Tuesday, October 31, 2006

China To Host Summit With African Leaders in Beijing

China Defends Dealings With Africa

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

(10-31) 11:33 PST BEIJING, China (AP) --Billboards of elephants, giraffes and sweeping African savannas are covering Beijing high-rises. Police have had holidays canceled to help ease gridlock in the capital. Conference centers are being carpeted with grass.

Beijing is making unusually lavish efforts to welcome leaders and officials from 48 African nations this week for a landmark summit meant to highlight China's huge and growing role in Africa.

Over the past decade, China has built an outsized presence in Africa, in a diplomatic and economic push that is helping to reshape the geo-political map. Trade has ballooned tenfold to $40 billion last year. Chinese investment has funded roads and been poured into copper mines and oil fields, helping to boost African economies and, for some, standards of living.

"China is the biggest developing country and Africa is a continent where the most developing countries are situated," said He Wenping, an Africa expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "They need each other."

In this exchange, China is picking up natural resources — oil, precious minerals — to feed its expanding economy and new markets for its burgeoning enterprises. The African countries get investment and both parties are building political alliances in a world they often see as overly dominated by the United States and other Western powers.

But China's African adventure is not friction-free. African workers have protested against what they see as ill-treatment and poor pay by Chinese companies, as well as the flood of Chinese workers who take away their jobs. South Africa, a staunch friend of Beijing, has complained that influxes of cheap Chinese clothes could devastate the textile industry.

In Zambia, a decades-old political ally, China became an issue in the September presidential election, with the opposition candidate questioning the benefit from Chinese investment. In July, scores of African workers at a Chinese-owned Zambian mine rioted over low wages.

There's a "growing perception that China's interests in Africa are very self-serving, if not predatory, that China is interested in making inroads into markets that are good for its energy needs — especially with countries that are not paragons of democratic virtue," said Garth le Pere of the Institute for Global Dialogue, a think tank based in Midrand, South Africa.

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund have raised concern that freely lavished Chinese aid money is compounding Africa's debts. China's exports of oil from Angola, seen as one of Africa's most corrupt governments, and Sudan, among the most repressive governments, have raised alarms from human rights and good governance groups.

Critics also have said that China's arms exports to Sudan's Darfur region have helped fuel the conflict, which has claimed at least 180,000 lives and forced more than 2 million people from their homes over the past three years.

Chinese officials, however, insist that their country's involvement has improved the lives of ordinary Africans without meddling in political affairs — strict adherence to China's diplomatic policy of noninterference.

"Chinese investment in Africa has promoted economic growth, increased job opportunities ... and improved living standards," Deputy Commerce Minister Wei Jianguo told reporters. "It has greatly benefited the local people and is very popular among them."

Since 1956, Wei said, China has also helped set up more than 700 projects in Africa in fisheries, telecommunications, hydropower, education and health, Wei said. "They have all proven to be very successful," he said.

For Beijing, the Nov. 3-5 China-African summit offers a fresh opportunity to try to blunt the controversy while pushing deeper economically and politically.

The summit will "exert an important and far-reaching influence over the long-term development over China-Africa relations," Wei said.

Among the countries invited to the summit are Burkina Faso, Swaziland, Malawi, Gambia, Sao Tome and Principe, which have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, the democratic island that China claims as its own. The two have engaged in a diplomatic tug of war, offering inducements to nations to cut diplomatic ties with the other.

A conference for 1,500 Chinese and African entrepreneurs will be held along the sidelines, along with an African product exhibition to show off food, lumber, textiles and handicrafts.

Throughout the city, billboards touting "Africa — the land of myth and miracle" have been put up in numbers unusual even for a capital used to propaganda campaigns. Some 1,800 plainclothes and uniformed police officers are being put on summit duty, organizers said. So far, there have been no threats of protests. Volunteers will also be mobilized to patrol on the streets, many of which will be closed to public traffic.

State media have run almost daily reports touting relations between the two sides.

Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean president who has been criticized in the West for trampling human rights, was quoted as saying that the summit will enhance cooperation.

"We have nothing to lose but our imperialist chains," the Xinhua News Agency quoted Mugabe as saying.

To ensure success, Beijing's Communist Party Secretary, Liu Qi, has called for "all-out efforts to create a seriously friendly atmosphere for Sino-African relations," state media reported.

To some, however, the issue isn't cooperation but whether African countries are leveraging their resources to get the most out of China. And the billions of dollars in aid, forgiven debt and investment China has poured into Africa is proving controversial even among Chinese.

"African countries have got what China wants but they're not bargaining," said Francis Kornegay, a senior researcher at the Center for Policy Studies in Johannesburg, South Africa. "Is it simply going to be a mutual admiration society, or is there going to be some real given and take?"

URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi


Pan-African News Wire said...

China Poised to Overtake World Bank as Biggest Lender in Africa

By Christopher Swann and William McQuillen

Nov. 3 (Bloomberg) -- China is poised to become the biggest lender to African nations, threatening to undermine efforts by World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz to use overseas aid as an incentive to clean up corruption on the continent.

China has committed $8.1 billion this year to Nigeria, Angola and Mozambique, according to World Bank figures. That compares with $2.3 billion pledged to sub-Saharan Africa by the Washington-based World Bank. China may announce more deals at a Sino-African forum starting today in Beijing, cementing its place as the top official source of finance to Africa, development experts say.

China is bucking the global aid establishment by refusing to impose conditions in return for financing projects that include airports, government buildings and power plants. That allows African governments to borrow overseas while avoiding strictures imposed by the World Bank, such as accounting safeguards and measures to protect workers and the environment.

``There is a risk that some governments in Africa may use Chinese money in the wrong way to avoid pressure from the West for good government,'' said Papa Kwesi Nduom, who heads the Ministry of Public Sector Reform in Ghana, which is seeking a $1.2 billion loan from China for a hydro-electric dam and rural electrification.

China has a more commercial agenda than the World Bank, the U.S. and France, the top Western donors, and terms of some of its loans are less favorable. The U.S. provided a net $3.5 billion in loans and grants to sub-Saharan Africa in 2004, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. France extended $3 billion.

Eximbank, China's overseas lending arm, has provided about $12.5 billion in infrastructure loans to Africa since 1994, a figure that excludes mining and oil projects, according to the World Bank.

Access to Resources

China is using loans, export credits and other sources of financing to secure access to resources it needs to fuel its economy, the world's fourth largest and among the fastest growing. China is the world's biggest consumer of zinc, nickel and copper, the second-largest user of crude oil and the top importer of tropical woods.

``The Chinese deals are very opaque but seem often to be long-term mortgages on Africa's resources or mineral deposits,'' says Dan Large, a China specialist at the Rift Valley Institute, a Nairobi-based think-tank that's financed in part by Unicef.

Angola, a nation of 14 million that's recovering from a 27- year civil war, is avoiding pressure to clean up corruption thanks to aid from China, Large says.

Money Disappears

The former Portuguese colony is ranked 151 of 158 countries on Transparency International's corruption index. Global Witness, a London-based human rights group, reckons that $8.5 billion of Angolan public money disappeared between 1997 and 2001.

In 2004, Angola received a $2 billion line of credit from China backed by oil revenue, an amount that was increased by $1 billion this year.

Laurinda Santos, press secretary at the Angolan embassy in Washington, didn't respond to requests for comment. The press office at the Chinese embassy in Washington didn't return telephone calls.

Nigeria, the continent's top oil producer, this year agreed to provide a drilling license to China in exchange for a $4 billion commitment to improve
infrastructure. China this year also agreed to lend $2.6 billion to Mozambique to build a dam, a hydroelectric power plant and transmission lines.

Debt Crisis

Such loans raise the prospect of a renewed debt crisis in Africa, just a year after the world's rich nations agreed to forgive as much as $57 billion of debt, Wolfowitz told Chinese news agency Xinhua last week.

``Africans cannot afford to miss the growth opportunities offered by new sources of lending and investment,'' Harry Broadman, an economic adviser in the World Bank's Africa Department, said in a statement yesterday.

China and other new lenders ``will undoubtedly want to learn about the overall debt situation and coordinate with other sources of development finance to avoid some of the mistakes and problems that Western lending and aid has generated in the past.''

Wolfowitz has made his good-government drive a hallmark of his 16-month tenure at the World Bank, arguing that too much of the money intended for schools and clinics winds up in the pockets of corrupt politicians.

One result of his efforts: Chad in July agreed to set aside set aside 70 percent of its oil revenue for anti-poverty programs after the World Bank suspended $124 million in loans to the central African nation of 9 million.

Fight Against Poverty

``The effort to strengthen and improve governance is a key element in the fight against poverty,'' Wolfowitz, 62, said in a speech on Sept. 18.

Some African nations bristle at the World Bank campaign, calling it interference in domestic matters.

``The fact that a country gives you aid makes them think they have a license to tell you how to run your affairs,'' Robert Kabushenga, a spokesman for Uganda's government, said in an interview from Kampala. ``These conditions are probably well intentioned, but they are humiliating.''

To contact the reporters on this story: Christopher Swann in Washington at cswann1@bloomberg.net ; William McQuillen in Washington at bmcquillen@bloomberg.net

Last Updated: November 2, 2006 16:18 EST

Pan-African News Wire said...

From the November 03, 2006 edition - http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/1103/p01s04-woap.html

China woos African trade

In Beijing this weekend, China is seeking tighter ties with regimes reviled in the West

By Peter Ford
Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

For Chinese officials, this weekend's summit here of more than 40 African leaders is a chance to celebrate Beijing's booming economic ties with the continent.

For Western governments, though, the jamboree highlights a new and troubling source of friction with China: the Asian giant's readiness to bail out African regimes that the US and Europe are trying to pressure into improving their human rights and good governance records.

Behind the handshakes, and the giant billboards from which elephants look down on Beijing's expressways, the summit raises vexing ethical questions about China's role in the world.

In its drive to feed the booming Chinese economy's voracious appetite for oil and other raw materials, the Chinese government has not always been choosy about the African friends it has made - such as pariah regimes in Sudan and Zimbabwe.

Its indiscriminate glad-handing, though, is frustrating recent Western efforts to use trade, aid, and investment to compel certain African regimes to clean up corruption and dubious ethics.

For their part, Chinese officials say that business is business, and that it is not their job to tell others how to run their countries.

"It is never our view that a country should interfere in another country's internal affairs," Deputy Foreign Minister Zhai Jun said last week. "We've never imposed on other countries our values ... and we do not accept other countries imposing their values on us either."

That principle has guided China's dealings with the world for 50 years, points out He Wenping, head of African studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "It has played a very positive role in developing Chinese influence," she says. "Developing countries appreciate it very much. It won't change in the near future."

China's business with Africa is exploding; trade has increased tenfold over the past decade to nearly $40 billion a year, making Beijing the continent's third largest trading partner, just behind the US and France. Chinese investment now tops $6.4 billion, largely in oil installations but also in prestige projects such as railroads in Angola and Nigeria, sports stadiums in Mali and the Central African Republic, and Africa's largest dam in Ethiopia, according to Deputy Trade Minister Wei Jianguo. China's president, prime minister and foreign minister have all visited the continent this year.

Alongside Chinese rhetoric about cooperation among developing countries sits the Asian giant's insatiable need for oil and raw materials. Angola and Sudan are China's biggest African trading partners, selling Beijing 25 percent of its oil imports. Within five years, officials here say, that share will rise to 33 percent.

Beijing secured its position in Angola with a $2 billion loan. That windfall came just in time for Angola, which is ranked 151 out of 158 nations in Transparency International's 2005 corruption ratings. Thanks to Chinese generosity, Angola managed to avoid submitting to good governance conditions that the International Monetary Fund was attaching to its financial assistance.

China's investments in Sudan's oil industry, and its payments for Sudanese oil, have also emboldened Khartoum to rebuff United Nations efforts to send an international force to Darfur, where some 200,000 people have been killed since 2003.

"Khartoum can tell the rest of the world" where to go, complains Peter Takirambudde, head of the Africa division of Human Rights Watch. "They've got the cash. China gets a nice deal and in return it undertakes to see no evil and speak no evil about human rights. That's the most dangerous trend."

Beijing insists that it has used its influence with the Khartoum government to try to convince the authorities to accept a UN force. "We are using our own channels to try to bring the parties to a more sensible position" Mr. Zhai told reporters.

Chinese analysts also say that as latecomers to international investment, Chinese state-owned and private firms have been forced to explore markets that Western firms have not already snapped up, sometimes for political reasons.

International aid donors, though, worry that China's scruple-free approach undermines their efforts to improve African governance. World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz complained last week that Chinese lenders "do not respect" a set of internationally agreed principles to ensure that loans to African countries fund projects that meet high social and environmental standards, and hoped that Beijing would not follow past Western practices of propping up corrupt African dictators.

Africans themselves are beginning to complain - especially businessmen and trade unionists in countries such as South Africa, where cheap Chinese imports are undercutting local manufactured goods and threatening local firms. In Zambia, anger over poor conditions at a Chinese-owned copper mine - where a Chinese security guard shot three workers in July - colored last month's presidential election campaign.

That incident should serve as "an early warning bell for the Chinese government and companies," says Dr. He. "These economic frictions can become a political issue."

One problem, says Wang Hongyi, an analyst with the China Institute of International Studies - a think tank linked to the foreign ministry - is that "even at home it is hard to supervise private companies." Another is that Chinese companies unaccustomed to strong trade unions or environmental laws at home find them difficult to deal with abroad.

Chinese firms, however, "are judged by the same standards as other international companies that operate in Africa," says Chris Alden, an expert in African politics at the London School of Economics.

In the long term, he predicts, Chinese investors - both state and private - "will conform to the same positions as other international players because governance issues will be as much a problem for them as they are for other multinationals.

"As China becomes a card-carrying member of the group of leading states, it will move away from its policy of not attaching conditions" to its loans and investment, Dr. Alden suggests. And with Beijing's activities in Africa under increasing international scrutiny, it will be obliged to "untangle and normalize relations" as it settles down to deal with classic donor problems such as debt management and trade disputes.

As it does so, says Mr. Takirambudde, "China will have to develop relations with Africans at large, not just with the top dogs.

"In the short term they can disregard" the behavior of their African partners, he adds. "But in the long term that is not sustainable. Eventually they will be forced to take account of these issues."

Pan-African News Wire said...

November 3, 2006

China Courts Africa, Angling for Strategic Gains

New York Times

BEIJING, Nov. 2 — Billboards here show elephants and giraffes roaming the savanna. Traffic has been curtailed, construction sites shut down and even the sky has been tantalizingly, if temporarily, blue.

Beijing has put on its best face to court Africa, “the land of myth and miracles,” as official posters call it. Political leaders of 48 of the 53 African countries, including 40 heads of state, are to arrive this weekend for a huge diplomatic event, the China-Africa forum.

The official purposes of the three-day event are to expand trade, to allow China to secure the oil and ore it needs for its booming economy and to offer aid to help African nations improve roads, railways and schools.

The unofficial purpose is to redraw the world’s strategic map by forming tighter political ties between China, which has the world’s fastest-growing major economy, and Africa, a continent whose leaders often complain about being neglected by the United States and Europe.

“African leaders see China as a new kind of global partner that has lots of money but treats them as equals,” said Wenran Jiang, a political scientist at the University of Alberta who has studied Chinese-African ties. “Chinese leaders see Africa, in a strategic sense, as up for grabs.”

China’s enthusiasm for Africa has raised concerns among many in the West while the United States is distracted by its efforts to curb terrorism, and France, Britain and other former colonial powers exert less influence in Africa than they once did.

China does not follow the international lending standards intended to fight corruption in the region. It has embraced the leaders of Sudan and Zimbabwe, two countries that are under heavy pressure to improve their poor human rights records. Major oil companies have complained that China uses its influence to secure business opportunities for its state-owned companies.

Chinese officials say those concerns are overblown or hypocritical, and they deny that they have a grand scheme to create an exclusive sphere of influence in Africa. But China has nearly $1 trillion in foreign currency reserves, boundless entrepreneurial energy and a strong drive to compete there on its own terms.

“The Western approach of imposing its values and political system on other countries is not acceptable to China,” said Wang Hongyi, a leading specialist on Africa at the China Institute of International Studies. “We focus on mutual development, not promoting one country at the expense of another.”

China’s economic goal is to secure Africa’s abundant supplies of oil, iron ore, copper and cotton at the lowest possible prices, analysts say. Chinese companies view Africa as an open market, neglected by Western multinationals, that they can cultivate with their trademark low-priced goods.

But if the goal is mostly mercenary, not unlike European objectives in Africa 150 years ago, the method is avowedly anti-imperialist.

The forum’s slogan — “Peace, Friendship, Cooperation, Development” — underscores China’s pledge not to discriminate or intervene. It even invited the five African countries — Burkina Faso, Malawi, Gambia, Swaziland and São Tomé and Príncipe — that still extend diplomatic recognition to its rival Taiwan, though none agreed to attend.

In the long term, Chinese officials say they hope not only that the overture will give their companies an edge in the competition for resources, but also that it will give their diplomats an advantage at the United Nations and other international organizations, where African countries can constitute a powerful voting bloc.

Unlike China’s initial push into Africa under Mao, which aimed to support the Socialist governments of postcolonial Africa, the focus is now on commerce.

“China has offered Africa a new model that focuses on straight commercial relations and fair market prices without the ideological agenda,” said Moeletsi Mbeki, a South African businessman and political analyst.

“They are not the first big foreign power to come to Africa, but they may be the first not to act as though they are some kind of patron or teacher or conqueror,” he added. “In that sense, there is a meeting of the minds.”

The event in Beijing, like most big political affairs in China, promises to be long on ceremony and propaganda and short on substance. President Hu Jintao is meeting a procession of heads of state.

The state media have promoted the “three 50s”: 50 years of Chinese-African cooperation, 53 African countries, $50 billion in two-way trade (a projected figure for 2006). China Central Television is conducting a nationwide survey to select 10 outstanding African icons. Contenders include Cleopatra, South African diamonds and the Sahara.

Chinese diplomats hint that by the end of the meeting they will unveil a variety of trade and aid concessions. These may include a list of African goods that can enter China tariff-free, increases in aid and technical cooperation and debt forgiveness.

China’s trade with Africa is growing faster than with any other region except the Middle East, increasing tenfold in the past decade, to just shy of $40 billion last year. China buys timber from the Congo Republic, iron ore from South Africa and cobalt and copper from Zambia. An estimated 80,000 Chinese expatriates live in Africa, selling shoes, televisions and everything else the world’s factory produces.

More vitally, Africa has helped quench China’s growing thirst for oil. Angola, which China cultivated assiduously in recent years, has edged out Saudi Arabia as China’s largest foreign source of oil.

Sudan, shunned by the West for its genocidal civil war in Darfur, was a net oil importer before China arrived there in 1995. China has since invested heavily in oil extraction, helping Sudan export about $2 billion worth of crude annually, half of that to China.

Beijing’s aggressive pursuit of commodities has often been accompanied by generous aid programs, low-interest loans and other gifts that some Western interests say undermine efforts to foster good governing in Africa. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have expressed their concerns that China’s unrestricted lending, including a $2 billion credit line for corruption-plagued Angola, has undermined years of painstaking efforts to arrange conditional debt relief.

Some African economists complain, too, that China wants to extract raw materials for industry and then sell manufactured goods back to Africa, a mercantilist pattern that failed to bring sustained growth in the past.

China has also prompted concerns among human rights groups by using the threat of its veto in the United Nations Security Council to protect Sudan and Zimbabwe against international sanctions. The rights groups say China’s arms exports to Sudan fuel the conflict in Darfur, which has claimed at least 200,000 lives and has forced more than two million people from their homes.

“China insists that it will not interfere in other countries’ domestic affairs, but it also claims to be a great friend of the African people,” said Sophie Richardson of Human Rights Watch. “But that doesn’t square with staying silent while mass killings go on in Darfur.”

For years, Chinese officials insisted that such concerns were the internal affairs of the countries involved, but they have recently changed their stance somewhat.

Zhai Jun, an assistant foreign minister responsible for African affairs, said last week that the Africa forum would address human rights and good government, and he specifically mentioned Sudan.

“The humanitarian situation in Darfur should be improved,” Mr. Zhai said. “We will adopt our own method and use the upcoming summit to do our part.”

Even if China does speak out on some rights issues, its basic strategy of engaging African countries on their own terms remains the core of its foreign policy.

Mr. Jiang, of the University of Alberta, said that unlike in the cold war, when China’s foreign involvement was motivated by ideology, Beijing now had a commercial strategy as the developing world’s biggest beneficiary of globalization to unite with the region most conspicuously left behind.

It will be up to each country’s leaders, and ultimately each country’s people, to decide how to use the wealth, he said. “From China’s perspective the Western powers and Western companies have had their chance in Africa and really nothing has happened,” he said.

“China is trying a different approach,” he added. “It is saying, ‘Let us have a chance.’ ”