China’s Investments in Africa: Neocolonialism or Mutual Development?

A fascinating event to end the semester!

Africa-China: Mutual Influence in the Early 21st Century 

Thursday, April 26th , 6:00 PM-7:30 PM
Shiffman Humanities Center 120 (Inside Mandel Quad, across from Olin-Sang and Rabb)

A Roundtable Discussion Featuring

Joseph Assan (Assistant Professor, Heller School)
Xing Hang (Associate Professor, History)
Derek Sheridan (Lecturer, Anthropology)
Elanah Uretsky (Visiting Assistant Professor, Anthropology)

My question, for anyone who would like to comment: is China treating Africa the way that European colonists did?  Or is China, a fellow developing country, simply trying to find mutual benefit from its investments in Africa?  Or are we seeing some combination of the two?


7 Replies to “China’s Investments in Africa: Neocolonialism or Mutual Development?”

  1. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the full discussion yesterday, however, from Professor Xing Hang, Dr. Derek Sheridan, and Professor Joseph Assan’s introduction and discussion of this topic, I am able to draw some conclusion from the problems. Africa and China have a long history back to the Song Dynasty. This relationship is formed by the Indian Ocean. Although there was a time period, where China isolated itself from the rest, which dramatically decreases the interaction between China and Africa, the relationship between the two are good. The answer to the question whether China is treating Africa the way that European colonists did, or China is only trying to find mutual benefits of the two is clear. Chinese in Arica was not treated as superior as the European was. A lot of Chinese complain that they were not treated well. Furthermore, after the Chinese Civil War, while China was trying to join the United Nation, Mao asked a lot of help from African countries. As a return, China helps two African countries build the railroad. The helpings in two are mutual.

  2. I feel like we can see sort of combination of two here. This semester, I’m taking Professor Xing Hang’s class, modern China, so I got to know about the dilemmas China met in the process of development. During Ming and Qing China, maritime prohibition banned the international trades between China and the outside world, which inevitably led to the fact that China was left behind in late 19th century and 20th century. So, today’s China is trying to open up its market and promote its interflow with the outside world. Like colonial period, raw materials are being transported to China now. However, China is also helping African countries build infrastructure, such as Tanzania railway and Zambia railway, by direct investment. European colonists never did this during colonial period. It’s not hard to see the mutual benefits here, China needs raw materials and market for its goods while African countries need investments to develop themselves. One problem I didn’t notice before is the immigration. Chinese start immigrating to Africa while many Africans are seeking opportunities in China. This kind of connection between two continents is fascinating. There are now 300 thousand Africans living in Guangzhou, one of the trade center in South China. Nevertheless, there is no immigration law in China because people used to migrate out of China, and almost no one migrated to China before, so there is no system concerning immigrants in China. Some of them just stay in China illegally. New immigrants in China cannot get housing and health care. I think Chinese government needs to issue immigration laws as soon as possible to solve this problem and welcome the immigrants.

  3. After listening from Professor Xing Hang, Professor Joseph Assan and Dr. Derek Sheridan’s explanation of this specific and interesting topic, I learn a lot and I think there’s a mutual benefit between China and Africa. It’s clear that China get lots of raw materials from African countries to promote its own economical and social development, as an exchange, or we could consider it as a mutual benefit, China helps Africa to build many infrastructures, especially the railway, for example: Tanzania railway and Zambia railway. This kind of help and gains connects both of two countries to have more cooperations in current days. Also back to the old days, when the time China was trying to join the UN, Chinese President Mao gain lots of helps from those African countries. As for this historical event, I think China has already created a tighter partnership with Africa. In addition, because of the market and opportunity in China, many Africans have already moved to China, especially in Yiwu, Guangzhou. They get job to earn their livings and China receives more labors and raw materials. As for this point, I also consider there’s a mutual benefit between China and Africa.

  4. Thanks for Professor Xing Hang, Professor Joseph Assan and Dr. Derek Sheridan’s fascinating talk on last Thursday night.

    Combining the information I got from the talk and my own, I think the relationship between China and Africa is mutual which is different as how European colonist treat Africa. Back to the history, European countries existed as superior powers in the world. They colonized Africa, then got raw materials and cheap labors from there. However, China did not participate colonization in Africa, because China itself is partially colonized by European as well. So, I think China is more likely to treat Africa with sympathy and understanding. In that situation, the relationship between China and Africa is much closer.

    The good relationship between China and Africa has a long history. Back to the middle of last century, Chinese government started offering loans to Africa with low or zero interests to help them develop. China also gave a hand on Africa gained independent. In return, Africa offered a great support in China’s legitimate seat in the United Nations in 1971. Mao said that Chinese people should never forget our African friends who sent us into the United Nations.

  5. China is treating Africa differently than European colonists did, as today we are seeing a combination of a mutual benefit and dependency. However, China still has more power over Africa. China has had a significant impact on economic development and benefits from natural resources in Africa. For example, China is building hospitals and training doctors, and they really helped in solving Ebola in Africa. There are many Africans in China, as the process of migration is occurring at a lower tier of globalization. Although many African migrants go to China each year, the lack of immigration infrastructure takes a burden on them. If you immigrate there, many try to stay on the tourist visa, however, if you are caught on the tourist visa than you have to go to jail, pay for jail along with numerous fees to get out. This infrastructure makes it harder for the term “mutual influence” to be used, as it is clear China is looking for a form of power over Africa. However, there is “mutual influence” in that China-Africa trading has been increasing over time. Also in that the Chinese have been coming to Africa for the past 600 years.

  6. I believe that China is simply trying to find mutual benefit from its investments in Africa. However, certain investments can demonstrate that they may be treating Africa the way that European colonists did. Professor Uretsky mentioned how China does benefit from natural resources in Africa. She also mentioned how large state-owned companies (Chinese-owned) have been engaging in infrastructure in Africa by establishing clinics, malaria treatment, and sending healthcare workers. From this roundtable discussion, I was able to make comparisons to what Chinese investors have done in my home country, Jamaica. The Chinese has made investments in our country, by building highways to make it easier for Jamaicans to travel across the country. However, there has been some backlash with Chinese investments which is similar to what several African nation states are experiencing. These investments are not benefiting the people of the country, since the construction is overseen by Chinese investors and the work is done by Chinese workers. However, Professor Assan mentioned how in Uganda, their goal is break predominant Chinese labor in order to get more African workers involved and as a result, this would be potential employment which can reduce the unemployment rate significantly. The absence of African labor in Chinese investment contributes to the problem of growing unemployment. By allowing manufacturing sites to move to countries in Africa, this would give them access to more job opportunities. There is an issue of Chinese investment in extraction industries. They must uphold environmental laws, and governments in African countries do this so that investors do not see this as a concern. China is a mutual friend to Ghana, hence mentioned by Professor Assan. In his words, their interaction comes with no strings attached. However, there is also an issue where the textile industry in African nation states are suffering because textile is much cheaper in China. So Africans will travel to China because the cost is better.

  7. The roundtable discussion is tremendous and informative, I am really thankful for the participation of Pro. Assan, Pro. Hang, Dr. Sheridan and Pro. Uretsky as they provoke me to rethink the relationship between Africa and China from a fresh perspective. Luckily, I also attend anthropology seminar guided by Dr. Sheridan and his continuous highlight of the trading and investing relationship between Africa and China makes me sensitize about the possible neo-colonism. As Chinese are making investment in Africa by constructing essential infrastructures, they also took away raw resources and materials for their own need. From a liberalistic perspective, this exchange brings benefit for both countries as they are complementary to each other. Yet China has very cheap labor and manufactured goods that appeal a number of African citizens. Hence, China attracts numerous African to immigrate meanwhile take away job opportunities for them and also control the economic support of the infrastructures of Africa; together, these are all controllable factors for China to “manipulate” and presumably, China could be manipulative and colonize Africa. However, as colonization in history all results from the desire to seize things such as gold, resources and throne, China has not yet discovered their “desire”, which thus would not result in the alleged neo-colonism, while it is right to be assume that China is capable of colonizing Africa.

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