Mehmet Özay 25.03.2019
The presence of China in Africa, in the last few decades in particular, through the injection of billions of dollars, has attracted attention. Moreover, China’s bilateral relationships with various African countries have been noticeably increasing since 2000.
The role of China in Africa seems to show confidence in its global entrepreneurship capability through its economic and investment aptitude. In fact, the investment policy of the Chinese government does not have any covert issues. Rather it is quite understandable logic on why the Chinese state companies have had heavy investment projects collaborating with the respective African state agencies.
What is striking in the multi-faceted investment projects and facilitation attempts by the Chinese government is that these are administered through loans, human resource utilization and of course, bilateral treaties with respective countries. In addition, the Chinese business people have mobilized their investment capacity and capability either independently or with the help of the government.
The Chinese premier Xi Chinping has played a prominent role in this regard throughout his presidency, including the expansion of investment policy in outer spheres reaching distinct parts of the world including the continent of Africa.
The issue at hand is a popular phenomenon debated globally, because of Beijing’s record as the second biggest economic capital in the world.
It is quite logical to think that this process is making China an emerging force and a new modernizing actor of the African continent by its deviant capitalist perspective, say, mainly the approach through state companies. No doubt that this is a novel phenomenon in terms of the modernization process of the African states. In addition, this process is making China’s political and economic ideology closer to that of the West.
While China is agressively pushing forward its hard power, it lacks significant soft power such as cultural business and civilizational aspects similar to those compared with the African nations. This in itself is a handicap for the Chinese government.
The Chinese attempt at modernization is not based on establishment of dialogue with the African governments and societies in the fields of social and cultural diffusion. Rather, it is more similar to the development of economic power structure of the last four decades of the advancements in technology and capitalization of production system in China. This process is precisely why this is a very novel phenomenon.
It is not an exaggeration to enquire about the ideological basis of the Chinese modernization processes in the continent, since there have not been significant relationships between China and the Africa continent in the course of history.
Catering to the needs of capital, infrastructure, and expertise of the African nation-states was on the agenda of the developed countries throughout the 20th century. With regard to this, one cannot ignore that almost the whole continent has had success stories commencing from the post-war modernization process, implemented in a hierarchical manner through international organizations such as the World Bank, various development agencies of the UN, and some individual Western countries.
This demonstrates on that the African countries have not shown considerable self-satisfying development processes, with exception of certain but limited capitalist environment supported by the international companies.
Chinese governments’ bilateral agreements with specific countries which are gifted with geo-strategic positions and crucial raw material sources allows the former to maximize its economic and political earnings. While this process is carried out through monopoly relationships, in particular, in the field of energy and transport between China and the African states, it can be argued that China emulates the centuries-old approaches of the Western power bloc.
While China has taken over the role of the Western states in recent decades, which is definitely a concern for the Western coutries, tensions seems to emerge as the result of initiating major investment opportunities in the continent, with the purpose of dissemination of Chinese version of modernization.
This process precisely proves that China has been working to reverse the power relationships between the African countries and the West through these massive processes of capital flow, technology transfer and mobilization of human resources to the continent.
Notwithstanding, the latter has observed with growing suspicion Chinese economic and probably political hegemony attempts in the continent, replacing the West post-colonial legacy. The Western countries historically have had a strong hand in the African continent and feel uncomfortable against not only the Chinese multiple investment projects, but also its political influences in almost every significant corner of the continent.
In addition, there is still a major concern about the China’s massive engagement into the African continent among the scholars and experts. Whether the Chinese attempt has really served towards the liberation of the African nations from the Western developmental traps or not is really a matter for thought and contemplation.
Though this might have been predicted in early stage of the Chinese advancement in economy, today it has already become perceived as a threat to the sovereignty of the affected African nations.
Whereas the global public is carefully observing the major engagement of China in its investment-oriented affairs, the role and stand of the US, in particular, since 2016 should not be made light of in this development. In particular, the Trump administration has significantly retreated from the global affairs, including the African continent, by focusing on domestic economic recovery in the framework of America first motto.
The novel positioning of the current US goverment implicitly has helped to an extent the Chinese government’s agressive engagement into bilateral relationship in an increasingly widening space in the African continent. In regard to this, one can assert that the presence of China in Africa is considered in one way or another as the reverberation of its agressive expansion in the South China Sea territory.
Hence, it can be asserted critically that the so-called global powers do not differ from each other in their major involvements of appropriating local, regional and natural resources. But some differences emerge in the forms and implimentations of almost similar policies. Since the nature of the economic development of China is not separated significantly, at least to some extent, from the Western capitalism, this process has been driving Chinese governments to maximise the existing production system.
Although Chinese-Africa development stages are gaining positive feedbacks among the respective African countries’ national elites, the possibility of various types of conflict cannot be underestimated. For instance, the socio-cultural differentiations between Chinese and distinct African societies, the real and hidden purposes of China, different expectations of the relevant parties are some of the crucial factors in this matter.
What will be the implications of the China’s existence based on majorily economic investments is still needed to be worked out by considering distinct aspects of the built relationships.
It is also quite interesting to think about the reflection of the Chinese investments in each respective African nation. Though the African nations desperately need to advance in post modernization, this does not necessarily mean that all the political establishments and general public are advocating the process wholeheartedly. This may cause crisis and conflicts in the specific nations and probably would occur in whole continent against the Chinese enchroachment.