“To most people, foreign policy is a normal… remote, part ofthe world of politics… consists in what one state does to or with, otherstates, involving a mix of conflict and cooperation” (Hill, pg1, 1948). Thisquote is revealing to us that despite the fact that there may be conflictwithin a state’s foreign policy, cooperation, however, is also needed to someextent. Whether it’s between state officials or ministers, cooperation is stillneeded to enact foreign policy. In terms of the Chinese foreign policy towardsAfrica, it is relatively stable and consistent, no hasty decisions are made andthere’s generally consultation and checks. Chinas foreign policy in Africa canbe boiled down to three main aims. The first being China wanting to increaseits volume of trade with Africa.
The second being that China is seeking toincrease its investment in Africa in terms of agriculture. Thirdly, China islooking to play a more pivotal role in Africa’s international politicaleconomy. However, has China really achieved these foreign policy aims? Althoughit must be argued that China’s investment policy in Africa is one that hasproved to be very successful over the last few years, despite all thecriticisms it has faced.
Below we will critically assess the different driversand processes involved in the Chinese investment in Africa based on the threelevel of analysis, which is individual, domestic and system. Until the late 1980’s foreign policy relating to China wasfocused on leaders. Some refer to this time as Maoist (1949-1976) andpost-Maoist (1976-1989) era in Chinese foreign policy bureaucracy (Wenbin etal, p12, 2012). China has a bureaucratic political system, meaning they have anopen political system and information flows in relative transparency.
The powerof foreign policy is thus concentrated on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) andthe standing committee of the politburo. During the Maoist period China wasvery isolated, taking part in no trading with the west and overworking itsworkforce. However, when Xiaoping came to power in 1976, he believed that Chinaneeded a strong economy in order to be a more prominent world player.
As aresult, he opened the free market enabling cities such as Shanghai to be ascapitalist as they want. This shift from Mao Zedong to Xiaoping’s regime in1976 is very important because opening the free market is what allowed China toflourish economically, and now becoming the second biggest economy in theworld. Thus, their financial backing gives Africa more of a reason to work withChina and its businesses. It’s possible to think that without this greateconomic backbone China has, the relationship they have with Africa would nothave flourished as it has.
Recently, however, the Chinese communist party as faced somecriticism over their mistreatment of African workers. Bad practice such asexploiting African workers, as gone forth to grab headlines and thus as madeChinas intentions with Africa very unclear. Although it cannot be denied thatthe western Medias reflection of China’s investment in Africa is one that maybe deemed as bias and unfair. The media constantly shuns china’s policies andrarely presents the positive impact China is having not just in Africa but theworld. Throughout Xi Jinping’s youth, he attempted to join thecommunist party but was rejected. Despite the numerous amount of failedattempts he was finally accepted into the communist party in 1974 and began hispolitical career (Brown, p6, 2016). Xi Jinping showed exceptional personalskill and political knowledge during his post as a deputy mayor in 1985, byproposing several infrastructure improvements.
In 2007 he was picked by the CCPto lead the party in Shanghai, this was made on the account of his reputedintegrity in the wake of a scandal. Xi Jinping reputation as an honest andefficient politician rose steadily and helped him gain the presidency in March2013. His ideas of infrastructure in his earlier political career influencedhis policies in Africa. With the East Railway project for example, in a periodof 9 months, Kenya had 1,981 km of road built by China Railway Engineering (Eisenmanet al, p27, 2012).
Xi Jinping reputation has an honest man tellsus that exploiting Africa and its resources are something that he would notagree with because it is against his personal morals. Although it can be arguedthat state officials and ministers constantly seek to benefit themselvesregardless of how immoral something may be. Being the president of China surelycomes with sacrifices, therefore if exploiting Africa is the only way for Chinato grow as the global power, Xi Jinping is obliged to sacrifice his morals forthe benefit of his country. On the other had some are more pessimistic about Chineseinvestment in Africa, arguing that the Chinese relationship with Africa hasaffected the social structure of Africans whilst bringing in Chinese businessesand goods. Could this just be a new form of colonialism that’s been allowed topenetrate in Africa? Although, Africa is not new to colonialism, after decades ofcolonial rule to the West Africa was left amputated and set back in years ofmodernisation. Those who have criticised Chinas investment policy speak abouttrade disproportion that are creating obstacles in the nations involved,although it’s giving advantage to China at the expense of African people. Thesecritics maintain that China sought to establish itself as a colonial power,infrastructure programmes funded by Chinese businesses tend to be carried outby Chinese workers instead of giving local African companies the opportunity togrow experience and capital. These contracts overwhelmingly benefit Chinesecorporations and produce massive profits.
Chinese products are now flooding theAfrican markets overwhelmingly local producers with large volumes of affordableproducts that are very difficult to compete with. Moreover, in the industriesthat do employ African workers, they also are not exempt from criticism, in2011 Human Rights Watch released a contemptuous review of treatment of Zambianworkers in Chinese owned copper mines. Claiming unsafe work conditions,exploitive hours and threats to those who pose complaints (Lam, p32, 2015).
China has however gone out of its way to deny allaccusations of colonial abuse. Wang Yi Chinese foreign minister insisted in a2015 tour of Kenya that “China absolutely will not take the old path of westerncolonists, and we absolutely will not sacrifice Africa’s ecological environmentand long-term interests” (Abdulai, p42, 2016). However, it can be arguedthat Wang Yi is just protecting Chinese interests, therefore, he wouldn’texpress anything that could ruin china’s credibility and position in theinternational realm. In an attempt to counter these criticisms numerousinfrastructure programmes funded by Chinese businesses have created roads,schools, and railways in Africa. Chinese doctors also played a key role solvingthe Ebola crisis in 2015.
In spite of the criticisms of abusive behaviour, theChinese protected mines that had been declining under preceding investors whichextended facilities and rescued jobs. As a result of these benefits, William devilde sees the relationship differently stating that “there is mutual interest…if there are good policies and institutions in place, African countries can usethe investment well to grow their economies” (Abdulai, p45, 2016). This goes toshow that even if China is exploiting Africa of its resources, the fact thatthey are still doing some form of business together means that gradually Africawill grow and improve as a direct consequence of the investment policy. Over the last few years, business between the Chinese andAfrica has been thriving. In 2009 China surpassed the US as Africa’s largesttrading partner. Total trade between Africa and China grew from $6.3 billion2009 to $166 billion in 2011 (Brautigan, p21, 2015). Chinas increasingly reliedon Africa for all its imports, in which China received 1/3 of oil imports outof Africa.
Whereas Africa constitutes about 4% of Chinese global trade,however, china accounts for about 13% of Africa’s global trade (Brautigan, p22,2015). The investment from China into Africa increased by 60% from 2009-2011.This reveals that China and Africa trading together is not only increasing butthat China is highly dependent on Africa and its assets. In addition, some argue that the rising domestic problemsChina is facing is putting pressure on their foreign policy. John Parker aglobalisation editor at the economies argued that one child policy that failed20 years ago has caused the population to slow down. As a result, Chinasfertility rate is now 1.
5, less than a child per family. Therefore, if everyonehad one child the population would half, as a result population in China willbegin to fall in about 2025 and the balance between the generations will becomevery unstable. The implications of this domestic problem are highlighted in theChinese workforce.
The age group just joining the workforce are about 20-25years old, there are also the best educated and most active. In China now,there’s about 120 million in that group, by 2040 there will be 60 million inthat group (The Economist, p21, 2011). Due to this disturbing fact, Chineseinvestment in Africa is a way for them to expand their workforce across theglobe. There are hundreds of Chinese businesses growing in Africa, which is whythere are over 1 million Chinese nationals working and living in Africa at themoment. However as Chinese business are growing they are still failing to payAfrican workers a decent amount of wage.
This, therefore, attract critics whosay China is a colonist country who is exploiting Africa and its resources. Furthermore, the fact that China can be considered as asuperpower plays a vital role in their investment policy in Africa. China hassome of the worlds most advanced companies, with its nuclear weapons and hightechnology missiles. Since 1971 China has been a permanent member of the UNSecurity Council and their political influence across the globe has risen.Being the second largest economy in the world makes China a great power becausethey can finance and come to the aid of developing countries.
Some realistthinkers argue that we are now in a unipolar world system that is dominated bythe US. Although China can now be considered as a rival to the US, meaning itis fair to suggest that its relationship with Africa is based on utilisationand taking advantage of the lack of development and corruption Africa has. Forexample, Chinese troops have now departed for the first overseas military basein Djibouti a small country in Africa (Wenbin, p16, 2012).
Because of this, itprovides China access through the red sea, which is one of the busiest shippingroutes in the world. Making China a more important state in terms of providinghumanitarian aid and benefit. As a result of this investment in Africa China isnow becoming a prominent player in the world of politics. Consequently, Africa is gaining some economic benefits,nevertheless there is no doubt that China’s interest goes beyond mere unselfishness.
Economically both in the public and private sector, China is benefiting fromthis developing relationship. Chinese companies invest in Africa, as a result,China receives access to the needed natural resources in Africa. Yong Deng anassociate professor in the department of political science spoke about thesebenefits. He stated that “China feels that it is entitled to a Great powerstatus, so maintaining that in a global world order is always a long-termforeign policy goal” (Brautigam,p12, 2015 ). Deng continued that “in termsof great power rise… Africa carries an enormous amount of diplomatic weight inshifting china’s diplomatic and political influence away from the US, westerndominated world order” (Brautigam, p12, 2015). Here we can see that Africa isplaying a very important role in ensuring China’s rise in the world; by workingwith China Africa is enabling them to grow and spread their influence and poweracross the globe.
In conclusion looking at the different drivers, processesand the three level of analysis we can conclude there is no doubt that both China and African nations standto benefit in the investment from China.