting themselves more because they are more developed.

  3. I am torn. On one hand, I am inclined to believe that China is working only with the countries of Africa which they feel they can benefit from. On the other hand, in working with China, these countries are probably benefitting more than they ever would have without China. So, where is the line between a symbiotic relationship, and a parasitic relationship? Does it matter that China is probably benefitting more than the other countries? It is nearly impossible, and unfair, to assume to know China’s underlying agena in working with the African countries. And I suppose it could be argued that no matter what, these countries are still benefitting. It seems more important to ask if these countries think their relationship with China is a positive, cooperative one. If so, then maybe that is all that matters.

    The idea of promoting cooperative, symbiotic relationship between developing countries and world powers is important. Not only can it be seen as incredibly profitable for both parties, but it also serves as a reminder of just how connected we all are. These days, that is easy to forget. In maintaining positive relationships between more powerful countries and developing countries, a more humanitarian outlook is encouraged. At the same time, it is important that the more powerful countries do not take on a martyr complex, in which they assume they are “saving” the developing countries.

  4. I’m sorry but I have to be cynical about this eight nation trip to Africa by Chinese president Hu Jintao. I don’t see a benevolent world power trying to provide assistance to an impoverished and undeveloped part of the world. Instead I see a country that is expanding economically beyond its wildest dreams and is using a region (that is filled with mineral and oil resources and is desperate for money flow and investment)to run their energy-driven economic engine. China does indeed think long-term. Take for instance their decision to peg the yuan to the U.S. dollar. Not only did it cause the currency to become stable but also surged their economy through export-oriented practices by making their goods look cheap in the world. This action and the decision to buy up the immense US debt has allowed China to have great bargaining power towards the United States. I’m not trying to state explicitly that China is trying to become the world’s superpower but their actions make it seem that way. Furthermore, I’m a person who thinks that usually where there is smoke there’s fire.

    The reason why I’m critical is mostly based on the observation that China seems to help Africa by investing in the country. But the concern never seems to be with the people. To me it doesn’t seem like colonization but does seem to be an effort to gain influence in the region. Maybe a realization by China of the soft power that it can gain by investing and giving foreign aid to these countries. I guess the reason why I said it doesn’t seem they care about helping the African people is the question “If they wanted to improve Africa, then why did they abstain from the UN resolutions that put pressure on the Sudanese government to stop the genocide in Darfur?” Could it be because they had a large stake in the Sudanese oil industry?
    Even though investment will undoubtedly help the African nations maybe the danger of exploitation by a major power offsets the benefits.

  5. I two am at a fork in the road when looking at China’s interests in the
    African Countries. Like explained, there are two ways to look at this. One
    way is to see that China is trying to take a Capitalist approach with
    trading. It is going to Africa and trading with some of the countries there
    and also gaining a single-uni-type power from doing this. But on the other
    hand, it can be argued that China is helping some of these countries at the
    same time by being a trading partner and they both can gain from it. I
    would like to believe the later, but I think that China is looking after it
    own interests, and is really just looking to help themselves and gain more
    power themselves that but helping others gain power at the same time.

  6. I think that it is like the situation where “the rich do what they will, the poor do what they must.” China is obviously in a position of power so they have the freedom to “do what they will.” I had a question though. Does China actually claim to be helping Africa? Or is their main objective to improve themselves?

  7. Everybody has done an excellent job outlining and analyzing the two ways to look at what China is doing from an outside perspective. The consensus (among bloggers) seems to that there are two possible motivations for China’s economic relations in African countries. Does anybody think how great a position this is for China to be in from their point of view?–on the one hand other countries may view China as a benevolent trading partner and on the other hand others may think China is gaining more than giving: those are the two sides people seem to be pointing out. From China’s perspective this is win-win…either they gain both monetarily and socially (for appearing as “helpers”) or they just gain monetarily….it’s rather silly to attempt to hash out which side China appears to be on because I really think they are successfully balancing on the line with this one! Some will still see them as helpers regardless of their motivations and those that don’t–who cares… What a well executed move on China’s part, indeed!

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