My Opinion: Sino-african Relations

China has emerged as a global superpower in international politics since the turn of the century, receiving applause and criticism along the process. This article examines the relationship, in terms of politics and economy, between the government of China and the African continent.

Located in eastern Asia, with a population the size of the U.S.A, Indonesia, Pakistan, Brazil, and Nigeria combined, China has become a superpower in the committee of nations. Although there are several allegations of human rights abuses levied against the Chinese government and its overbearing intrusion into the everyday life of ordinary citizens, China has continued to set the pace for rapid economic and sociopolitical development in the world today.

However, many international politics students have argued that China's expansion and development have come at a disadvantage to developing countries, especially in Africa. While this article is in no way a scholarly thesis on the intentions of China in the African continent, it is more or less synopsis of previously written journals on this topic spiced with the author's thoughts.

Why is China interested in Africa? 

To answer this question, one might be tempted to conclude that the interest of the Chinese is similar to that of the European imperialist who had tilled the soil of Africa for every gold they could get a few decades ago. However, a proper interrogation of the facts may present a rather different perspective, or so it seems. 

China's ideological interests in Africa are evident in its willingness to amass enough support and 'friends' within the international community. China posits itself as a 'comrade' to African countries, having shared similar colonial and neo-colonial experiences. It, therefore, appears to champion the ideology of political and economic independence for African countries. 

China's advancing diplomatic ties with African countries premises on its determination to achieve international relevance, especially on fundamental issues in international organizations like the United Nations Organization (U.N.O). This is because the 54 African countries that are members of the U.N.O account for more than one-quarter of the entire U.N.O's membership. Hence, China requires the support of African countries in the pursuit of its political agenda in international politics. In 1972, for instance, African countries' votes were pivotal in the reassumption of China as a permanent member of the U.N.O security council, the organization's highest organ.

Therefore, is China only interested in being 'friends' with Africa for political gains in international politics?

Now, this is a question that could have so many answers depending on who is answering. However, China has offered loans and technical and technological assistance to African countries to address the infrastructural deficit around the continent over the past decades. It has also assisted in offering military assistance in confronting some of the activities of groups that fan the flames of ethnoreligious conflicts within the continent. 

In exchange for what? 

Africa is blessed with vast human and natural resources. The continent's predominantly young population is a leading destination for emerging industries and foreign direct investments. Many scholars have argued that these were some of the factors that engendered slavery and colonialism in times past. China has been accused severally by western media of encouraging human rights abuses, including child labor that anchors its search for cheap labor for its emerging industries. Which would mean that if China wanted a continent with a young population with little or no mechanism to enforce labor rights, Africa was its biggest bet. 

Chinese nationals have also invested in multi-national corporations in several African countries, and as of today, China has become Africa's largest trading partner. The implication of this is that Africa exchanges its human and natural resources to China for loans, infrastructural, and, in some cases, military assistance. Isn't China practicing the same thing she criticizes the western world for doing?

There are two major ideological blocs in the world today. Ideologies are simply political and economic systems adopted by countries to foster development. While America leads the capitalist world, China leads the socialist world. Both ideologies negate each other. However, in relation to Africa, both ideologies seem to be producing the same outcome; Imperialism. 

What then can the Africans do? 

Africa needs the political will to engage with all layers of the international community on the basis of fairness and equity. Africa must look inwards and exploit its vast resources, both human and natural, for the purpose of development. Governments in Africa should invest in human capital development as well as provide social security for their citizens. These can be done by providing adequate and goal-oriented education and skill to its very young population, ensuring political stability, and building strong institutions that can churn out effective policies and laws that would accelerate political and economic progress. 

While we can agree that no country or continent can exist in isolation, it is imperative to note that no country can plan another country's advancement and development, let alone continent.

Share your thoughts on China's relationship with Africa. Do you think anything productive can ensue? 

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