African leaders are queueing up to sign new deals.
Their eagerness to shake hands with President Hu Jintao
has drawn comparison to the states that once
came to pay tribute to the emperor.
CHINA PUTS ON AFRICAN MASK
China is a pursuing a neo-colonialist policy,
buying up cheap resources and selling higher-priced manufactured goods.
But no critical voices were to be heard
among the VIP guests in Beijing.
The savannah comes to Beijing
(as China hosts its new empire)
by Jonathan Watts, London Guardian, Nov 3, 2006
The city is covered in giant posters as billions of dollars are spent on projects to win friends at summit. The most lavish party that China has thrown in more than 50 years got under way last night with high-pitched Peking opera, rhythmic African drumming and a gravity-defying display of acrobatics in the Great Hall of the People. This was a display of power as much as entertainment - the unique spectacle of a nation hosting a continent. The guest list for the opening banquet included almost every head of state in Africa, representing a quarter of the votes in the UN, a sizeable chunk of the world’s natural resources and, combined with the hosts, a third of the planet’s people.
Shrugging aside western concerns, Beijing extended the welcome to leaders vilified in the west, such as Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, both of whom were given the red carpet treatment. For others, including Egypt, nuclear exchanges were on the table.
Outside, a million people were mobilised to ensure tight security, smooth transport and a convivial atmosphere. The city’s streets - notorious for traffic - were miraculously clear after hundreds of thousands of drivers were ordered to keep their cars off the road. Trees were festooned with fairy lights and giant balloons bobbed on their cables in the unusually clear air.
No expense has been spared. Advertising has been stripped off billboards and replaced with giant pictures of giraffes, lions and elephants roaming the savannah. The walls around building sites have been decorated with posters of tribesmen, antelopes and the pyramids. Wanfujing, Beijing’s main shopping street, is a safari-land of wooden animals. Everywhere, posters proclaim: “Africa, the Land of Myth and Miracles.”
But it is hard cash rather than soft soap that brings 40 heads of state, eight political leaders and hundreds of business people to Beijing for the three-day China-Africa forum. Dipping into the world’s largest foreign currency reserve of $1 trillion, China is expected to display its largesse with offers of so much aid and trade that it will soon eclipse the US and Europe as the dominant foreign economy in Africa.
Deals in oil, copper, telecommunications, transport and possibly nuclear power will be discussed around the periphery of the summit, which includes a trade fair and meetings by 1,500 business executives.
Everyone agrees the potential is huge. China’s trade with Africa has increased fivefold since 2000 to $50bn. The figure is expected to double again by 2010, by which time China will have far surpassed the US and France as the major player in the region. But this super-summit is about more than a single continent. It marks a new stage in China’s re-emergence as a superpower. Formerly reticent about appearing on the world stage, Beijing has gone into diplomatic overdrive this year and appears to be outmanoeuvring a US administration distracted and discredited by Iraq. In June Shanghai hosted leaders of countries representing more than half the world’s population. Last month Chinese emissaries played a crucial role in forcing North Korea back to negotiations after its nuclear test.
But it has never attempted anything on the scale of the African cooperation forum. Perhaps no nation has. Wenran Jiang, a political scientist at the University of Alberta, said the event signalled a shift in the global balance of power. “Which major power could pull something off on this scale? The UK has influence in the Commonwealth, but this is far different. We are talking about an emerging world power that has the mobilising power to gather 48 out of the 53 heads of state in Africa. I don’t see any parallel in history. The US never did this, nor did Russia. Symbolically this is a very, very big event.”
Even China’s gifts of hospitals and stadiums to Africa at a time when Mao Zedong was proclaiming himself champion of non-aligned developing nations pale in comparison with today’s mega-projects. According to the World Bank, China is poised to become the continent’s biggest lender, having pledged more than $8bn this year alone. Almost every country is getting its share. Ghana said yesterday that it was close to finalising a $600m deal for a 400-megawatt hydroelectric dam. Gabon recently signed a $3bn iron ore deal with a Chinese consortium, which will help to construct a railway and container port. Last week Zambia was promised investment of $200m for a smelter to produce 150,000 tonnes of copper. Mozambique has $2.6bn for a hydroelectric dam. Since the start of the year Egypt has seen its trade with China surge by 47.6% to reach nearly $2bn. Chinese investors and state agencies have spent billions on road-building in Kenya, a hydroelectric dam in Ghana and a mobile phone network in Ethiopia.
The biggest deals have been energy-related. Squeezed out of much of the Middle East by the United States, China now gets a third of its oil from Africa. The main suppliers have reaped the rewards. Angola has a $3bn line of credit from China. Nigeria recently sold a stake in an oil and gas field for $2.3bn - China’s largest overseas acquisition yet. More deals are on the way. This weekend’s summit is expected to wrap up with a new package of aid and trade. But China is not just buying resources, it is selling a model of development. While the west focuses on political freedoms and universal rights, Beijing says the priority should be on improving living standards and national independence. The superiority of this approach, it argues, has been proved by success in lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.
To press home the message it has mobilised a large chunk of the city’s 15 million people. Every neighbourhood committee is helping with security and decorations, and all leave for police and security guards has been cancelled. An entire market - Hongqiao, famous for clothes and children’s toys - will be shut off so that the leaders’ wives can shop without the usual crowds.
Dozens of five-star hotels have been commandeered, along with fleets of luxury sedans. Mandarins have spent months telling hotel managers how they should prepare for what some have described as Beijing’s biggest event since Mao proclaimed the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Thousands of metres of red carpet have been laid, chefs have drawn up new menus with specially imported African spices and rooms have been fitted with African furnishings. “We have hosted big groups of officials before, but never like this,” said Meanne Dizerent Lau of the Shangri-la hotel, which hosts the Tanzanian delegation. “The government has never been so involved.” Instead of the usual towel robes, she said, guests would get silk dressing gowns bearing their initials. At other hotels, receptionists have been taught basic phrases in Swahili and French, and room instructions now include compass details so that Muslim guests can pray towards Mecca.
The mixture of lavish hospitality, booming trade and political non-interference has gone down particularly well with countries that have fallen foul of western investors because of their dire human rights records. Zimbabwe is among the biggest beneficiaries, having recently secured a $1.3bn energy deal with China and funding for a Mandarin language department at a university in Harare. Robert Mugabe is now one of Africa’s most enthusiastic sinophiles. “We have nothing to lose but our imperialist chains,” he said before boarding a plane to Beijing.
African leaders are queueing up to sign new deals. Their eagerness to shake hands with President Hu Jintao has drawn comparison to the states that once came to pay tribute to the emperor. Back in Africa there are a few dissenting voices, complaining that China is a pursuing a neo-colonialist policy, buying up cheap resources and selling higher-priced manufactured goods. But no such critical voices were to be heard among the VIP guests in Beijing. The Ethiopian prime minister, Meles Zenawi, said 90% of the goods in Addis Ababa’s biggest market were made in China. But he said cheap products improved living standards. “There are people who say the flood of Chinese goods will undermine Africa’s national industry, but I don’t think this is a problem,” he told the Xinhua news agency. “If you can’t compete with the global market, you have to get it from the global market. There is no alternative.”
But the growing influence of China has provoked unease among an unlikely coalition of US conservatives and global human rights groups. The World Bank president, Paul Wolfowitz, said this week that Chinese banks ignored human rights and environmental standards when lending in Africa. Amnesty accuses Beijing of selling tanks and fighter aircraft to Sudan, where it says they have been used to commit massive violations of human rights in Darfur. China has also blocked UN sanctions against Sudan. It insists that it will not “interfere in other countries’ domestic affairs, but also claims to be great friend of the African people and a responsible major power”, said Sophie Richardson of Human Rights Watch. “But that doesn’t square with staying silent while mass killings go on in Darfur.”
However, Chinese academics say that the west is hypocritical, having long exploited Africa for resources and given little in return, except lectures. “The big difference is that China does not attach political strings,” said Liu Naiya of the Chinese Academy of Social Science. “When western countries offer aid they usually insist on things like multi-party democracy. But China’s aid is pure-hearted. This summit proves how successful its diplomatic policy has been.” Whether its allure is as strong outside Africa remains to be seen. This summit is just the start of Beijing’s effort to wow the world, a dress rehearsal for China’s true coming-of-age party: the 2008 Olympics.
CHINA'S AFRICAN EMPIRE
China is trying to colonize Africa (economic tentacles extend deep). Telegraph, Sep 2, 2007
MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE MUGABE
Pyongyang's candidate in Harare (for 30 years Mugabe has idolized north Korea's Stalinist leadership). National Post, Aug 11, 2007
CHINA OILS SUDAN GENOCIDE
China focuses on Sudan's oil (human rights & environment abuse). Sudan Tribune, June 25, 2007
Hu avoids anti-Chinese protests ("our leaders are so corrupt they're selling our birthrights to China") & China's Hu Jintao on Africa tour (selling weapons to countries & flooding them with cheap goods threatening local industries) & Mbeki warns on China-Africa ties (replication of Africa's relationship with former colonial powers). Times/BBC, Jan 30, 2007. Go to REMEMBER WHO HU IS
The savannah comes to Beijing (as China hosts its new empire). Guardian, Nov 3, 2006
In pictures: China-Africa Summit. BBC, Nov 4, 2006
Beijing facelift for African summit. BBC, Nov 2, 2006
The Chinese capital has undergone a really extraordinary transformation this week as Beijing welcomes 48 heads of African governments. Posters of Africa's unique wildlife decorate Beijing's streets. Out in the street now there is a hoarding that must be about 30ft (9m) high and 50ft (15m). On it are 10ft-high zebras and giraffes and an enormous African elephant - and these hoardings are all over the city. Beijing is festooned with pictures of Africa, with new flower beds that have been rolled out overnight, even with Christmas decorations. The Chinese are really rolling out the red carpet for this China-Africa jamboree. To give another example: the street behind me at this time of day is usually completely clogged with traffic. But today there are virtually no cars on the streets, because half a million vehicles have been ordered out of Beijing for this week in order to keep everything flowing nice and smoothly. Above me the sky is blue, another rather unusual event in the Chinese capital. Many factories have also been closed down.
China is placing increasing value on its relationship with Africa. It shows just how important the Chinese now consider their relationship with the African continent. But what is that relationship really about? Well, the slogan on the wall behind me here says "Friendship, peace, co-operation and development". It is very clear what the Chinese are getting out of this relationship. China now imports more oil, for example, from Angola than it does from Saudi Arabia. The Chinese economy has a voracious appetite for all sorts of resources from Africa, from timber to iron ore to diamonds. What I think is far less clear is what this new relationship is bringing in terms of benefits to the economies and, more importantly, to the people of Africa.
DARK FATE OF AFRICA
CANADA GATE FOR CHINA (...At least while I was in Africa there was some conversation about it. Our taxi driver in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia complained all the way from our hotel to downtown about how the Communist Chinese were everywhere in his country. I told him the same was happening in Canada. The amazing thing about this conversation is it was being carried on in the presence of a Chinese man from China who was also in the taxi - sharing the ride with us from our hotel. This Chinese man agreed with everything we were saying and understood why we were complaining. But he himself was very happy because he spoke several languages and travelled all over Africa doing business and making money. He even gave us some Chinese money as a souvenir...~ Jackie Jura)
AFRICA SILK ROAD TO CHINA
AFRICANS LASH OUT AT CHINA
30. OUT OF AFRICA and 29. TALKING WITH TITO
CONGO IS LUMUMBA LAND and 27. GOMA'S LUMUMBA VOLCANO and JFK CRIED FOR CONGO
China Sweeps African Riches
map of China in Africa (incomplete)
China's Grand Africa Safari
24. RWANDA'S RARE GORILLAS and 17. MUTWARE & THE BABOONS and 16. AKAGERA GIRAFFES & NOMADS
CANADA ZIMBABWE PEOPLE PROBLEMS
MASSIVE MAO MOUNTS TIBET and TIBET & TIANANMEN TYRANT HU and REMEMBER WHO HU IS
CHINESE DRAGON IN AFRICA
Stalin & Mao: Ghosts Who Haunt China
ZIMBABWE GOING RED CHINESE
THE CHINESE ARE COMING!
JOIN MUGABE'S ARMY OR STARVE
CHINA'S SLAVE WORKERS
LAOGAI IS CHINESE GULAG
ENGINEERED FAMINE IN ZIMBABWE
INDIA, ORWELL, JFK & CHINA
BIG BROTHER'S GOOFY I AM
CHICOM HATES FREE TAIWAN
ZIMBABWE'S MURDERING MUGABE
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~