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Critics of China-Africa relations 'not objective'(2)

2013-03-27 10:20 China Daily     Web Editor: Wang Fan comment

Sven Grimm, director of the Centre for Chinese Studies at Stellenbosch University, said there is a "blame game" taking place.

"The major chunk of resources from Africa go to the US and Europe. The US buys more oil from Africa than the Europeans do, and the Europeans buy more oil than the Chinese do," he said.

"Western companies are still the major players in the oil industry and the resources sector, and there is a bit of defensiveness from the West in that regard behind this aggressiveness toward China."

Mahmood Mamdani, executive director of the Makerere Institute of Social Research at Mekerere University in Kampala, said China is transforming the economies of many African countries by its investment in infrastructure.

He said that in the past, all roads led to the ports so all of the cash crops could be exported, but now many more cities and towns are being linked to create internal business and trade.

Mamdani, voted by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazine as one of The Top 100 Public Intellectuals in the World, said the Chinese don't have a history of being colonizers.

He points out that China ruled the waters in the 15th century when Zheng He made his voyages to Africa, but it never sought to colonize any nation.

"The Indian Ocean was demilitarized pre-15th century in spite of China being a dominant power in the Indian Ocean. This only changed when Vasco da Gama and his fleets came in," he said.

Deborah Brautigam, director of the International Development Program at Johns Hopkins University and author of The Dragon's Gift: the Real Story of China in Africa, one of the major books on the China-Africa relationship, said the strength of China's involvement in Africa has been its simplicity.

She said that Western aid — particularly since the late-1980s under the Washington Consensus, which aimed to foster private sector development in Africa — has always come with strings attached, whereas Chinese assistance has been more straightforward.

Chris Alden, head of the Global Powers and Africa Programme at the South African Institute of International Affairs, said China's involvement in Africa since the middle part of the last decade has shown up the failure of the Washington Consensus.

China's State-backed aid and investment in infrastructure over the past decade on the other hand, he argued, has secured tangible results.

"I think the first and most important legacy China has had is in breaking the Western donor cartel. This monopoly of ideas that had been produced out of the World Bank or adhered to by the OECD had patently brought limited results in development terms," he said.

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