Sommet sino-africain: après la Françafrique, voici la… Chinafrique!

Chinafrique
Contrairement aux pays occidentaux, la Chine ne demande aucune condition aux gouvernements en place et fait même de sa non ingérence un argument de vente. Valérie Niquet

Au lendemain du plus grand sommet international jamais tenu en Chine (les 3-5 novembre derniers: 48 pays invités, 1500 delegués et plus d’un millier de journalistes africains) retour, avec ce petit entretien de la spécialiste de la Chine Valérie Niquet dans l’Expansion, sur le néocolonialisme à la chinoise, c’est-à-dire sans douleur (apparente) et sans conditions.

Autrement dit, en échange de ses besoins toujours plus grands en matières premières et de quelques votes de soutien à l’ONU pour éviter les questions sur sa propre politique et pour finir d’isoler Taiwan (plus que quatre derniers soutiens africains depuis son premier abandon par l’Egypte il y a 50 ans), la Chine se pose à la fois en modèle et en dernier recours.

Alignant crédits, investissements, remises de dettes et son véto au Conseil de sécurité (sans parler, sur le plan économico-politique, de son modèle d’autoritarisme étatique), elle promet, contre le « néo-impérialisme » occidental des exigences de démocratisation et de transparence économique, de maintenir en place (on n’est pas à un petit génocide près !) les Mugabe et autres Omar el-Béchir, nombreux dans cette partie du monde.

En somme, une sorte dMe Françafrique mais… à l’échelle de la toute nouvelle puissance chinoise! Sauf qu’elle amène aussi (et à des prix défiant toute concurrence) ses propres produits, main d’oeuvre et… conditions de travail!

D’où la frustration déjà palpable en France, qui commence à en sentir les effets, jusqu’à la semaine dernière le rejet définitif du « trop français » Bernard Kouchner au poste de nouveau patron de l’OMS au profit de… la Chinoise Margaret Chan!

« La stratégie de la Chine retarde les évolutions démocratiques en Afrique »
LExpansion.com 03/11/2006

L’Afrique est-elle un partenaire commercial privilégié pour la Chine ?
Elle pèse beaucoup moins que l’Europe, les Etats-Unis ou le reste de l’Asie. Mais elle pèse de plus en plus. En 2000, le montant du commerce entre la Chine et l’Afrique équivalait à 10 milliards de dollars. Aujourd’hui, on est plus proche des 50 milliards, sans compter le commerce non officiel. Bien que cela puisse surprendre, les échanges sont à peu près équilibrés. Il y a même un léger excédent pour l’Afrique, grâce à des pays comme le Soudan, l’Angola, ou le Nigeria qui fournissent à la Chine une grande partie du pétrole dont elle a besoin.

Des voix s’élèvent pour dénoncer le pillage de l’Afrique auquel la Chine se livrerait…
La Chine a des besoins très importants en matière première et en minerais, et c’est pourquoi elle cherche la solution la plus efficace. Or la solution la plus efficace, c’est, en quelque sorte, d’acheter les autorités locales, en nouant avec elles des droits d’exploitations contre l’octroi de prêts et d’aides qui peuvent parfois s’apparenter à de la corruption. Et contrairement aux pays occidentaux, la Chine ne demande aucune condition aux gouvernements en place et fait même de sa non ingérence un argument de vente. Au Soudan par exemple, la Chine a littéralement bâti toute l’industrie pétrolière, soutenant à bout de bras un régime mis sur la sellette à cause du Darfour. Plus généralement, Pékin utilise sa condition de membre permanent du conseil de sécurité de l’ONU pour offrir des garanties politiques à des régimes corrompus. La Chine a beau jouer sur la fibre tiers-mondiste, cette pratique rappelle les stratégies que les pays occidentaux avaient mises en place juste après la décolonisation. Et retarde les évolutions démocratiques nécessaires en Afrique.

Comment réagissent les population africaines à ce « néo-colonialisme » ?
Plutôt mal. Elles bénéficient très peu des investissements chinois en Afrique, dont profitent plutôt les gouvernements. Les biens de consommation chinois de basse qualité, comme les produits textiles, les cuvettes en plastique, les médicaments ou encore les pièces détachées, sont exportés en toute clandestinité et envahissent les marchés africains. Ils sont meilleur marché et les Africains ne peuvent pas rivaliser, ce qui engendre toutes sortes de problèmes sociaux. Il faut aussi souligner le fait que, très souvent, les entreprises chinoises qui viennent en Afrique apportent leur propre main d’œuvre, notamment dans la construction, ce qui limite fortement les retombées locales. Et quand, plus rarement, elles emploient de la main d’œuvre africaine, comme dans les mines ou dans les sociétés d’exploitation agricole, elles imposent leurs propres conditions de travail, qui sont très difficiles. Cela peut mener à des révoltes, comme en Zambie.

Propos recueillis par Thomas Bronnec

Voir aussi:


3e Forum Chine-Afrique : le triomphe de Pékin

RÉALISÉ PAR JEAN-MARC GONIN AVEC JULIEN NESSI
Le Figaro, le 03 novembre 2006

res commerciaux juste derrière la France. Quand il se rappelle les premiers coopérants chinoiLa Chine est de plus en plus sensible aux problèmes internationaux. On l’a vu par sa présence de plus en plus importante et souhaitable en Afrique, a expliqué Jacques Chirac la semaine dernière en arrivant à Pékin.

Si ce vieux routier des relations diplomatiques a évoqué la « sensibilité », c’est que ses hôtes de Pékin n’en font guère preuve sur le continent noir. Comme le président de la Banque mondiale, Paul Wolfowitz, qui dénonçait récemment la façon dont la Chine néglige « l’évaluation et la gestion des risques sociaux et environnementaux » liés aux projets qu’elle finance en Afrique, Paris conteste l’octroi de prêts sans conditions à des Etats qui ne font aucun cas des critères de bonne gouvernance. Pourtant, ces avertissements ont peu de chances de porter : une semaine après le président français, Pékin accueille le Forum Chine-Afrique qui couronne cinq ans de pénétration politique et commerciale de l’Egypte au cap de Bonne-Espérance. Avec un succès fulgurant : la Chine a quadruplé ses échanges avec l’Afrique et accédé au deuxième rang de ses partenais de l’époque maoïste, l’ancien ministre de la Coopération, Bernard Debré, ironise : « Ils disparaissaient dans la brousse pour fuir le régime et ne jamais rentrer en Chine ! » Aujourd’hui, ils arrivent en masse et travaillent dur avant de retourner au pays. Partout sur le continent, des Chinois bâtissent – ou reconstruisent. A Douala, par exemple, la population ne tarit pas d’éloges pour deux routes qui viennent d’être refaites et rouvertes en septembre dernier.

Les gazettes de la capitale économique du Cameroun vantent les travaux et la vitesse avec laquelle ils ont été effectués. Ce prix d’excellence est décerné à la Chinese Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) qui avait remporté l’appel d’offres en 2004. Et chacun de demander à ce que l’on confie les prochains chantiers à des Chinois. Car les décideurs camerounais ne peuvent que se féliciter : la réalisation a coûté 9 milliards de francs CFA (1,37 million d’euros), alors que des concurrents de la CRBC demandaient jusqu’à 15 milliards de francs CFA, soit 60 % de plus. Cette histoire de routes n’est pas qu’une anecdote, elle témoigne au contraire de la montée en puissance chinoise. La République populaire s’est lancée dans tous les domaines d’activité. Depuis les grands travaux en passant par les matières premières jusqu’au commerce de détail ou aux télécoms, aucun secteur n’est laissé de côté. Trois raisons majeures expliquent ce jeu de go : Pékin s’est taillé une nouvelle zone d’influence politique dans le monde ; la croissance de l’économie chinoise provoque une boulimie d’énergie et de métaux dont l’Afrique regorge ; les biens de consommation fabriqués en Chine trouvent de nouveaux débouchés.

« Non-ingérence » et gros sous

Pas moins de 48 Etats africains ont envoyé des délégations au Forum Chine-Afrique. Dans un livre blanc publié au début de l’année, la République populaire de Chine pose les principes de son action dans cette région du monde : « La Chine oeuvre à établir et à développer un nouveau type de partenariat stratégique marqué par l’égalité et la confiance mutuelle sur le plan politique, la coopération dans un esprit gagnant-gagnant sur le plan économique. » Sur un continent noir souvent confiné depuis la décolonisation au tête-à-tête avec ses anciens « maîtres » européens, la main tendue chinoise ne se refuse pas. Car Pékin n’est pas regardant : quand les Européens mettent des conditions (transparence, droits de l’homme, ouverture des marchés) à leur aide, leurs prêts ou leurs investissements, les Chinois, au nom de la non-ingérence, n’en posent aucune. « Lorsqu’on dit non à un gouvernement africain ou qu’on assortit un accord à des exigences politiques qui ne lui conviennent pas, il va frapper à la porte de l’ambassade de Chine », résume le conseiller français d’un président d’Afrique occidentale.

Dans chaque avion qui atterrit en Afrique, il y a au moins un Chinois à bord, s’amuse-t-on sur le continent noir (selon Valérie Niquet, directeur du Centre Asie Ifri, 130 000 Chinois seraient déjà installés). Une sorte de réciproque existe pour les voyages officiels. « Sur vingt déplacements gouvernementaux à l’étranger, quinze ont désormais la Chine pour destination », poursuit le même conseiller. Les capitales africaines, elles, ne cessent de dérouler le tapis rouge sous les pas d’hôtes arrivés de Pékin. En septembre dernier, Wu Guanzheng, membre du bureau politique du Parti communiste chinois a visité le Rwanda, Madagascar, le Botswana et le Gabon (voir encadré). Au début de l’année, c’était le ministre des Affaires étrangères Li Zhaoxing qui s’était rendu au Cap-Vert, au Sénégal, au Mali, au Liberia, au Nigeria et en Libye. A Monrovia (Liberia), il a offert 25 millions de dollars pour la reconstruction de ce pays dévasté par la guerre et accordé un prêt sans intérêt de 5 millions de dollars. En avril, le président Hu Jintao avait, lui, visité le Maroc, le Nigeria et le Kenya. A Lagos, en échange de quatre licences d’exploitation pétrolière, il a fait cadeau de 4 milliards de dollars d’aide aux infrastructures. A Nairobi, il a obtenu les droits d’exploitation pétrolière d’un domaine de 115 000 kilomètres carrés dans l’océan Indien en contrepartie de 7,5 millions de dollars d’aide et de prêts pour la lutte contre la malaria, pour le développement de la riziculture et la construction d’un grand stade. Enfin, en juin, le premier ministre Wen Jiabao était allé en Egypte, au Ghana, au Congo Brazzaville, en Angola, en Afrique du Sud et en Tanzanie. A Luanda, il a signé un accord sino-angolais de 1,4 milliard de dollars sur des gisements offshore. Toute grande puissance qu’elle est, la Chine veut être le « grand frère » des pays en développement. En privilégiant une approche « Sud-Sud », en se démarquant de ce qui est ressenti comme le paternalisme d’un Occident donneur de leçons, en montrant qu’on peut réussir en partant de très loin et sans pour autant se plier à des réformes démocratiques, elle se pose à la fois en modèle et en recours. Pékin ne désigne pas de parias : le Soudan ou le Zimbabwe, vilipendés en Occident, sont dignes d’égards. « Le rejet de l’ingérence apparaît comme une dénonciation des théories du “regime change”, ou d’évolutions pacifiques dénoncées comme une nouvelle forme d’impérialisme », écrit Valérie Niquet*.

Veto à l’ONU contre or noir

Pékin en tire un bénéfice à l’ONU. La Chine peut compter sur les voix africaines, qu’il s’agisse, évidemment, de la question de Taïwan, ou plus généralement de résolutions que sa diplomatie réprouve. En contrepartie, elle veille aux intérêts de ses « clients ». Sur le drame du Darfour, par exemple, le représentant chinois au Conseil de sécurité veille à ce que le Soudan ne soit pas mis au ban des Nations unies. Cette sollicitude vient d’abord de la voracité de l’économie chinoise. D’abord en pétrole. Déjà, 25% de l’or noir consommé en Chine provient d’Afrique (deuxième importateur de pétrole africain derrière les Etats-Unis). Un baril sur quatre produits en Angola part pour la Chine tandis que ce rapport passe à six sur dix au Soudan ! Pour ne pas dépendre que de leurs trois fournisseurs principaux – l’Iran, l’Indonésie et Oman –, les compagnies chinoises se sont jetées dans la mêlée autour des nouveaux gisements dans le golfe de Guinée, en Mauritanie, au Niger ou dans l’océan Indien. Ce qui vaut pour le pétrole vaut pour les autres matières premières. Cette Chine devenue « usine du monde» réclame du fer, du cuivre, du nickel, du cobalt, de la bauxite, de l’uranium… Sans oublier le coton ou le bois. Les infrastructures nécessaires à l’exploitation du sous-sol débouchent sur des contrats de travaux publics. Ceux qui revenaient à des sociétés européennes, notamment françaises, tombent à présent dans l’escarcelle de Pékin. Avec une différence notable : les groupes chinois amènent leur main-d’oeuvre. Logés dans des baraquements sur place, voire sur des bateaux à quai, ces ouvriers asiatiques n’ont aucun contact et repartent en Chine sitôt les travaux achevés. Il se murmure qu’il s’agirait de prisonniers auxquels ces « travaux forcés » vaudraient des remises de peine. « Ces importations de travailleurs ne sont pas vues d’un bon oeil en Afrique », avertit néanmoins Bernard Debré. Rien n’échappe non plus au « radar commercial » chinois.

« L’Afrique n’est pas seulement un coffre-fort de matières premières à peine entrouvert, explique Lionel Zinsou, associé gérant chez Rothschild. C’est aussi un marché de 700 millions d’habitants avec un taux de croissance annuel du PIB de près de 6 %. » Ce banquier d’affaires, de mère française et de père africain, déplore « l’afro-pessimisme » qui règne en Europe en général et en France en particulier. Pour lui, l’offensive de la Chine sur le continent noir est celle d’une puissance économique globale qui a besoin de débouchés. Et l’Afrique en est un. Les produits courants, de la bassine de plastique à la bicyclette en passant par le téléviseur, sont « made in China ». Les boutiques, quand elles ne sont pas directement tenues par un Chinois, leur appartiennent de plus en plus souvent. Non sans heurts : à Dakar, la chambre de commerce s’insurge contre « l’invasion ». Des produits plus sophistiqués, comme les téléphones portables, apparaissent. « Les Chinois en donnent une dizaine à des vendeurs des rues, raconte Jean-François Probst, conseiller de nombreux chefs d’Etat africains. Ceux-ci ne paient que ce qu’ils ont vendu. Et ça marche. » Dans une interview aux Echos, Paul Wolfowitz affirme qu’il faut persuader les Chinois de « respecter les normes » en Afrique, notamment en matière de corruption. Leurs succès politiques et commerciaux pourraient les persuader du contraire.

* La Stratégie africaine de la Chine, Politique étrangère, 2006.

Pékin, capitale de l’Afrique pour trois jours
De notre correspondant à Pékin, JEAN-JACQUES MÉVEL.
Publié le 03 novembre 2006
Actualisé le 03 novembre 2006 : 12h44

La Chine, superpuissance du tiers-monde, accueille au Forum de coopération les oubliés de la croissance.

LES CLICHÉS ont la vie dure. À grand renfort de girafes, de zèbres, de tam-tams et d’indigènes posant dans la savane, Pékin a changé de décor pour son grand rendez-vous avec l’Afrique. La Chine, superpuissance du tiers-monde, accueille avec faste le continent des oubliés de la croissance.

Les chefs d’État et de gouvernement de 48 pays attendus au forum de coopération Chine-Afrique ne sont pas dupes. Ce week-end, on discutera bien sûr « d’amitié, de paix, de coopération et de développement », comme le proclament 18 km de banderoles alignées de l’aéroport jusqu’au Palais du Peuple. Mais avec le président Hu Jintao, il sera beaucoup question de pétrole, de cuivre, de bois tropicaux, de gros sous et de luttes d’influence. En dix ans, la Chine a réussi un retour fracassant sur la scène africaine. Les échanges commerciaux ont décuplé. Ils passeront le cap des 50 milliards de dollars cette année 2006 (autant qu’avec les États-Unis) et atteindront à coup sûr les 100 milliards avant 2015 (autant qu’avec l’Europe). Le continent fournit à la République populaire 30 % de son pétrole importé. Plus de 800 entreprises chinoises travaillent en Afrique. Le made in China domine dans les souks et au milieu des boubous.

Regain de croissance

Le sommet, du jamais-vu à Pékin, tient lieu de couronnement. Il suscitera des grincements de dents en Europe, patrie des ex-colonisateurs, comme aux États-Unis, inquiets d’une nouvelle rivalité. Les Africains auront beau jeu de répondre qu’il n’y a plus de chasse gardée et que la place était à prendre en Angola, au Soudan, au Zimbabwe ou au Congo, puisque les Occidentaux ont tordu le nez. Les Chinois diront que leurs appétits expliquent l’envolée des matières premières et, du coup, le regain de croissance que connaît le continent noir depuis 2001. « L’objectif n° 1 est d’établir un nouveau partenariat avec l’Afrique dans un monde qui change, explique au Figaro, Zhai Jun, vice-ministre des Affaires étrangères et grand ordonnateur du rendez-vous de ce week-end. La Chine est sincère lorsqu’elle souhaite que ce continent puisse combler son retard de croissance. Le forum en sera une étape essentielle. » Pékin ne s’intéresse pas qu’à l’or noir. Elle veut aussi relever le niveau de vie du continent le plus pauvre.

De l’Algérien Abdelaziz Bouteflika au Sud-Africain Thabo Mbeki, du Soudanais Omar el-Béchir à l’Angolais Fernando Dias dos Santos, les invités pourront aussi se pencher sur l’exception chinoise : une croissance et une modernité à couper le souffle, qui s’accommodent d’un pouvoir stable pour ne pas dire d’une main de fer. Pour les régimes africains, c’est un modèle de développement plus séduisant que la « thérapie de choc » chère au FMI, ou les impératifs de « bonne gouvernance » posés par Paris, Londres ou Washington.

Génocide annoncé

Lors de la conférence ministérielle aujourd’hui, puis durant les quarante-huit heures du sommet ce week-end, la Chine doit discuter quelque 2 500 accords avec ses partenaires africains. Ils recouvrent le commerce, l’investissement, l’aide, la formation, la baisse de droits de douane et des réductions de dettes. Contrairement à d’autres créanciers, Pékin ne pose aucun préalable. « Nous ne voulons imposer à personne – et encore moins à l’Afrique – une idéologie, des valeurs, ou un mode de développement », assure le ministre Zhai Jun.

Le marché offert est sans douleur. En échange de son approvisionnement régulier, la Chine garantit son aide et sa bénédiction à tous les gouvernements africains, aussi despotiques et corrompus qu’ils puissent être. Cette politique obstinée de « non-ingérence » est un miroir : en retour, l’équipe Hu Jintao s’estime en droit de rejeter les critiques, d’où qu’elles viennent, sur l’absence de libertés politiques en République populaire.

C’est là aussi que le bât blesse avec les Occidentaux. Le président de la Banque mondiale, Paul Wolfowitz, a récemment pressé les dirigeants chinois de ne pas répéter, par aveuglement, « les erreurs commises par la France et les États-Unis avec le Zaïre de Mobutu », dans les années 1990. La semaine dernière, le président Jacques Chirac a invité Pékin à respecter les règles du jeu et à prendre de vraies responsabilités en Afrique.

Cas d’application parmi d’autres, la Chine se retrouve accusée de fermer les yeux sur un génocide annoncé au Darfour. Le message commence à porter, peut-être. Hu Jintao, recevant hier soir le président soudanais el-Béchir, a pour la première fois appelé à de nouveaux efforts pour « une solution correcte » et une « amélioration de la situation humanitaire » au Darfour.

La Chine double son aide à l’Afrique
lefigaro.fr (avec AFP et AP).
Publié le 04 novembre 2006

Au premier jour du sommet sino-africain de Pékin, le président Hu Jintao a promis de participer au développement de ce continent aux précieuses ressources énergétiques.

«Notre sommet va entrer dans l’Histoire» a lancé le président chinois, Hu Jintao, aux dirigeants africains réunis depuis vendredi à Pékin. Ce sommet sino-africain illustre les liens croissants qui unissent le pays le plus peuplé de la planète à l’Afrique, dont les richesses géologiques et pétrolifères sont jugées essentielles par Pékin pour alimenter sa formidable croissance économique.

«Les populations additionnées des deux ensembles représentent plus d’un tiers de la population mondiale. Sans paix et sans développement en Chine et en Afrique, il n’y aura pas de paix et de développement dans le monde», a poursuivi Hu Jintao. Et de dévoiler une série de mesures d’aides et de soutien à destination des pays africains.

Effacement de la dette de certains pays

La Chine va proposer des prêts à taux préférentiel pour un montant de trois milliards de dollars ainsi que deux milliards de crédits à taux préférentiel.

Entre 2006 et 2009, la Chine va également doubler son aide au continent africain pour tenter de forger un nouveau type de partenariat stratégique et pour renforcer la coopération dans de nouveaux domaines et à un plus haut niveau, a précisé le chef d’Etat chinois.

La Chine va effacer tous les prêts à taux zéro arrivés à échéance en 2005 des pays africains les plus endettés, a dit Hu Jintao, sans toutefois mentionner le nom des pays concernés par cette mesure.

Dans le secteur agricole, la Chine a dit vouloir former 15.000 professionnels africains, envoyer une centaine d’experts en Afrique et y construire dix centres spécialisés dans les techniques agricoles.

Elle s’est également engagée à construire 30 hôpitaux et à accorder 300 millions de yuans (37,5 millions de dollars) pour lutter contre la malaria. Près de 300 jeunes volontaires chinois devraient se rendre sur le continent africain pour y construire une centaine d’écoles dans les zones rurales. La Chine a par ailleurs annoncé son intention de faire passer le nombre de bourses pour les étudiants africains de 2.000 à 4.000 d’ici 2009.

«Politique de non-ingérence»

Cette année, les relations commerciales entre la Chine et l’Afrique devraient atteindre 50 milliards de dollars. Et si le sommet de Pékin est essentiellement une manifestation d’ordre protocolaire, il devrait aussi constituer une occasion de cimenter des accords commerciaux et de finaliser des projets d’investissements en préparation.

Des groupes de défense des droits de l’homme déplorent toutefois les effets de la politique de non-ingérence de Pékin à l’égard de ses partenaires, qui a pour effet de renforcer des gouvernements, soumis par ailleurs à la pression des occidentaux comme au Soudan ou au Zimbahttp://allafrica.com/stories/200611100333.html

La ruée vers Canton des commerçants africains
Par milliers, ils ont fait le voyage pour profiter des opportunités d’un marché où tout est possible.
Par Pascale NIVELLE
Libération, vendredi 3 novembre 2006
Canton envoyée spéciale
Okey Montee s’enfonce dans son fauteuil de directeur, invitant contempler son royaume climatisé. Quinze mètres carrés encombrés d cartons et de costumes d’homme. Les étiquettes Boss ou Armani brillen sous le néon. «Tout ce que vous voulez, on le fait», promet Okey, une main sur la sainte bible posée sur son bureau. « On a toutes les marques. On change les étiquettes, ce n’est pas compliqué.» C’est Dieu qui lui a conseillé de venir à Canton, «l’usine du monde», il y a deux ans. Depuis, tout lui réussit. Il est patron, sa femme va bientôt accoucher, et les affaires… Okey baise les trois premiers doigts de sa main droite : «Une aubaine !» Quand il rentrera au Nigeria, dans longtemps, ce sera en millionnaire.
Tapis.

Canton a désormais son Africatown. Les pionniers sont arrivés il y quelques années, puis le bouche à oreille a fait venir des milliers de commerçants de tout le continent. «Depuis deux ans, c’est la ruée», raconte Toure, du Mali. Des géants en boubou, lunettes noires et attachés-cases, des femmes opulentes, serrées dans des wax (tissus imprimés) colorés déambulent sur les trottoirs. L’échoppe d’un coiffeur chinois annonce en français : «Ici, se faire couper les cheveux, 10 yuans.» Dans un couloir du centre commercial, un homme déplie un tapis et s’accroupit pour la prière. Plus loin, une boutique de boubous et postiches made in China, avec cette invitation : «Bonjour, je suis Marie de Paris, je fais des tresses africaines.» Des filles sapées Armani, des mamas en turban, un gamin sur le dos, entrent, sortent des boutiques en s’interpellant. Les patrons sont africains, les vendeuses chinoises : «Tous mes clients sont africains. Ils ont davantage confiance si les vendeurs sont chinois», dit le jeune patron d’Africa Best Company, vente en gros de maillots d’équipes de basket américaines. La marchandise est «very very cheap» , la qualité «very very good», indique l’enseigne.
Des garçons interminables, casquettes de base-ball et fringues XXL draguent en serrant de près les petites serveuses chinoises, qui rigolent la main devant la bouche. «On n’a pas l’habitude», dit l’une. Il y a cinq ans, des centaines d’yeux effarés auraient scruté les «diables noirs» en silence. Aujourd’hui, il n’y a plus que les chauffeurs de taxi pour les appeler ainsi, furieux parce qu’ «ils marchandent toutes les courses». Des diables noirs épousent des Cantonaises. Les affaires n’ont pas de couleur.
«Les Chinois et nous, on est frères», dit Mohammed, malien et chief manager d’une entreprise de vidéo. Son commerce fonctionne sur le principe d’un loueur de DVD, sauf qu’il est inutile de rapporter. On choisit une boîte vide et on repart avec une copie gravée sur place. 20 yuans (deux euros) le film. Mohammed peut aussi remplir un conteneur de téléphones portables, de groupes électrogènes ou de petites culottes, et l’expédier n’importe où en Afrique de l’Ouest. Il a les contacts ici et une grande famille là-bas.

Avide de bois.

«Avant, on achetait en France», disent Toure et Momo, maliens établis depuis un an. Attablés dans leur QG, le Moka Kafe, ils discutent politique en français, la langue des affaires de l’Afrique francophone. «La Chine produit, l’Afrique achète, tout le monde y trouve son compte, c’est excellent.» Momo tire sur le col de sa chemise de marque : «Ça, je l’achetais à Paris, et je la vendais 100 euros à Bamako. Maintenant, c’est dix euros, là-bas. On participe au développement de l’Afrique.» Si la Chine, avide de bois et de pétrole, déforeste et pille le sous-sol, grand bien lui fasse. «Pour nous, ça ne change rien. L’Europe le fait depuis toujours, et ça ne nous rapporte rien.» Selon leur ami le professeur Niambele, malien et professeur d’anglais, les Chinois sont durs en affaires. Il règle tout en cash et ne paye aucune taxe. «C’est la règle.» Pas la peine de parler mandarin, les calculettes remplacent les palabres. «C’est le Far West, dit Emma, une jeune institutrice française, en Chine depuis une dizaine d’années, pas de règle, pas de barrière. Les Africains sont comme des poissons dans l’eau ici. Le soleil, les gens, la vie pas chère, tout leur va. Ils s’entendent bien avec les Cantonais, les méridionaux de la Chine.» Il y a quand même des règles, à Canton. Ne pas toucher à la drogue, par exemple. «Des Nigérians se sont fait prendre, on ne les a jamais revus, raconte Mohammed. Ils sont fous. Dans les pays des droits de l’homme, ce n’est pas trop grave, tu portes plainte et tu prends un avocat. Mais dans un pays communiste, c’est la prison à vie.» Parfois, la police chinoise fait une descente, ferme une mosquée ou un restaurant aménagés dans un appartement. Le lendemain, le poulet yassa a changé d’adresse. «C’est cool ici», dit Mohammed. Au onzième étage de la tour Xiushan, dans son restaurant bricolé sur le toit, Mme Dembele Rokia attend le client. Dans la chaleur de novembre, deux mamas touillent des bassines fumantes remplies de mouton aux feuilles de bananier ou de poisson séché à la tomate. L’African Mamaya, cuisine du Mali, est une institution à Canton.

– Beyond the China Summit

Zimbabwe Independent (Harare)
COLUMN
November 10, 2006
Posted to the web November 10, 2006

By Dumisani Muleya

CHINESE President Hu Jintao hosted more than 40 African leaders — including President Robert Mugabe — in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing last weekend for the China-Africa summit amid fanfare.

China basked in global publicity as the emerging giant in Africa, competing for economic turf and political influence with Western powers, the United States, Britain and France, whose sway is supposed to be declining.

China’s trade with Africa was worth US$40 billion last year.

Nearly all African countries were represented at what was the largest such event yet held by the country. The event was characterised by a lot of symbolism and rhetoric, as well as ringing resolutions that might have well overshadowed the need to come up with solutions for Africa’s myriad problems.

For a few days African leaders coming from countries collapsing under the weight of misrule and mismanagement such as Mugabe and the likes of Omar al-Bashir of Sudan hid behind the Great Wall of China from the consequences of their policy failures at home.

They enjoyed admiring Chinese success attributable to good economic policies — which some of them are immune to — and reforms introduced after 1978. Hopefully African leaders learnt something about how to reform and build a successful economy from the backwoods.

It would have been a waste of time and public resources if African leaders did not pick up any good lessons from Beijing. But some of them have previously been to countries like Malaysia and learnt nothing.

The event came at a time when China is fast spreading its wings across the world’s poorest continent (which ironically is one of the richest in terms of natural resources) trying to gain a vice-grip on its resources.

Copper, cobalt, platinum, timber and iron ore are all on Beijing’s shopping list in Africa.

While China ideologically and materially supported African liberation struggles and may help some countries to reconstruct their economies, it must also be noted it is not a charity organisation that dishes out gifts to African nations for fraternal reasons.

Times and global dynamics have changed. China is hunting for resources all over the world to service its rapidly expanding economy. Beijing is no longer hidebound in a rigid ideological mindset. It is a rising power trying to secure its place in a changing global order. This is the context of its open show of power and wealth. The competition for trade and investment is hotting up and China has now joined the new but similar scramble for Africa with western powers which have traditionally exploited the continent for centuries. Given the chance, China would want to be the new imperial power on the continent.

Probably because of changed circumstances China would offer a better deal for Africa, but the underlying motive is the same: to expand its influence for economic and political hegemony.

However, it is those countries willing to reform that will benefit from the Chinese largesse, not those who emulate a model the Chinese themselves long ago discarded. This means Mugabe must now quickly put his ducks in a row and reform if he wants to benefit from China via his Look East policy. Sabre-rattling without rhyme or reason while the country is on the skids will not help anyone.

This is China’s story. Coming from a background of a failed Maoist land reform programme and political repression, China launched economic reforms in 1978 by dismantling its command economy.

It deepened reforms of the economic system, capital, commodity, labour and technology markets as part of its socialist market economy vision. This strengthened the regulatory function of the market rather than the state.

Now, as its economy grows, China offers new hope as a major investor, trading partner and provider of aid to Africa. It’s also viewed by others, especially in the third world, as a counterbalance to the west in their efforts to build a new world away from the one dominated by one country or one power bloc.

African leaders, especially dictators, are also comfortable with China because it does not tie aid to such political imperatives as democracy and human rights.

China’s foreign policy is premised on the doctrine of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries whatever the circumstances. African despots who hide behind the cloak of sovereignty to conceal human rights abuses find this most appealing. China emphasises non-interference because it is extremely sensitive about its own human rights record. This shows China, just like Western powers, is driven by self-interest.

Although Mugabe wants to cast himself as China’s best friend in Africa, the real benefits of Chinese investments are going where there are more resources and a chance for better returns. China has offered very little to Zimbabwe in terms of trade and investment besides the paltry aid, low- quality equipment and machinery, fighter jets, and suspect passenger planes.

In fact, Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao recently omitted Zimbabwe from their African tour. This shows Zimbabwe is not a special case for China. Harare must reform if it is to benefit from its « unshakeable » relationship with Beijing.

Copyright © 2006 Zimbabwe Independent. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).

from the March 30, 2005 edition –

A rising China counters US clout in Africa
Trade drives political role ahead of Zimbabwe’s election.

By Abraham McLaughlin | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

HARARE, ZIMBABWE – The Chinese economic juggernaut and its thirst for minerals and markets has increasingly brought it to Africa, including here to Zimbabwe. The fertile hills of this Southern African nation are rich with gold and the world’s second-largest platinum reserves. In Sudan, Angola, and along the Gulf of Guinea, the Asian giant is guzzling the continent’s vast oil supply.

But lately the Chinese are digging on a different front, one that could complicate the Bush administration’s efforts to promote democracy here: African politics.

Last year, China stymied US efforts to levy sanctions on Sudan, which supplies nearly 5 percent of China’s oil and where the US says genocide has occurred in its Darfur region. And as Zimbabwe becomes more isolated from the West, China has sent crates of T-shirts for ruling-party supporters who will vote in Thursday’s parliamentary elections.

In addition, China or its businesses have reportedly:

• provided a radio-jamming device for a military base outside the capital, preventing independent stations from balancing state-controlled media during the election campaign;

• begun to deliver 12 fighter jets and 100 trucks to Zimbabwe’s Army amid a Western arms embargo; and

• designed President Robert Mugabe’s new 25-bedroom mansion, complete with helipad. The cobalt-blue tiles for its swooping roof, which echoes Beijing’s Forbidden City, were a Chinese gift.

China is increasingly making its presence felt on the continent – from building roads in Kenya and Rwanda to increasing trade with Uganda and South Africa. But critics say its involvement in politics could help prop up questionable regimes, like Mr. Mugabe’s increasingly autocratic 25-year reign.

« Suffering under the effects of international isolation, Zimbabwe has looked to new partners, including China, who won’t attach conditions, such as economic and political reform » to their support, says a Western diplomat here. Of China’s influence on this week’s elections, he adds, « I find it hard to believe the Chinese would push hard for free and fair elections – it’s not the standard they’re known for. »

Indeed, Mugabe often praises China and Asia as part of his new « Look East » policy. He responded to tough questions from an interviewer on Britain’s Sky News last year about building his $9 million new home, while millions of Zimbabweans live on the verge of starvation, by saying: « You say it’s lavish because it is attractive. It has Chinese roofing material, which makes it very beautiful, but it was donated to us. The Chinese are our good friends, you see. »

China is becoming good friends to many African nations, as the US has been. Between 2002 and 2003, China-Africa trade jumped 50 percent, to $18.5 billion, Chinese officials say. It’s expected to grow to $30 billion by 2006. US-Africa trade was $44.5 billion last year, according to the Commerce Department. As the world’s largest oil importer behind the US, China has oil interests in Sudan, Chad, Nigeria, Angola, and Gabon. The US is also hunting for oil in Africa, with about 10 percent of imports coming from the continent.

Not all of China’s activities in Africa are controversial. Under the auspices of the UN, the China-Africa Business Council opened this month, headquartered in China, to boost trade and development. It has peacekeepers in Liberia and has contributed to construction projects in Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Zambia, though critics say it is using these projects to garner goodwill that it can tap into during prickly issues like Taiwan’s independence or UN face-offs with the US.

Here in Zimbabwe, China also may be helping to support one of Africa’s more oppressive regimes. The radio-jamming equipment that has prevented the independent Short Wave Radio Africa from broadcasting into the country is Chinese, according to the US-funded International Broadcast Bureau.

Reporters Without Borders, a group dedicated to freedom of the press, based in Paris, had this to say about the jamming: « Thanks to support from China, which exports its repressive expertise, Robert Mugabe’s government has yet again just proved itself to be one of the most active predators of press freedom. »

A Chinese diplomat here insists the equipment didn’t come from China. And he says the T-shirts, which reportedly arrived on Air Zimbabwe’s new direct flight from Beijing, were « purely a business transaction. » But he adds that China-Zimbabwe relations have recently « been cemented in the field of politics and business. »

In return for its support, China has received diplomatic backing on Taiwan’s independence, as it has from many African nations.

Ultimately, China’s expansion into Zimbabwe and Africa is more narrow than the 1800s colonization by European powers, when « Christianity, civilization, and commerce » were the buzzwords. For China, it’s all about economics. « They’ve said: ‘If you agree to privatize and sell to us your railways, your electricity generation, etc. – we will come in with capital, » says John Robertson, an economist based in Harare.

With an economy that has shrunk as much as 40 percent in five years, Zimbabwe’s government uses these promises to put off critics. « The government says, ‘The Chinese are coming, and they’ll bring in billions of dollars in investment, and soon everything will be fully restored,’  » Mr. Robertson says.

China helps solve nuclear puzzle
Dina Ezzat, in Beijing, reports on the Egyptian president’s visit to the Chinese capital and reactions to a reinvigorated Sino-African partnership

To mark the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of diplomatic relations between China and Africa, Beijing hosted the Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). President Hosni Mubarak’s decision to participate in the summit — a mission the foreign minister would normally undertake — as well as the bilateral talks he held with his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, on the fringe, raised expectations that Egypt was seeking Chinese cooperation over issues of common interest, including Egypt’s plans to revive its peaceful nuclear programme suspended since 1986.

Those expectations were confirmed yesterday when the official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that China and Egypt had agreed to cooperate on the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The agreement, Xinhua said, was announced in a joint communiqué following talks on Tuesday between Mubarak and Hu Jintao.

President Mubarak told Egyptian editors-in-chief accompanying him on his three-leg tour to Russia, China and Kazakhstan that all three countries had agreed to cooperate with Egypt on its peaceful nuclear programme but « we need first to investigate all the technical and financial aspects of the project in order that it proceed on a sound scientific base. » He also said that Egypt will invite all concerned parties to participate in an open tender for the construction of a nuclear reactor.

The Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation was hailed as the beginning of « a new type of partnership » governed by egalitarianism and the pursuit of mutual benefits. But the two-day conference that brought together the Chinese president and 48 African leaders in Beijing this week raised as many questions over future relations between the Asian giant and Africa as it provided answers.

The Beijing declaration, read out on Sunday by Chinese President Hu Jintao, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and President Hosni Mubarak — the FOCAC’s current, former and future chairs — is an ambitious call for friendship, solidarity and cooperation.

Beijing, said Jintao at the summit’s opening on Saturday, will double aid to Africa by 2009. The offer of aid, described as generous by many African leaders, comes within the framework of political equality, mutual trust, economic win-win cooperation and cultural exchange outlined in Beijing’s policy paper « China’s Africa Policy ». The need to boost China- Africa trade to $100 billion by 2010, increase cooperation in investment and upgrade the level of assistance to Africa are among the paper’s avowed goals.

China is rapidly becoming a major investor in Africa. In 2004 it invested US$900 million in the continent, more than 300 per cent up on the previous year. It has concluded agreements with 28 African countries to protect investments as well as signing preferential tax agreements with eight African states.

The 15-page Beijing plan of action, which outlines cooperation between Africa and China up to 2009, specifies agriculture, investment and business, trade, finance, science and technology as likely areas for future cooperation.

This historic revival of South-South cooperation has been hailed by both participants and the organiser of the summit. Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing stressed that his country was dealing with African participants on the basis of mutual respect and shared interest as stipulated both in the Beijing Declaration and the Beijing Plan of Action.

Speaking at a joint press conference with his Chinese and Ethiopian counterparts Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul- Gheit said that he had « witnessed no sign of colonisation, » in dealings with China, while Ethiopia’s foreign minister insisted « we should not allow the Western media to promote negative Western views about our cooperation which [promotes] the values of South-South cooperation. »

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s office welcomed China’s announcement, saying in a statement that « the secretary- general believes that, as Africans demonstrate renewed resolve to address the challenges confronting their continent, they can benefit greatly from the experience of their friends in China, who have had such success in sustaining growth and reducing poverty. »

Critics, though, see a potential for a new type of colonialism in the alliance. Human rights groups point out that the new partnership offers Africa’s mostly undemocratic leaders access to generous financial assistance without any commitment to good governance or recognition of human rights. Some Chinese political activists also point out that Beijing’s diplomatic drive excludes African countries that do not recognise China’s claims over Taiwan: Gambia, Malawi, Burkina Faso, Swaziland and S‹o Tomé and Pr’ncipe, which recognise Taiwan, were noticeably absent from the summit.

Concern has also been expressed about the long-term economic consequences of Chinese attempts to bolster its influence across the under-developed but resource-rich continent. Over the past 20 years China has gone from being Asia’s largest oil exporter to becoming the world’s second largest oil importer. China has recently signed major oil contracts with several African countries, and cooperation in exploiting energy and other natural resources is central to Chinese plans.

Striking a note of realism and political pragmatism, President Mubarak stressed that this new partnership must be approached with one eye fixed on mutual benefits. Speaking at a roundtable discussion held as part of the two-day summit Mubarak argued that China and African countries must reach a middle ground formula of mutual interest. He underlined the positive role China could play in promoting peace and stability in Africa and the positive impact of this on Beijing’s future relations with the continent.

« We are pursuing common goals and aims that are best summed up by the slogan that we chose for this summit — friendship, peace, cooperation and development, » said Mubarak. « We must remember that we still have a long way to go before peace — a pre-requisite for prosperity and cooperation — can be achieved in Africa and the Middle East, » he added.

Off the record, Chinese diplomats acknowledged the concern in some Western capitals, especially Washington, London and Paris, over Beijing’s expanding role. They insist that their country is not trying to exclude other powers but is augmenting its own role in a multi-polar world no longer dominated by Western powers.

Addressing the Beijing Summit, the current chair of the African Union, Denis Sassou-N’Guesso, argued the new Sino- African partnership sends a clear message about the rising power of « the idea of multilateralism ». FOCAC was established in 2000. The next FOCAC ministerial is to be hosted by Egypt in 2009. (see pp.2&amp11)

© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved

Al-Ahram Weekly Online : Located at: http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2006/819/fr1.htm

China in Africa

Never too late to scramble

Oct 26th 2006 | BEIJING, LAGOS AND LUSAKA
From The Economist

China is rapidly buying up Africa’s oil, metals and farm produce. That fuels China’s surging economic growth, but how good is it for Africa?

AFP

IN HIS office in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, Xu Jianxue sits between a portrait of Mao Zedong and a Chinese calendar. His civil-engineering and construction business has been doing well and, with the help of his four brothers, he has also invested in a coal mine. He is bullish about doing business in Zambia: “It is a virgin territory,” he says, with few products made locally and little competition. He is now thinking of expanding into Angola and Congo next door. When he came in 1991, only 300 Chinese lived in Zambia. Now he guesses there are 3,000.

Mr Xu reflects just a tiny part of China’s new interest in Africa. This year alone many bigger names than his have come visiting. Li Zhaoxing, China’s foreign minister, swept through west Africa in January; President Hu Jintao visited Nigeria, Morocco and Kenya in April; and the prime minister, Wen Jiabao, knocked off seven countries in June. In the first week of November Chinese and more than 30 African leaders will gather at the first Sino-African summit in Beijing. And Chinese companies, most of them owned by the state, have been marching in the footsteps of their political leaders. But is this all good for Africa? Is it bringing the trade and investment that Africa so badly needs, or just meddling and exploitation?

The summit in Beijing is being greeted by Chinese officials and the country’s state-run media with an effusion reminiscent of the cold-war era, when China cosied up to African countries as a way of demonstrating solidarity against (Western) colonialism and of outdoing its ideological rival, the Soviet Union. It supported African liberation movements in the 1950s and 1960s, and later built railways for the newly independent countries, educated their students and sent them doctors.

China’s main aim then was to gain influence. Now China wants commodities more than influence. Its economy has grown by an average of 9% a year over the past ten years, and foreign trade has increased fivefold. It needs stuff of all sorts—minerals, farm products, timber and oil, oil, oil. China alone was responsible for 40% of the global increase in oil demand between 2000 and 2004.

The resulting commodity prices have been good for most of Africa. Higher prices combined with higher production have helped local economies. Sub-Saharan Africa’s real GDP increased by an average of 4.4% in 2001-04, compared with 2.6% in the previous three years. Africa’s economy grew by 5.5% in 2005 and is expected to do even better this year and next.

Which countries are the main beneficiaries? For copper and cobalt, China looks to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia; for iron ore and platinum, South Africa. Gabon, Cameroon and Congo-Brazzaville supply it with timber. Several countries in west and central Africa send cotton to its textile factories.

Oil, however, is the biggest business. Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil-producer, has been getting lots of attention. CNOOC, a state-owned Chinese company, paid $2.7 billion in January to obtain a minority interest in a Nigerian oilfield, and China recently secured exploration rights in another four. In Angola, which has now overtaken Saudi Arabia as China’s biggest single provider of oil, another Chinese company is a partner in several blocks. China has shown similar interest in other producers such as Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Congo-Brazzaville, which already sells a third of its output to Chinese refiners.

Just the beginning

As a result, trade between China and Africa has soared from $3 billion in 1995 to over $32 billion last year. But China’s commerce with the world also expanded over the same period, so Africa makes up only 2.3% of the total. This constitutes about 10% of Africa’s total trade (see chart).

However, trade between China and Africa is expected to double by 2010. Although Europe remains Africa’s main partner, its share has melted from 44% to 32% of the region’s foreign trade within the past ten years, whereas America’s share has, like China’s, risen. For some countries, the redirection of exports has been dramatic. China now takes over 70% of Sudan’s exports, compared with 10% or so in 1995. Burkina Faso sends a third of its exports, almost all of which are cotton, to China, compared with virtually nothing in the mid-1990s. China is now Angola’s largest export market after the United States.

Africa has found more than a new buyer for its commodities. It has also found a new source of aid and investment. According to China’s statistics, it invested $900m in Africa in 2004, out of the $15 billion the continent received. This was a huge increase (see chart), though most of it went to oil-producing countries. But its aid is spread more widely. It has cancelled several billion dollars of African debt, which has helped to build roads, railways, stadiums and houses in many countries.

This largesse is sometimes an entry ticket. In Nigeria China’s promises to invest about $4 billion in refineries, power plants and agriculture were a condition for getting oil rights. In Angola a $4 billion line of low-interest credit enables Chinese companies to help rebuild the bridges, roads and so on that were destroyed in decades of war. The debt is repaid in oil.

Fewer complications

For Angola, which has been keen to get going with the reconstruction of its infrastructure, China’s straightforward approach is an attractive alternative to the pernicketiness of the IMF and the Paris Club of creditors, which have been quibbling over terms for years. So it is with many African countries, fed up with the intrusiveness of Europeans and Americans fussing about corruption or torture and clamouring for accountability. Moreover, the World Bank and many Western donors were until recently shunning bricks-and-mortar aid in favour of health and education. China’s credit to Angola is not only welcome in itself. It has reduced the pressure from the West.

Thanks to China, therefore, workers from the Middle Kingdom in straw hats are now helping Angolans to lay down new rails on the old line from Luanda to the eastern province of Malange. Another railway, from Benguela to Zambia, once used to carry copper, is also being rebuilt. China is happy: the work helps offset some of its trade deficit with Angola. The Angolan government is also happy: it is rebuilding its shattered economy at last.

For José Cerqueira, an Angolan economist, China is welcome because it eschews what he sees as the IMF’s ideological and condescending attitude. “For them,” he says, “we should have ears, but no mouth.” Others are pleased because China is ready to pass on some of its technology. It is, for example, helping Nigeria to launch a second satellite into space. Some African officials, disillusioned with the Western development model, say that China gives them hope that poor countries can find their own path to development.

And now the snags

The love affair with China, however, may be sour as well as sweet. For countries that do not sit on oil or mineral deposits, higher commodity prices make life harder. Even for producers there are risks. A recent report by the World Bank argues that Africa’s new trade with China and India opens the way for it to become a processor of commodities and a competitive supplier of cheap goods and services to Chinese and Indian consumers. But another report, from the OECD, a club of industrialised countries, argues that China’s appetite for commodities may stifle producers’ efforts to diversify their economies. Oil rigs and mines create few jobs, it points out, and tend to suck in resources from other industries. And if Africa is to escape its vulnerability to the capricious movements of world commodity prices, it must start to export more manufactures. On this the World Bank adds its own warning: China and India must end their escalating tariffs on Africa’s main exports.

China is also bringing irresistible—some say unfair—competition to Africa. All over Africa Chinese traders can now be seen selling cheap products from the homeland, not just electronics but plastic goods and clothes. In Kamwala market in Lusaka a host of Chinese shops have appeared over the past couple of years. “Two years ago,” says Muhammad, a local trader of Indian origin, “I did not have time to sit down; now I’m sitting doing nothing.” Though his shelves are full of clocks and radios made in China, he blames his enforced idleness on the competition brought by Chinese traders.

Zambian and other African consumers do not share his despondency. They like Chinese prices. But in some countries consumers are less well organised than textile workers, and in South Africa the trade unions have succeeded in getting the government to negotiate quotas on Chinese clothing imports. Still, the power of China’s productivity and economies of scale—never mind government subsidies—certainly hurts local industries. Textile factories in places like South Africa, Mauritius and Nigeria have been badly hit. In tiny Lesotho, where making clothes for Europe or America is the only industry around, this has been catastrophic.

The working conditions, as well as the prices, set by Chinese employers are also a concern to some Africans. The alleged ill-treatment of workers in a Chinese-owned mine in Zambia in July led to a violent protest in which several workers were shot. And many Chinese firms bring in much of their own labour, rather than hiring locals. China brought in thousands of its own workers to build the 1,860km (1,160-mile) Tazara railway between Lusaka and the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam in the 1970s. It was finished ahead of schedule, but Tanzania and Zambia still have to rely on Chinese technical help to maintain it. African hopes of technology transfer may be over-optimistic.

Human rights are optional

Some say China’s involvement will erode efforts to promote openness and reduce corruption, especially in oil and mining. Nigeria insists that Chinese companies must respect its new anti-graft measures, and the latest bidding round for oil blocks in Angola has been the most open so far. In both countries it is unclear whether China’s presence is making corruption better or worse. It is clear, though, that China is not interested in pressing African governments to hold elections or be more democratic in other ways. That helps to explain why China directs so much money towards Sudan, whose odious regime can count on China’s support when resisting any UN military intervention in Darfur. China invested almost $150m in Sudan in 2004, three times as much as in any other single country. When American and Canadian oil companies packed their bags there, China quickly stepped in, drilling wells and building pipelines and roads. The Chinese are supposed to be building an armaments factory as well.
AP

The Emperor’s new clothes?

China’s lack of interest in human rights is something that President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe can also be thankful for. Shunned by the West, and with his country’s economy in a shambles, he has turned to China for political and economic support—and got it. After he launched Operation Murambatsvina last year, in which 700,000 people had their homes or businesses destroyed, China neutered all attempts at discussion, let alone condemnation, in the UN Security Council. However, despite this, China may not want to squander any more money in a country that has no oil and few mineral rights left to dispose of.

But China’s friendship and support at the UN comes with one important political string attached: the endorsement of the one-China policy. To date 48 African countries have paid due obeisance to Beijing: Chad, Senegal and Liberia are the latest to have abandoned their recognition of Taiwan. The suggestion by Michael Sata, the main opposition candidate in Zambia’s presidential election on September 28th, that he would have recognised Taiwan if he had won was enough to bring the first public intervention by China in the internal affairs of an African country; the ambassador said that China would consider cutting diplomatic relations if Mr Sata won (which he did not).

That is a warning to Africans that this new interloper in their continent is no more altruistic than its predecessors. Still, that does not mean China’s involvement is bad and it is certainly not to be stopped. It is up to Africans to ensure that they get a fair deal from it. If so, both China and its African partners can be winners.

Africa and China

Wrong model, right continent

Oct 26th 2006
From The Economist print edition

China knows what it wants from Africa and will probably get it. The converse isn’t true

AFP

THE characters for “Africa” in the Mandarin language mean “wrong continent”. But the Chinese have often ignored this etymological hint. In the 15th century the emperor’s emissaries sailed as far as Mozambique, carrying silk and returning with a giraffe. In the cold war Maoists dotted Africa with hospitals, football stadiums and disastrous ideas.

Next week China will host more than 30 African leaders from the wrong continent in Beijing, offering them a pinch of debt relief, a splash of aid, plus further generous helpings of trade and investment. China already buys a tenth of sub-Saharan Africa’s exports and owns almost $1.2 billion of direct investments in the region (see article). A Chinese diaspora in Africa now numbers perhaps 80,000, including labourers and businessmen, who bring entrepreneurial wit and wisdom to places usually visited only by Land Cruisers from international aid agencies.

What is in it for China? It no longer wants Africa’s hearts, minds or giraffes. Mostly, it just wants its oil, ores and timber—plus its backing at the United Nations. Thus, even as the Chinese win mining rights, repair railways and lay pipelines on the continent, Africa’s governments are shuttering their embassies in Taiwan in deference to Beijing’s one-China policy.

This suits Africa’s governments. The scramble for resources invariably passes the ministerial doorstep, where concessions are sold and royalties collected. China helps African governments ignore Western nagging about human rights: its support has allowed Sudan to avoid UN sanctions over Darfur. And some Africans look on China as a development model, replacing the tough Washington Consensus with a “Beijing Consensus”: China’s economic progress is cited by statists, protectionists and thugs alike to “prove” that keeping the state’s grip on companies, trade and political freedoms need not stop a country growing by 8%-plus a year.

Think again, Africa

The Chinese part of this puzzle is easier to deal with: even if it is not the first resource-hungry power to behave poorly in Africa, China should be condemned wherever it bribes, cajoles or (in the case of Sudan) permits genocide. But what about the African hope that China provides an economic model?

Sadly, China’s success is an obstacle, as well as an inspiration. Its rise has bid up the price of Africa’s traditional raw commodities, and depressed the price of manufactured goods. Thus Africa’s factories and assembly lines, such as they are, are losing out to its mines, quarries and oilfields in the competition for investment. Even if Africa’s labour is cheap enough to compete with China’s, its roads, ports and customs are far from good enough. If they are to provide jobs for their workers, not just rents for their governments, Africa’s economies must find less-exposed niches in the world economy, such as tourism or cut flowers. And they should look not to China, but to Chile or Botswana for examples of how to turn natural bounty into shared prosperity.

China is doing its bit to improve infrastructure, building roads and railways. But it could do more to open up its own markets. China is quite open to yarn, but not jerseys; diamonds, but not jewellery. If it has as much “solidarity” with Africa as it claims, it could offer to lower tariffs on processed goods. Chinese firms have also ignored international initiatives to make project finance greener (the “Equator Principles”) and to make mining industries cleaner (the “Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative”). Even with China’s backing, these outside efforts might not succeed: honesty and greenery come from within. Without it, they will certainly fail.

For their part, Africa’s leaders could also play their hands rather better. They should talk to each other as well as their hosts in Beijing. If they negotiated as a block, they could drive a harder bargain. Just as China insists that foreigners enter into joint ventures with its companies, so Africans should make sure they get China’s know-how, not just its money.

Chinese summitry

On safari

Nov 2nd 2006 | BEIJING
From The Economist print edition

Practising for the Olympics

THE hoardings along every main street of central Beijing look like an effort to promote a new safari park: billboards are plastered with giant photographs of elephants, giraffes, lions and zebras. Images of half-naked, exotically painted tribesmen adorn the capital. It is part of China’s lavish welcome for the leaders of most of the African continent, who have been gathering in Beijing this week for the biggest diplomatic jamboree in the country’s history. Stereotyping has not, apparently, been a worry for the hosts.
Reuters

China goes wild

The scale of the first China-Africa summit, attended by more than 40 heads of state and government, far exceeds any diplomatic event ever held in Beijing. The gathering, from November 3rd to 5th, is being presented by China as a demonstration of its rapidly expanding ties with Africa (driven mostly by its demand for African oil and other natural resources), as well as of its organisational abilities ahead of the Beijing Olympics in August 2008. Earlier in the same week, China hosted a summit of ten leaders from the Association of South-East Asian Nations in the southern city of Nanning as well as talks with North Korean and American officials (see article). For a country still finding its feet as a global diplomatic player, these events have been an exceptional workout.

An article this week in Beijing Daily, the main propaganda organ of the city government, suggested the extent of the cultural gap between China and many other parts of the world, despite its rapidly growing economic and diplomatic engagement. As for our African friends, it said, some people still think of them as coming from underdeveloped countries, and “lack knowledge of Africa’s ancient history, magnificent culture and recent development”. During the summit, no matter what colour or how few clothes African visitors might wear, citizens should not surround them or photograph them without their permission, said the newspaper.

The city authorities have been almost as crude in their efforts to ensure the smooth flow of the capital’s normally gridlocked traffic during the event. For the first time in advance of a big event, the government has published regular updates of how traffic will be managed. But it has also resorted to some heavy-handed techniques: banning out-of-town vehicles from urban Beijing and removing beggars from busy areas and around summit venues. In September officials denied a report in a state-owned newspaper in the capital that 1m migrant labourers in Beijing would be expelled from the city before the 2008 Olympics and that the mentally ill would be confined to hospitals. But the denial has done little to allay suspicions that such tactics will be used.

China has been more considerate, however, of the sensitivities of the visiting African leaders. The official media have avoided dwelling on the humanitarian crisis in Sudan, whose president, Omar al-Bashir, is among Beijing’s guests. The official news agency, Xinhua, published an interview with Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe making no mention of the human-rights abuses that have made him a pariah in other parts of the world. He would probably do the same for China.

US: Per month, the US imports about 72 million barrels compared with 3 million for China more than it gets from the Middle East.

China’s loans were a small proportion of the $284 billion in debt Africa owes globally. China has already forgiven some $10 billion of debt in yuan-denominated loans, mostly from infrastructure projects, he said.

Last year, the Paris Club of big Western lenders forgave roughly $50 billion of African debt.

The summit marks 50 years since China first established diplomatic ties with Egypt, the first African nation to reject the island of Taiwan’s claim as the sovereign over mainland China, then a deeply ideological, but poor, Communist state. China aggressively wooed African states with help and aid to convince them to switch sides.

Now, only five African countries, including Swaziland and Malawi, recognize Taiwan. Meanwhile, China has emerged as one of the biggest economies in the world with its own brand of capitalist authoritarianism

1,500 delegates and another 1,030 journalists from Africa,

China has made no secret of its interest in Africa. Now the nation will host a lavish summit for the leaders of 48 African nations. One assistant foreign minister fends off criticism about China’s motives, pointing out that the nation pursues mutual interests with Africa in a transparent and open manner. “China has nothing to hide,” said Zhai Jun. Western oil companies have expressed some concern about China’s growing interest in African energy, yet China’s oil imports from the continent are miniscule when compared to those from the US: Per month, the US imports about 72 million barrels compared with 3 million for China. Realizing that the best trade is a two-way street, China encourages its own businesses to expand and invest in Africa and also exempting more African products from tariffs. China’s early diplomatic aims in Africa during the 1950s, designed to isolate Taiwan, have since burgeoned into a range of development projects. China’s goal is to serve as a model of economic growth for nations hoping to eliminate poverty. At the same time, China will also close some lucrative deals. – YaleGlobal

Beijing Hosts Big Africa Summit as West Watches
Shai Oster
The Wall Street Journal, 25 October 2006

BEIJING — China will strike a number of agreements on trade, investment, aid and debt forgiveness when it hosts the heads of 48 African countries next month in what is being billed as the biggest summit China has held in modern history, according to the Chinese official heading the effort.

« The main objective of this summit is to establish a new type of partnership between China and African countries against changing circumstances, » Assistant Foreign Minister Zhai Jun said yesterday in an interview.

The gathering in Beijing, dubbed the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, is set for Nov. 3 to 5. It comes as many African leaders seek help to repair their strife-torn countries and China looks for new resources to meet its growing energy needs, as well as new markets for its own emerging domestic companies. It caps growing ties between the two regions over the past several years that have sparked some ire in the West.

Mr. Zhai defended China’s human-rights record in Africa and said China isn’t interested merely in striking sweetheart deals to tap into Africa’s deep oil reserves. Rather, he said, China is eager to raise living standards in the world’s poorest continent, and feels it can share lessons and opportunities from its own development.

« Africa is rich in resources and has a big market. We are pursuing our relations by seeking mutual benefits, in an open and transparent manner. China has nothing to hide, » Mr. Zhai said.

Last year, China imported 38.4 million tons of oil from Africa, or about 771,000 barrels a day. Mr. Zhai pointed out that is less than one-third of the amount some big Western nations receive from Africa. The U.S., for example, imports about 2.4 million barrels a day from Africa, more than it gets from the Middle East.

Western oil companies fear their Chinese competitors are able to use government backing for aid deals and loans to secure preferential treatment. China says that in terms of business, its deals are purely commercial and transparent. So far, China’s companies have a much smaller presence than other international players, but they are looking to expand to feed China’s fast-growing needs for fuel.

Mr. Zhai said there would be further cooperation on energy. « For many African countries, energy is a pillar industry. Many nations want to transform their oil into a strength through our cooperation. We are helping them meet such a goal, » Mr. Zhai said.

Agreements in several key areas are expected to be announced by China’s President Hu Jintao and signed during the meeting. To encourage more imports from Africa, an expansion of the number of African goods that would be subject to zero-percent tariffs in China is likely to be included in the pacts. Currently, some 190 goods, from 28 African countries, are exempt from tariffs. There will also be pledges for more aid, including training in everything from medicine to agriculture, and investment in Africa. Mr. Zhai said the government is actively encouraging Chinese companies to expand their business in Africa.

While he didn’t disclose how much in loans African countries owe China, he said China would announce another round of debt cancellation. He said China’s loans were a small proportion of the $284 billion in debt Africa owes globally. China has already forgiven some $10 billion of debt in yuan-denominated loans, mostly from infrastructure projects, he said.

Last year, the Paris Club of big Western lenders forgave roughly $50 billion of African debt. Some critics are worried that China is giving fresh loans to regimes that still don’t have the ability to spend the money responsibly or fight corruption, and that such waste will only send those nations back into a cycle of carrying loans they can’t pay off. Increasingly, Western nations are seeking to tie aid with specific guarantees from governments on fiscal and social policy — a policy China rejects.

« We don’t want the development models, ideologies and values of other countries foisted on our country, » Mr. Zhai said. « Likewise we don’t impose our development mode, ideology and values on other countries — not least on African countries. So, it has been the consistent position of the Chinese government when conducting aid with African countries that we do not attach conditions. »

The summit marks 50 years since China first established diplomatic ties with Egypt, the first African nation to reject the island of Taiwan’s claim as the sovereign over mainland China, then a deeply ideological, but poor, Communist state. China aggressively wooed African states with help and aid to convince them to switch sides.

Now, only five African countries, including Swaziland and Malawi, recognize Taiwan. Meanwhile, China has emerged as one of the biggest economies in the world with its own brand of capitalist authoritarianism that has transformed the relationship with Africa from a largely political one into a mostly commercial one.

Beijing will pull out all the stops to impress the delegations with its rapid economic growth, arranging trips to the Great Wall, and showing off the signs of its modern wealth, such as the commercial capital Shanghai. It will coordinate some 1,500 delegates and another 1,030 journalists from Africa, China and elsewhere. « Perhaps they will bring some lessons home when they have seen the changes that have taken place in China, » Mr. Zhai said.

This comes as some in the U.S. and elsewhere are casting an increasingly wary eye at China’s growing involvement in Africa, most recently in Sudan, where China has large oil interests. Mr. Zhai rejected allegations that China isn’t doing enough to stem the violence in Darfur. « I believe the Darfur issue and China’s economic and energy cooperation and trade are two separate issues. It is not the case that because of the good relationship and cooperation with the Sudanese government that we’re turning a blind eye to the situation in Darfur. »

He criticized U.S. policy. « The United States has unilateral sanctions — has it been useful? » he asked.

Source:
The Wall Street Journal

One Response to Sommet sino-africain: après la Françafrique, voici la… Chinafrique!

  1. Othmane dit :

    Il est vraiment interessant ce post,
    merci beaucoup

    J'aime

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