Wednesday, July 25, 2018

West’s Weak Understanding of China-Africa Cooperation
By Su Tan
Global Times
2018/7/24 22:08:39

Western media never cease hyping the theory that Chinese cooperation with African nations is a new form of colonialism. A BBC Chinese report on Tuesday reviewed Chinese projects in African nations, claiming that China might want to heavily indebt African countries so that they depend more on China, compromise or even become Chinese colonies. "Chinese projects in Africa in focus: the thin line between mutually beneficial cooperation and colonialism," the headline read.

Among Western countries there is also a weak logic. They are indifferent to what Sino-African cooperation is about or has brought to the less developed continent. For them, since most Chinese companies working in Africa are State-owned with Chinese government support, the cooperation is government-directed with multiple political purposes, one of which is to serve China's foreign strategy. For the West, there seems to be a sin in Chinese State-owned enterprises (SOEs) operating in developing countries, such as in Africa. And on this issue Western media tend to draw the conclusion before making necessary analysis.

African countries need massive help in infrastructure, personnel training and funding for their development. Yet, given the risks and uncertainties involved in working with these countries, government support is essential in this process and thus Chinese SOEs have a critical role to play in major projects.

Meanwhile it's important to note that more private Chinese companies are working in Africa than SOEs. Some details in a report released by McKinsey in June 2017 can be telling. It said that about 90 percent of Chinese companies operating across Africa are privately owned. Although SOEs tend to be bigger, particularly in specific sectors such as energy and infrastructure, the sheer number of private Chinese firms working toward their own profit motives suggests that Chinese investment in Africa is a more market-driven phenomenon than is commonly understood, the report said.

Sino-African trade has grown rapidly from $765 million in 1978 to over $170 billion in 2017, and is expected to reach $400 billion, benefiting African development enormously. It wouldn't have developed so well if China implemented any form of colonialism in Africa. After all, African countries are independent in deciding who they want to work with.

Western countries may find it difficult to understand China's friendship and cooperation with Africa since they will only act when there are profits. Today's US is troubled by protectionism and xenophobia, Europe by rising nationalism. While China continues offering support and help for Africa, perhaps it's time for Western countries to abandon their stereotype about China-Africa cooperation and keep up with the times.

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