Friday, June 24, 2011

China the new aid donors of Africa - the burden shifts but no sign of colonialism - from Zheng He to Hu Jintao

China (and other economies in the same league) has been building good will and diplomatic relations with Africa for the past decade with great success never seen in the times when Europeans and Americans came for the 3Gs (gold, gold and glory) in the previous centuries.

The Africans receive aid bearing Chinese with open arms because they are generous, had few strings attached, and are types of infrastructure (such as roads, rail, power, communication, medical facilities, technology) that the poor nations really need badly in order to build capacity and take off economically.

This is not near but harks back the chapters in history when the Chinese build diplomacy through giving presents but did not colonise.   The fleets of Admiral Zheng Ho (Cheng Ho) explored the coasts of Africa as early as the 15th Century with the help of fairly accurate maps. Some revisionist historians argued that Ming emperors were stupid not to have put the Chinese flag on African continents when they had the most advanced navy, wealth and influence well ahead of the Europeans.

US and western governments claim that China's sole purpose of facilitating transport of raw materials from the resource rich continent.

Alarmists, this is not the new Cold War. China and other fast growing developing countries, emerging economies, transition economies, etc, are not interested in confrontation. They had endured more than fair share of hardships and only want to get on with economic development and enjoy the fruits of prosperity.  Kudos to Chinese soft power, turning sniggers at the crude and poor Chinaman's demeanour to envy.

On criticisms that China and Russia (the former commis) are abetting corrupt and inefficient governments, we only need to look into the mirror. The scorecard shows that China's critics in western governments have more corrupt, genocidal and faltering governments sucking up taxpayers' money. 

Nevertheless, there are critics in China who say that charity begins at home and that Beijing government should focus on redistributing wealth and improve infrastructure in the less developed regions and provinces before giving aid to foreigners.

The fact is that Africans themselves decide that unlike former white colonial masters, the new sponsors and aid donors are sincere in uplifting the economies and social development of the poor natives without attached exacting demands. As fellow developing countries who had suffered from plunder by imperialist supported companies and condescension, Africa's new sponsors treat them as equals and with respect. It is a relationship of cooperation and mutually beneficially for all sides and not a zero-sum game played by "investors" in the past.

After years of frustration with North-South trade getting no headway, perhaps South-South trade will provide the answer to eradicate poverty and share wealth equitably. Thus, the divine White Man's Burden is lifted.

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