By Elaine Dunn
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang embarked on a trip to Africa on May 4, visiting Ethiopia, Nigeria, Angola and Kenya. His trip came on the 50th anniversary of former Premier Zhou Enlai’s official visit to the continent. Relations between Africa and China had remained stable throughout the years, and, in recent years, economic and trade cooperation between the two also has increased rapidly. At the end of his visit, Premier Li pledged an additional USD$12 billion in credit and funding to boost economic development on the African continent.
In the past decade, Chinese state-owned and private companies have become major investors in Africa, becoming the largest source of annual foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa’s 54 countries. Even Chinese individuals are investing small amounts in enterprises ranging from restaurants to acupuncture clinics.
Exactly how big is China’s investments in Africa today are hard to say. First of all, one has to define what constitutes “investments.” Loans to build infrastructure? Monies invested in business operations in Africa? At the end of 2011, China’s cumulative FDI in Africa exceeded $14.7 billion. However, the official FDI is based only on what was reported to the government. There are investments made through tax shelters!
What is known is that most of the 2,000 Chinese companies there are in energy, mining, construction and manufacturing, but are beginning to move into finance and even tourism. Chinese state-owned oil companies are present in the entire African continent. The China National Petroleum Corporation invested up to $6 billion in Sudan’s oil sector. Publicly traded ZTE is the principal telecommunications provider in a number of African countries. More than half of these investments are in South Africa, Zambia, Nigeria, Algeria and Angola.
During his visit, Premier Li inaugurated an 84.7-kilometer-long expressway built by 5,000 Chinese workers - the fist in Ethiopia - connecting Addis Ababa to the city of Adama in the Oromia region. Fifty-seven percent of the project funding came from Chinese bank loans. While in Nigeria, the China Civil Engineering Group, a subsidiary of China Railway Construction, announced a $13.1 billion railway project, in addition to the $1.8 billion it already is investing in Nigeria by the end of 2013. These projects include repairing existing railways and building modern light rails, earning the nickname of “Railroad Diplomacy.”
U.S. financier George Soros has labeled China as “Africa’s new colonist” – an accusation Premier Li dispelled, “China’s neo-colonialism in Africa is a false accusation inconsistent with Chinese tradition and culture, and does not reflect the reality of friendly, equal-footed and mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Africa.”
New Chinatowns are sprouting up all over the African continent. There are more than 1 million Chinese who have settled there in the past 10 years. In Angola alone, there are 258,000 Chinese nationals. The Chinese “invasion” has created tensions that resulted in riots, kidnappings and killings. Part of the African discontent comes from the fact that Chinese companies often bring over Chinese nationals, rarely using African labor because of the tight project deadlines and language barriers. Despite this, both Africa and China look upon the relationship as a “win-win” partnership.
Not all exports are from Africa to China. At the recent biannual Canton Fair, better known as the China Import and Export Fair, 46-year-old Ethiopian Getu Kebede Kidane was looking for “quality and diversity of food, clothes and accessories” for his trade company. A total of 17,441 business people from the African continent were at this fair, reflecting a steady year-to-year increase.
A furniture company from Hubei is building a direct-sales company in Nigeria this year. "Despite high costs in the initial stages, a direct selling company will help us rake in more benefits in the long run, because it is closer to the African market, and will have a quicker market response," said Wang Yaobin, the company's general manager.
Chinese companies are urged to pay more attention to project quality, sustainable development and social responsibilities when tapping the African market. Also, "The Chinese government should encourage more African students, entrepreneurs and local government workers to come to China for study and training to boost exchanges," said one trade expert.
Aside from trade, China has also been increasing its involvement in peace and surety affairs in Africa. It’s been continuing naval escorts in the Gulf of Aden. It provided $1 million in assistance to the AU for mediation and coordination efforts in the Mali conflict. In addition, to improve China’s image in Africa, Xi;s administration are engaging the African media to explain China’s benefits to Africa. Chinese embassies across Africa are seeking collaborations with African nongovernmental organizations and have implemented dozens of projects.
As China moves forward in Africa, it will benefit from its profitable investments. Africa will gain schools, hospitals, stadiums and urban water and power supply systems. Overall living and working conditions for her people will improve. And beyond trade and economic cooperation will come cultural exchanges, furthering people-to-people relations and understanding.
By Pat Welsh, contributor
On April 30, 1919, America’s President Wilson, Britain’s Prime Minister Lloyd George, France’s Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau resolved in secret to transfer to Japan all of Germany’s former interests in the western Pacific and in Shandong Province. This resolution ignored Japan’s promise made in 1914 to eventually return these interests back to China. This secret resolution was later included in Articles 156 – 158 of Section VIII of the Versailles Treaty.
Earlier in the Versailles Peace Conference, the Chinese delegation had insisted that China’s treaty of May 25, 1915, with Japan had been signed under duress and that China’s entry on the side of the allies vitally changed the situation contemplated in that treaty. China had also presented to the Conference two memoranda:
(1) “The claim of China for the abrogation of the treaties and notes concluded with Japan on May 25, 1915” and
(2) There must be readjustments of issues regarding renunciation of spheres of influence, withdrawal of foreign troops, police, post offices, areas of consular jurisdictions, relinquishment of leased territories, restoration to China of foreign concessions and tariff autonomy.
By Anthony James
Would you rather ride in the back of a BMW with someone you don’t love or ride in the back of a bicycle with someone you love? This was the question asked of female participants of a daily Chinese TV game show. The majority of answers?
By Elaine Dunn
Anti-Chinese fervor erupted in Vietnam mid-May when the Chinese government parked an oil rig in disputed waters. This sparked the burning of Chinese-owned factories by civilian Vietnamese in southern Vietnam’s Binh Duong province.
The 440 rioters who were arrested were indiscriminate in their destruction. At least two Chinese were killed, 15 factories were set on fire and hundreds of enterprises, most owned or managed by Chinese, Taiwanese and South Koreans, were destroyed during the riots in the early morning hours of May 14. Monetary damage is estimated in the billions of dong (on May 15, 1VND = 0.000047 USD), not to mention the thousands of workers who may be losing their jobs.
May 16, unidentified gunmen attacked the camp of a Chinese company in northern Cameroon. Ten people are missing and one injured. As this goes to press, the reason for the attack is unknown.
By Esta Chappell, eChinacities.com
One of the most important and auspicious years in the Chinese calendar: the Year of the Dragon. This year the unexpected was predicted, and true to form there were many strange and downright odd news items that came out of China. A look back on 2012 reveals drama, (bad) luck, enterprise and surprise. Here’s our round up of the year’s top 10 weird stories:
1) Ferocious stamps (January 2012)
As unpredictable as the mythical animal itself, the stamp issued by the Chinese postal service commemorating the Year of the Dragon was not well received. Deemed too scary, ferocious and “incomparably ugly” by critics, the dragon drawing was a far cry from the previous cutesy wide-eyed bunny of 2011. The designer argued, however, that the revered dragon should “never be rendered a mere cartoon”.