Is China Colonizing Africa?

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Today Reuters published an update on China-Africa strategic partnership as President Hu addressed the opening ceremony of Fifth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Beijing. President Hu called China the “good brother” of Africa and offered $20 billion in loans to African countries.

I was talking to Professor Williams today regarding the possible geopolitical consequences when resource-hungry China runs out of natural resources. One of the possibilities that we talked about was colonizing underdeveloped countries that lack both capital and labour. Today’s news was a perfect example of how lack of sustainable development can force fast growing economies to abuse other countries. In case of China, they’re using African natural resources and polluting their environment. Deborah Brautigam observed the same thing in her book: The Dragon Gift: “Chinese strategy is to tap into Africa’s natural wealth since Chinese growth outpaced its own resources”.

In addition, China is facing severe air and water polution which are serious problems for Chinese agriculture. One way to overcome this problem is to outsource the dirty work to other countries. “We have six hundred rivers in China, four hundred of which have been killed by pollution. We will have to send at least 300 million people to Africa before we begin to see the end of our problems”, an observation made by a Chinese scientist who asked not to be named. This aligns with President Hu’s approach who sees emigration as a good way to lower demographic pressure, economic overheating, and pollution in mainland China (Serge Michel and Michel Beuret; China Safari: On the Trail of Beijing’s Expansion in Africa). This seems like modern colonization  but corrupted governments in Africa are fine with it just because of the support they get from Chinese government!

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Posted in economic development, food, pollution, water
4 comments on “Is China Colonizing Africa?
  1. tonhublog says:

    The option of colonizing another continent seems okay, when you that in a Star Trek world, we consider colonizing other planets.

    On another note, your blog made me think about the idea of ‘redistributing’ humans around the world. If national allegiances and ethnicities were removed, if would make sense to ‘even out’ human density around the world by moving people from a ‘too full’ geographic location to a ‘less full’ location. Locations such as North America and Australia have more natural resources, food, water, etc. per capita and so this would make them likely hosts for migrants.

    Migration for economic reasons has been occurring for centuries – think of the number of Europeans who came to North America, throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, in search of a ‘better life’. With today’s safer and more accessible modes of transportation and a growing trend toward ethnic diversity (think of any large city in the developed world), I think economic migration is a viable option.

  2. ghazaei says:

    I don’t think it’s a Star Trek perspective. When we talk about colonization, we usually think of military conflicts where one country controls another one at the end. This is what European did in late 19th century and it’s so over. What we talk about here is the “modern” colonization, where a strong economy makes a weak one dependent by offering low interest loans and get “control” of land and natural resources in return. Immigration to North America and Australia was always a win-win situation for immigrants and the destination. Chinese moving to Africa is a win-lose situation!

  3. tonhublog says:

    Agreed. I think in any century, might (as in strength and power), whether it’s from wealth or military superiority, will be used to subsume and even subjugate smaller nations.

  4. mpmcconnell says:

    Really fascinating topic.

    China’s involvement in Africa goes back centuries. Admiral Zheng He and his fleet are thought to have visited the east coast of Africa in the 15th century and brought back wild animals and precious goods to the Chinese imperial court. More recently, after the Sino-Soviet split, the Chinese dumped large amounts of money and development personnel into Africa in order to compete for global influence.

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