Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Chinese in Africa

I read a few articles on my way to work this morning, and was left feeling, what is the Chinese agenda?

I have noticed the increased Chinese presence in Kenya over the years. 

 China commits billions in aid to Africa as part of charm offensive interactive by Claire Provost and Rich Harris

Some quotes below

While some insist the bottom line is China's thirst for natural resources, others argue Beijing's development projects on the continent – from infrastructure to debt relief to providing medical support – are also part of a public diplomacy strategy to build up goodwill and international support for the future.

New Chinese development projects are often announced during high-level visits from state officials, although many never make it past the ceremonial pledges. Researchers found evidence that almost 1,000 projects totalling $48.6bn, are under way or complete. The rest either remain in the pipeline or will never happen.
Many of the cultural and sporting projects across the continent are probably "upfront sweeteners" to win government favour, a "downpayment" for future commercial deals, suggests Stephen Chan, professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

Africa's future leaders benefit from Beijing's desire to win hearts and minds by Jonathan Kaiman

Some quotes below

China has been courting Robert Ocholla with the awkward intensity of a high-school romance. First it granted the 36-year-old Kenyan agricultural official a full scholarship for a three-year master's degree in Beijing. Then came the comfortable dorm room, the snazzy banquets and the complimentary Peking opera tickets. "Sometimes it's a bit too much," Ocholla said, smiling and slowly shaking his head.

Last summer, the then Chinese president Hu Jintao announced an expansive aid programme that will offer 18,000 government scholarships and train 30,000 Africans "in various sectors" by 2015. Ocholla is one of 63 government officials from Kenya to benefit directly from these promises. Chinese training programmes vary in type and duration, from three-week political tours for ministerial officials to advanced degree programmes for university administrators.
China advertises these programmes as a kind-hearted diplomatic gesture – the terms "equality", "all-round co-operation" and "mutual gain" pepper its state media reports and programme descriptions. Experts say they're a calculated, long-term investment to win the hearts and minds of Africa's future leaders, many of whom fear China's investment in the continent may come with invisible strings attached

Ocholla is adjusting quickly to life in China. His programme at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences is taught in English. He spends most days studying Chinese language, economics and maize-growing. Though he's awed by the gleaming skyscrapers and well-organised institutions, its dismal environmental record and tight political control give him pause. "If they were to go for a less restrictive, more open system, I think the benefits would be much, much better," he said.

Mahamat Adam, a Cameroonian business consultant and former member of the China-Africa Business Council, said a significant chunk of China's training budget for African officials goes to programmes that only last a few weeks. Their graduates, many of them quite high-ranking, may emerge with a more positive view of China. "But have they learned anything in the way of improving their knowledge, their capacity, their own knowhow?" he said. "I'm very, very sceptical about the impact.
"It must be understood by the Africans, they are not there to do philanthropy or help, they are there to do business. The Chinese are here to work for us, but they're here for their own interests first."

Domestic critics carp over extent of China's munificence towards Africa by Tania Branigan

Some quotes belows 

Is it pure altruism or thinly veiled self-interest? Neither, according to Beijing: aid to Africa, which has doubled in the last few years, is about co-operation and mutual benefit. But if the outside world has become increasingly suspicious about China's involvement with Africa – prompting accusations that its aid strategy is solely about pursuing raw materials or finding work for Chinese firms – some at home have the opposite concern: that it is too generous.
They wonder why a developing country, where almost 100 million rural dwellers were living on less than a dollar a day last year, should be spending so much on helping others.

When appeals for donations were launched after this month's deadly earthquake in Sichuan, critics were quick to suggest that should divert funds from overseas aid.
"This year, we should not give assistance to African brothers. Instead, [the government] should donate to Sichuan," wrote one microblogger.
Another compared the country to a person without sufficient food donning expensive clothes: "It's the same as beggars donating. I don't find it touching," he argued.

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