The Rise of Sino-African Relations: Kenya and Zambia as case studies
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Introduction Sino-African relations have been on the rise since the turn of the millennium; as a result of their continued interaction has generated Background of the study There is extensive literature that discusses the historied interactions between Africans and the Chinese through the lens of time. Indeed, interactions between China and Africa can be traced to as far back as the Ming Dynasty; there is also evidence that suggests that Zheng He, then diplomat and eunuch administrator during Imperial China’s Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), had already arrived at the East African coast in what appears to be several decades prior to Vasco da Gama’s arrival (Besada & O’Bright, 2017, p.656). Zheng’s influence within the Ming Dynasty seems to have been significant, with documenting pointing to his having led a vast fleet of more than 62 ships that carried with it 37,000 soldiers across the Indian Ocean. Zheng’s voyages have been long chronicled as part of the ‘Ming Voyages’. The Bandung Conference More recent interactions between the two parties have been most prominent from the 1950s during the Bandung Conference (1955) in Indonesia (Office of the Historian, n.d.).
The conference involved the gathering of the representatives of 29 governments spread across Asian and African nations; the conference was called in order to discuss peace, as well as the role that the Third World was expected to play with respect to decolonization, the Cold War and economic development. To this effect, the 5-principles of the Bandung Conference were: i) political self-determination; ii) mutual non-aggression; iii) mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity; iv) non-interference in internal affairs; and v) equality and mutual benefit (Looy, 2006, p.2). The Bandung Conference agenda was central to most of the participating countries as they almost all recently emerged from a historical colonial rule. The delegates that took part in the conference committed themselves to the development of the Bandung agenda, with negotiations worked out between China and India in 1954 with the aim of building solidarity amongst the recently independent nations (Office of the Historian, n.d.). China’s relationship with Africa took a significant dip during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s that was spearheaded by then Premier Mao Zedong. However, the relationship continued in the form of aid provided to Africa by China, most notably the Tanzania-Zambia (TAZARA) railway project that cost China US $450 million; China constructed it despite the West having refused to build the project based on logistical and cost impracticality (Anshan et. al., 2012, p.11).
More recent years The year 2000 proved to be pivotal to Sino-African relations ; the month of October of that year saw the formal launch of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), a body that would serve to promote cooperation and friendship between China and Africa (Ofodile, 2008, p.508). Subsequently, Beijing also hosted First Ministerial Conference, the first of its king in China-Africa relations; the conference saw an attendance of more than 5,000 attendees from either side, with high ranking Chinese officials including its Foreign Minister. The conference also saw the attendance of a representative of China’s Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation, as well as 80 foreign affairs ministers. The conference has been followed up by several others that have seen these relations grow over time (Anshan et. al., 2012, p.13). The year 2000 proved to be pivotal to Sino-African relations ; the month of October of that year saw the formal launch of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), a body that would serve to promote cooperation and friendship between China and Africa (Ofodile, 2008, p.508). Subsequently, Beijing also hosted First Ministerial Conference, the first of its king in China-Africa relations; the conference saw an attendance of more than 5,000 attendees from either side, with high ranking Chinese officials including its Foreign Minister.
The conference also saw the attendance of a representative of China’s Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation, as well as 80 foreign affairs ministers. The conference has been followed up by several others that have seen these relations grow over time. The results of this renewed have been glaring at the worst; China has risen to become Africa’s most important economic partner – the beginning of the 21st century saw Chinese-Africa trade grow at a rate of 20% per year. Yet this pales in comparison to the growth of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa over the past decade leading to 2018, with figures suggesting an estimated rate of 40% per year (McKinsey&Company, 2017, p.9). Data from McKinsey also suggests that China’s influence continues to grow with regard to the provision of aid to the continent; to date, China is officially the largest and fastest-growing source of aid. The data also suggests that China is also Africa’s largest provider of construction financing, – these funds contributed significantly to supporting many ambitious infrastructure projects on the continent. Statement of the research problem The study is intended to examine the outcomes of the China-Africa relationship; this will be based on an examination of several smaller problems: i. Does Africa benefit from its close relationship with China? ii. Is China in Africa for the short or long term? iii. Is Africa’s debt with China sustainable in the long term? What are the costs involved? Objectives Chapter 2 – Establish whether Africa benefits on a mutual basis with China with regard to economic partnerships Chapter 3 – Establish the nature of the duration that China intends to maintain their relationship with Africa Chapter 4 – Establish the inherent costs of Africa’s Chinese debt versus their ability to pay back said debt Research questions.
This study is aimed at evaluating the relationship between China and African relations through the lens of establishing the Chapter 1 questions 1. What are some of the economic benefits that China gains from Kenya and/ or Zambia? 2. What are some of the economic benefits that Kenya and/ or Zambia gains from China? 3. What is the balance of trade between China and Africa? 4. Is the relationship China and Africa mutually beneficial? Chapter 2 questions 1. What are some of the long-term projects that indicate that China is in Africa for the long-term? 2. Are there any indications that China may not be in Africa for the long-term? Chapter 3 questions 1. Is Africa paying higher or lower interest rates on Chinese debt when compared to European/ American debt? 2. Is Africa able to keep up with its debt repayment requirements? Hypothesis of the study. The primary hypothesis behind the study is that Sino-African relations are likely to be founded upon a mutually agreed upon and beneficial engagement between the involved parties. As such, it is hypothesized that the relationship is likely to yield examples of both mutually beneficial case studies, as well as exploitative relationships with long-term benefits likely the end result of the mutual cooperation.
The study also hypothesises that exploitative cases are more likely a result of human nature rather than identifying specifically with the Chinese. This may be evidenced by the Euro-African relationship that preceded the Bandung conference period; in fact, the Bandung conference was held on the back of European domination of the African continent. Literature review Introduction To be completed A symbiotic relationship The relationship between Africa and China has been described as ‘perfect symbiosis’, suggesting that both parties, even though they may benefit to varying degrees, benefit from the relationship regardless (Michel, 2008). Serge Michel in When China met Africa described China as ‘a growing country that is looking for markets and influence meets a continent rich in resources but with a lack of investors.’ Indeed, Serge concludes it unsurprising that African countries would be interested in growing their partnerships and cooperation with other regions in the world, China included (Michel, 2008). As such, Serge concludes the relationship as a win-win with China gaining access to the raw materials that are closely tied to the significant economic growth the country has achieved in its recent past.
On the other hand, African countries are able to capitalise on the current interest in the continent (from the raw materials) and use it to drive improvement and/ or create new infrastructures – such as railways, schools and roads – that the continent needs in order to maintain overall development (Duarte, 2012, p.25). Serge also claims that the Chinese are able to take a leadership position on the continent given their possession of the tools, ability to mobilise significant levels of workers, as well as the appropriate levels of technology. Most importantly, the Chinese have the opportunity to have an impact and ‘deeply transform’ the continent in a manner that other nations (such as the Western nations) have been unable to do in the past. Cheru & Obi (2011), in an effort to explain the growth of China to its current position as Africa’s preferred partner, offer that Sino-African relations are driven primarily from an African desire to: a) learn the instructive values stemming from China’s development experience; b) complementary nature of Chinese investments vis-a-vis African needs; and c) positive portrayal of Africa in a positive light by the Chinese (Cheru & Obi, 2011, p.73). In their article, Cheru & Obi suggest that China’s phenomenal and sustained growth that began in the late 1970s, in addition to its experience as a semi-colony, has endeared African interest in learning from the country’s success. In particular, the authors suggest that African countries are interested in the domestic policy lessons, economic management, visionary leadership and radical economic reform agenda.
The authors also highlight that Chinese investments on the African continent are driven primarily by African needs, that is, China invests in sectoral areas (as well as the accompanying technological choices) align closely with the needs and priorities of African countries Finally, the authors also suggest that African endearment to China is closely related to the positive light with which China holds its view of Africa. As such, the Western view of gloom and doom juxtaposed against the Chinese view of Africa as a dynamic continent with unlimited business opportunities that serve the interests of both parties. Therefore, China’s avoidance of the use of words such as ‘development assistance’ and ‘aid’ when announcing its development cooperation with Africa, and instead using words such as ‘solidarity’, ‘common prosperity’ and ‘mutually beneficial economic cooperation’ (Cheru & Obi, 2011, p.73). It is also important to note that Sino-African relations are not necessarily limited to economic and political interactions; China has also evolved its contributions to Africa in two fronts: its responses to humanitarian issues/ crises and its peacekeeping efforts. China’s contribution to peacekeeping missions in Africa is influenced primarily by its socialisation within the internationals system; as such, it is part of China’s responsibility, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC), to actively contribute to peacekeeping in Africa (Mason, 2017, p.89). Africa has thus benefited significantly from this role: as at the beginning of 2013, China had deployed approximately 1900 troops deployed in various African, UN peacekeeping missions, making it the largest single contributor (amongst UNSC members) of troops on the continent.
As such, China not only contributes to Africa’s economic development, it also participates in the general well-being of the continent. Sources of tension The economic benefits to Africa notwithstanding, there have been several pain-points within the interactions that China has with Africa. One of the more apparent criticisms that African countries have had with respect to Sino-African relations is the ‘winner-take-all’ business model that some have accused the country of. Indeed, Cheru & Obi (2011) suggest that projects undertaken by the Chinese often have little to no spill over effects to local economies whether through sub-contracting of local firms for opportunities or through the creation of employment. The authors also point out that Chinese support of what are seemingly undemocratic regimes generates poor optics both at an African level as well as internationally. Indeed, China’s reputation as a country that is willing to do business with ‘anyone’, especially those with questionable morals and ethics, has seen it image blighted amongst critics. The country’s close relationship with corrupt, undemocratic regimes in Africa, such as those in Zimbabwe and Sudan, have been seen as undermining the general principles of democracy and fairness that it aims to eschew.
More importantly, however, are the criticisms that Chinese companies take advantage of Africa’s weak position on the enforcement of sound environmental and social standards when undertaking investments in mining, hydro-electric power projects, agriculture, oil &gas exploration as well as transport infrastructure, all of which bring about serious concerns over the sustainability, social impacts and environmental degradation that result from such activities. Another significant source of tension between the two has been China’s labour policies, a topic that can be divided into two. For one, China has consistently used its relationship with Africa as means of mitigating unemployment within its own country.
As such, China has addressed problems related to local unemployment by sending its workers overseas; these workers typically work for Chinese state-owned enterprises and or through labour brokers (Baah & Jauch, 2009, p.12). As a result, a large number of Chinese workers can be routinely found at construction sites as well as part of larger manufacturing ventures. In addition to these challenges, the hiring of Africans within the African continent has also meant that some common trends have emerged from continued relations between Chinese employers and African employees (Baah & Jauch, 2009, p.13). Some of the issues associated with the interactions include tense labour relations, worker’s rights violations, unfair labour practices, hostile attitudes towards trade unions by Chinese employers as well as generally poor working conditions. Further, Chinese employers are more often unlikely to involve employment contracts within their employment activities as well as often depriving employees as ‘casuals’ with the intention of depriving them legally entitled benefits.
There is addition literature that suggests that Chinese employers tend to typically rank amongst the lowest payers, especially when compared to non-Chinese companies within the similar sectors. Data from Zambia suggests that workers at Chinese owned copper mines were paid up to 30% lower wages than other mines (Baah & Jauch, 2009, p.13). In addition, the general reluctance of Chinese companies to engage with trade unions means that the only Chinese copper mines that paid higher wages than the national average were unsurprisingly found to also have relatively stronger trade unions present within their companies. There are also findings that suggest that African workers earned lower wages and fewer benefits when compared to Chinese staff members. Methodology The study’s approach will be based on the use of case studies as empirical evidence. These case studies will examine specific points of interaction between the Chinese and specific African countries based on available information. To this effect, the study proposes examining Kenya and Zambia as more recent information has emerged from these countries, suggesting that this may be a good place to start. Through the use of a case study approach, the study approach will involve examining each of the study’s objectives and using case studies from the two aforementioned countries, and using them as a base for the study.