Monday, June 13, 2011

Bill Gates, Hillary Clinton, China in Africa, and The Dragon's Gift

Saturday last week The UK's Daily Mail posted an interview with Bill Gates in which he mentions that he was reading The Dragon's Gift in preparation for an upcoming visit to China:
His passion for aid is such that he devotes his spare time to reading about it: ‘At the moment I’m reading Getting Better by Charles Kenny, and I’m going to China soon, so I’m reading The Dragon’s Gift, about the history of Chinese aid to Africa.’
After attending a small informal dinner last week in Beijing with Bill Gates, a couple of Chinese experts, and a trio of Gates Foundation staff, I can confirm that he did read The Dragon's Gift. He sprinkled analysis, and references to it throughout the evening's conversation. If it had been a seminar, I would have given him an A. :).
Clinton and Banda in Zambia. Photo Credit AP: Susan Walsh
So now Donald Trump and Bill Gates have read The Dragon's Gift, and The Guardian recommended it to Britain's new Conservative-Liberal government. Yet it's clear from media coverage of Secretary Clinton's visit to Zambia that Mrs. Clinton is probably not among those who have read it.

Below are a few clips from her press conference in Lusaka (emphasis added):
"Acknowledging that China, the world’s biggest energy user, has extended its influence across Africa, the top U.S. diplomat said she recognized that while its size accounted for its presence in the continent, she had reservations about its reach: 'We don’t want to see a new colonialism in Africa.' ...  The U.S. is 'concerned that China’s foreign assistance and investment practices in Africa have not always been consistent with generally accepted international norms of transparency and good governance,' Clinton said yesterday at a news conference in Lusaka after meeting Zambian President Rupiah Banda. Clinton pointed to U.S. efforts to improve political and economic governance in countries like Zambia as an example of a different approach. 'The United States is investing in the people of Zambia, not just the elites, and we are investing for the long run.'*
The implication that China is not investing for the long run, or is only interested in narrowly investing in Zambian elites would be hard to argue for anyone who has read my book. Chinese leaders' multiple visits to Zambia over the past five decades, numerous aid projects including the iconic Tan Zam railway (which is still being supported by Beijing as it limps along), and business investment in multiple sectors, suggest a much longer, deeper, and broader set of interests than Secretary Clinton appears to be aware of.

And while the Secretary's concern about Africa's political and economic governance is commendable, I wish she had shown the same concern about US foreign assistance and investment practices in Africa. Our foreign aid is transparent -- and China's is not -- but this same transparency makes clear that even after the end of the Cold War, several countries with poor records on democracy and governance -- Mubarak's Egypt and Ethiopia -- have been the largest US aid recipients in Africa. This support is clearly not "consistent with generally accepted international norms" of good governance. As I have noted before in this blog, it is a sad fact that energy security concerns trump good governance in relations between the Obama administration and the notoriously corrupt human rights abusers heading the Obiang government in Equatorial Guinea.

China has a long way to go in improving its multi-faceted engagement on the continent, but the US is not there yet either. The difference is not as complete as Secretary Clinton would have us think. Pointing to the principles that do generally guide our aid, ignoring US companies happily investing with a pat on the back from the Obama administration in places like Equatorial Guinea, and then comparing our aid to Chinese aid and investment is a common debate tactic among op-ed critics (Michael Gerson did this recently in the Washington Post). I would have hoped that Secretary Clinton would do better than this. But perhaps as her major advisor on Africa (and, probably, on China's role there) is Ambassador Johnnie Carson, the person who, in the Wikileaks cables, famously dismissed China in Africa as "a pernicious economic competitor ...[with] no morals", it's not a surprise.

As many of the comments on the Zambian Watchdog reposting of this story make clear, Africans are under no illusions about Chinese -- or US -- goals in their neighborhood.

A hat tip to Calestous Juma for the Zambia story and to Joe for the story of the Times interview with Bill Gates.

*The quotation comes from a different news story on the visit:


Anonymous said...

Many thanks, Dear Prof. Brautigam, for your comments that can serve as appropriate replies to Hilary Clinton.

Anonymous said...

As far as I remember everyone thought they were in Africa for the long run.
The Romans, the Arab slave traders, European countries, the U.S. and now China ....

My question is whether the Africans were/are better of with those foreign interventions.
And yes, all those external actors have brought exploitation but also great wealth to the continent, but at the same time destabilized Africa's chances for an autonomous development.
In 1960, at the end of Belgian colonialism, Congo's GDP was equivalent to that of Canada or South Korea (J. Kabila was referring to his during his visit to Seoul). The developpement of schools and the health network, the infrastructure and the urbanization of the country were viewed with envy by the British and French colonial regimes.
Although I do not see it happen, theoreticaly the trade relations with China can provide the Democratic Republic of Congo a GDP which again is similar to that of Canada or S Korea.
But even with such economic growth, the academic literature on what is fundamentally wrong with the colonial development becomes useful again....
Distortions in favor of Belgium who are responsible for that even today(half a century after the independence) a functional state in Congo is still not possible.

The U.S. gives more aid than FDI to Zambia, has there more doctors than businessmen and sees Chinese businessmen buying at discount prices lots of sweets that they also might like.

If you are on the lap of President Banda it is a bit poor to point the finger at China, which does exactly the same as what you yourself did / would like to do.

If you have the interest of Zambia and the Zambians in mind you could ask Banda:

• How is it that Zambia, the copper country of choice, where copper represents more than half of exports and amounted to 80% of foreign currency intakes and despite all the export-driven growth, ended up in the list of the 25 poorest countries in the world?

• How it is possible that such exports represents only 2.2% of the income revenues of the Zambian State?

• How can the Zambian state, with such a poor revenue, organize a self-sustaining economic development for its own people.

• What options the Zambian state prepares for when in a few decades, the mineral wealth will be exhausted.

How can Zambia in the meantime realize its take off ? In which niche markets?

Those kind of problems have been solved for China and Africa is used in this plan that is sold to the Africans under the flag of “Win / Win" deals....
And yes, such deals happen sometimes. With the powerful South African companies but also with a small country like Rwanda. Both happens to have a strong leadership that is known to act in the intrest of their constituents.
But most African/Chinese win/wins that I daily see in the press make me think more of my childhood when we Belgian children were collecting silverpaper and mirrors (literally) for the poor in Congo in exchange for Congolese gold, copper and uranium for our industry ... ..
At that time Belgium was in the drivers seat, just like China now!

Needless to say that I have no such feelings when I read the terms of the Chinese contracts with foreign companies. Probably another category of win/win deals?

Or the African history of recurrent unbalanced relationships ....
Or how the ideals of the African independence movement have been betrayed...

Chike said...

It's a bit rich for Hillary Clinton to point fingers at the Chinese in Africa when the US is busy bombing Libya and the amount of money unaccounted for in Iraq ($6.6 billion)is about the value of the Congo-China "deal of the Century".

Chike said...


If the Belgians were so great, how come there were only 16 University / College educated graduates from Congo in 1960? (British ruled Nigeria had definitely much more than 16 College professors). I wonder who told you that the British and French looked at Belgian Congo with envy.

This is what the New York Times of July 1, 1960 had to say about Congo:

"Today barely half of the Congolese can read and write, and only sixteen Congolese are university or college graduates. There are no Congolese doctors, lawyers or engineers, and no African officers in the 25,000-man Congolese Army."

How could you with a straight face compare Belgian Congo with Canada?

The British for all their faults, were leagues ahead of the Belgians in colonial administration. The education system in Belgian Congo was designed to produce clerks, stewards and housemaids. The British on the other hand, established higher education institutions like Fourah Bay College and University College, Ibadan.

The Belgians were the greatest frauds ever to embark on a colonial enterprise. They were even worse than the Portuguese. Look at their former colonies: Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Enough said.

Anonymous said...

Today's Asia Time article "China plays long game on Congo copper" By Peter Lee

has Prof. Brautigam's contribution from this blog. This is another very well written article by Peter Lee.


June 17, 2011 8:35 A

Anonymous said...

Profesor Brautigam will excuse me for posting here this report. It is "unbalanced", if we use her own words, so be advised of the lack of "harmony".

DCEC investigators to learn Chinese


Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) has started sending officers to Beijing to study Chinese as part of efforts to fight corruption in the construction industry.

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Reports indicate that one DCEC officer is already in China to study the language. DCEC Public Relations Officer, Lentswe Motshoganetse confirmed that they have sent an officer to China.

"This is an initiative by the DCEC when dealing with issues of investigation. When we investigate corruption we come across issues of language barrier and we have started by targeting Chinese to overcome that challenge. We are intending to send more officers resource allowing," he said. Motshoganetsi added that in the future they would also be sending some of their officers to learn Portuguese and French.Reached for comment, Chairman of the Botswana Chinese Cooperation, Ivan Lo, welcomed the development saying this would help in situations when an interpreter is not readily available.

""It is a good thing by the Botswana government to send some of its officers to learn Chinese. Sometimes the police or DCEC call our offices so that we can send an interpreter when there is someone who does not understand English," he said. Ivan however said his office would always be readily available if any government department needs their assistance.

"Even if you learn a language it is not easy to understand some words. For instance I have been in Botswana for many years but I can only understand simple words like dumela," he said.

The DCEC initiative comes in the wake of reports by the Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO) through its public consultations carried out during the 2011/2012 national budget analysis that Chinese companies are dominating the construction sector and get the biggest share in government procurement.There have been reports of some Chinese pretending not to understand English when under investigation by the DCEC or the Botswana Police Service for various offences.
(Sila Press Agency)

Anonymous said...

A Correction

Glad to encounter 2 other readers of Asia Times online here!

First, I apologize if I gave the impression to defend Belgian colonialism.
I just said that in 1960 Congo reached its highest GDP ever and that was higher than both countries, but also even higher than eg South Africa, Indonesia, Taiwan ....
Do not credit that to "the Belgians" because we are so divided along ideological, cultural, religious, linguistic and social lines that we are not even able to form a government.
It was “the Belgian high finance” who, with the aim to maximalize its profits, transformed Belgian Congo into the second industrial state in Africa (after South Africa).
Just as now it is not “China” or “the Chinese” in Africa but “the powers that be in China”…

But my point was apparently not clear, hence the following:

China now argues that only trade can develop Africa.
However, certainly for the Congo, it is a "I've been there and I've already seen" experience.

Half a century after it reached the economic level of Canada, South Korea, South Africa .... there is only a subsistence economy in Congo and almost nothing else ...

When Kabila recently visited South Korea the Koreans were well-suited to explain that no country ever achieved its take off through commodity exports...
and definitely the Chinese win/win deals in Africa will not change this reality.

Also thanks to Wei for the link to the article by Peter Lee that I saw on my screen the same morning.
It contains some nice illustrations of what is wrong with such unbalanced contracts.
Anyone who did have a look at a long term chart of the copper price knows how volatile this price is!
Hence, both in Congo and in Belgium loads of critical articles(in French and Dutch) about it appeared. A translation of one of them:

Anonymous said...

No countries in the world can be here on earth for the long haul. I do not know when China government has made an argument that ONLY trade can develop Africa, just as Japan in the late 70s and 80s coming into China would not have made the argument that ONLY manufacturing could develop China. Japanese were there to do business, as any Western people do today. However that was what China needed; Chinese had the choice. Hence it was win-win situation for both countries at the time. It is the West that has always lectured and continues to teach that this or that is the only way to do things all over the world. China does not lecture; China comes in and asks if this is something that one would do. Africa has a choice not to, as they do or not do with any other countries, including India, Brazil, or the good old West. To compare what China is doing to what the West has done doing for the last 500 years is lack of intellectual nuance.

Anonymous said...

Correction II

A few years ago when the copper price dropped Congo had already some experience with it when the Chinese smelters in Katanga closed shop by the dozens....
And as Peter Lee cites: now that the copperprices are rising, Congo wants to renegotiate the contract because the prices are juged to be to low.

Must we therefore point the finger at China?
Yes, but not more than at anyone else who ever did such kind of exploitation. And yes, it has never been a black or white story because each time it braught also a lot of wealth to Africa. Frankly, I expected no response to the Belgian colonialism but rather on the slave trade or the Romans ....

But China is not the cause, and seeks nothing more than its own interests in the globalized world.
Nevertheless, beeing with China in this copperventure could turn out to be a real challenge for Kabila:
nowadays the copper price is not determined solely by the economic development in China (China or the world for which it is the production and assembly house) but also by a special form of financial speculation in China, where it is assumed that about 25% of Chinese demand for copper comes from those speculators. Whereby even pig farmers are stockpling physically copper in their yards, because it now serves as a substitute to credit now that the Chinese state is trying to curb bank loans (cf. the recent research of prof. Pettis).

But even if the wheel turns to the other side, China remains in the drivers seat:

All this is not insignificant for Kabila because he could be confronted to the same risk as his Polish colleague:
“However, the company – a subsidiary of China Railway Group, one of Asia's largest construction and engineering companies – quickly ran into financial difficulties once construction got under way and halted work in May. Poland’s road building authority cancelled the contract on Monday.The collapse of the contract is an embarrassment for Donald Tusk, Polish prime minister. Mr Tusk had pledged to complete the highway before next summer’s European soccer championships, which Poland is co-hosting with Ukraine. Opposition parties have seized the opportunity to attack the prime minister with relish, hoping to dent his popularity before this autumn's parliamentary elections.” (FT 6/15/2011)

But all this is only possible if the African rulers are out of touch with the ideals of the independence struggle.
Something for which one of their leaders, Frantz Fanon, in the middle of this struggle, in a visionary way, was already warning.
A typical example of this is Robert Mugabe, one of the last historical freedom fighters still in power, who signs Chinese contracts with an explicitly non-disclosure formula... Http:// /-Zimbabwe's Biti-Seeks-To-Renogiate-Controversial-Deal-with-China-124020184.html


Helmut Reisen said...

Having been on a long mission, I did not see this blog entry. I have just posted on my blog
(which recommends on its blog roll):

Zambia, China and

Anonymous said...

Should the Chinese government limit itself to forging business deals with African countries (but with other countries as well) without endeavouring to honour its repeated past (1960s) commitments to contribute to help them develop their national economies, anti-China forces wouldn't have failed to charge it with such epithets as selfisness, avarice, egoism etc. But now (2000s) that it tries to materialize its commitments, there are forces that still disagree with this, under the excuse that it is not the right things that should be undertaken, noor the right time to do them, neither the right way etc. (Please see Hillary Clinton's comments.)

Anonymous said...

I suppose I would have a couple of questions for the Secretary:

- Will this "transparent" US aid lead to as much bottom-up economic development as some of what the "non-transparent" Chinese has done in at least some African cities?

- Will this "transparent" US aid be accompanied with demands for premature financial liberalization leading inevitably to unbalanced economic relationships between Africa and the US and the inevitable return to the cycle of debt crises and enforced austerity?

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous

When I follow every day the world news it amazes me every time to see to what extent China’s development is identical to the US development, foreign policy included.
More than a century ago, the U.S. 'non interference in internal affairs of other countries' could be used against Spain. Half a century ago, the anti-colonialism could be used against the European colonial countries, until now the US use its hospital ships as goodwill ambassadors and all kind of pressure and military intervention is applied if necessary.
And now China is following this trail, from no interference all over the “Ark of Peace” to a call from the commander of the PLA to intervene on the African continent military (in Somalia).
The U.S. arsenal also includes "lecturing" when it does not get its way.

I do not know in which country my colleague 'Anonymous' lives, but the illusion that China does not lecture is very unrealistic.
It is one of the most used weapons in the arsenal of Chinese threats that are part of every major power’s carrot and stick foreign policy.
And by their frequent use, they have already refined the procedure.
Anonymous can find it out for him/herself: just ask any group that organized an solidarity event with the Dai Lama eg, a Tiananmen memorial or an information session on the Uighur autonomists what pressure they have experienced.
The mildest form would have been that they are "hurting the feelings of the Chinese people".
This must be something typically Chinese because I've never read that the feelings of the Armenian nation or Palestinian people were hurt.
This happens so frequently that a handful of websites try to follow these reactions and they made a few odd observations;
usually it are small countries, even island nations that you never have heard of who dare to do so while a giant neighbor like Russia never hurts the feelings of the Chinese people.
And a French president who received the Dai Lama in the Elysee hurts the Chinese, but a Polish president who does the same doesn’t hurt the Chinese ....
Beijing reacts very strongly on Uighur refugees who are finding refuge in smal countries like Nepal, Cambodia and Burma but also a big country like the U.S. could not easily find candidates to take over the Uighurs from Guantanamo, all due tot Beijings opposition.
Nepal is a neighbor country and you can regulary follow China’s lecturing of this country;
the political parties should take this position, those parties should merge, when they must enter or leave the government, the Government should take firmer action against demonstrations and elections of Tibetans, should better monitor its borders, should allow Chinese border units within its boundaries, should allow the Nepalese border units to have direct telephone lines to the Chinese units(without the intervention of the Nepalese central command). The government should also ensure that no one interferes in its internal affairs and the PLA commander will reinforce this military if necessary…
In its heyday the U.S. was not able patronize the Central American banana republics to the same degree.
And to stay with the “little guys” and also in the presence of H Clinton; when the Asean countries did not agree that China’s "core interest" stretched out to the front door of Singapore, the Chinese foreign minister warned them that his country was a great country, and they all together only small countries.
But China is now powerful enough to lecture also the big boys;
the altercation between China and the U.S. on human rights is becoming legendary, the U.S. should put some order in its financial affairs, should not supply arms to Taiwan, ...
Nato must not interfere in Yugoslavia and Libya ....
Israel is not allowed to take military action in Palestine
Sudan must set matters straight in Darfur
India can not do nuclear testing
And every state that has diplomatic relations with Taiwan receives regulary a lecture.

Anonymous said...

When the Nobelcommittee nominated a Chinese man for the Peace Price it was lecture time, not only for them but also for Norway in general and for all the ambassadors attending the award.
And it's not just words but the sanctions are always following.
Suddenly the Norwegian salmons are no longer swimming in the direction of China and just ask another Nobel laureate, Desmond Tutu, why Zuma did not receive the Dai Lama or why the African press was so quiet on the Nobelprice awarded to Liu Xiaobo.
Likewise, for the Dai Lama it will be his last visit to the Elysee in this life (because it puts the intrests of Airbus in danger).
The Chinese threats can quickly become sanctions and so everyone is afraid.
Confer Argentina who wanted to protect its own industry against Chinese shoe imports in order to see that all of the sudden Chinese cows no longer liked Argentine soybeans (the main export product to China).
Similarly, I ‘m afraid that there will be no space in the Japanese jailes for a Chinese fisherman who slams his ship against Japanese patrol boats near the island Diaoyou....
As long as this Chinese captain was jailed the pipeline of rare earth to Japan ran dry….

And Africa you will ask;
Well, let’s start with Libya where the rebels shipped their first oil on a Chinese cargo and since then they are more often in Beijing than the Khadafi boys. “To bring both parties togher for a diplomatic solution” is the explaination in Beijing.
Would sound plausible if not that at the same time, China's diplomatic representative in India claims that China's official position is that no nation on earth has the right to to topple its gouvernement by military means…

More generally, in the postwar period, there has been no country that lectured so many Africans as China, the reason beeing that there was a persistent difference in world view between the 2.
When half of Africa still had to get rid of European colonialism, China urged the Africans to consider the U.S. as the main enemy.
When the U.S., instead of Europe, ruled over Africa, China urged the Africans to see the USSR as their main enemy.
And this was just not a free "suggestion" without consequences for Africa. The Chinese shifted their support in South Africa from the ANC to the PAC and later on back again to the ANC and this was similarly in the case of MPLA / UNITA in Angola, SWAPO / ANU in Namibia ...

Anonymous said...

When Mao was burried "reform and opening up" was the new kid on the block in Beijing and socialist African countries (and there were quiet a few: Algeria, Libya, Zimbabwe, Guinea Bissau, Burundi, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Benin, Congo (Brazzaville), Angola, Mozambique, Tanzania, Mali, Zambia and Cape Verde, Sudan, Ghana, Guinea and Somalia) who visited Beijing saw thair efforts to achieve autarchie (Ujamaa) almost ridiculed. Opening up to the world globalization, was the the new buzzword!
Till now this is still very often the Chinese answer in political discussions with Africans: if you do not like us (reforming and opening up) you will forever remain poor!
And at state level, this can be translated as: you must improve the investment climate and that can best be done by accepting our trade proposals!

And the consultants are still out there: 2 recent lectures to the malawians:

Similar to the US, still a little rough, but once China will be better in it than the U.S.

Punit Saurabh said...

It is not the US but the Indian as well who are on their way to counter the growing influence of china. A month ago Manmohan singh,PM of India on a visit to Africa dished out $5 billion of loans on easy terms over the next three years for Africans willing to trade with India, plus another $1 billion to pay for education, railways and peacekeeping. It is a steep rise in aid and assistance—last year India gave a mere $25m to Africa—and marks a striking shift,.It also shelled out 200000 scholarships to African students visiting India or pursuing it in Africa. It initiated or set up huge IT parks with super computing facilities with assistance of C-DAC as well. If US pitches in it will be an interesting race to watch for as it is also bent on countering the Chinese influence like the Indians with which it perceives a commonality in approach. Presently India ha $ 43 billion of business compared to 120 $ billion of Chinas ,but is looking it aggressively reducing the gap with its fast forward step approach.
Beware the Dragon, The TIGER is Arriving!

Anonymous said...

Instead of preaching for good governance in Africa, let this Hillary Clinton first endeavour to bring the African-American citizens who were victims of the terrible Katrina ordeal all the necessary and legitimate help they deserved as US citizens. Alas! They had to wait and suffer a lot before being helped...

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous of June 22, 2011 4:17 AM : ''When I follow everyday the world news, it amazes me every time to see to what extent China's development is identical to the US development, foreign policy included. [...]'' It's good to follow the world news, but if you do it as if every day you were reading a new comic strip, that will result in a horrible medley in your head. You should abide by some principles. China's foreign policy is based on principles, i.e. those rules enacted by the various countries participating in the United Nations' Organisation to regulate its member states' activities.

Anonymous said...


My principles are of little relevance here.
The daily monitoring of news makes me very often see large discrepancy between words and deeds.
Exceptionally, this is not the case for China on the first of its Five Principles guiding China's Relationship with the Arab and African Countries announced by Zhou Enlai during his visit to Africa.
"China supports the Arab and African peoples in their struggle to oppose imperialism".

Both in words and in deeds Beijing is now very quiet about that battle, even more, they consider the use of the word imerialsm irrelevant. So it was no surprise that Chavez, during his visit to Beijing, was immediately repudiated when he was calling for a joint struggle against U.S. imperialism.

Nowhere, however, have I read that those five principles have ever been recalled by the CCP.


Anonymous said...

''Both in words and in deeds Beijing is now very quiet about that battle [...].'' Not so quiet! When the former Soviet leadership under Krushchev, Brejniev etc. chose to embark on their social-imperialist programme, China retaliated by waging a resolute campaign against them. That campaign dwindled away by itself with the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the Socialist Camp. It was not up to China to proclaim the end of its anti-social imperialist campaign. After the second world war, the Western World emerged victorious and dominated the whole world. But the only superpower was the USA, and the west-european powers were compelled to become its running dogs. By the 1990s-2000s, some cracks appeared in the western bloc, while the European powers had to relinquish their grip on their former empires in Asia, Africa and elsewhere. At the same time, a multipolar world was emerging. As the former imperialist world was losing ground, please tell me what is the use for China to waste time in urging to rush upon the enemy? Building a multipolar world pattern is on the agenda. Once more, it is not up to China to decree that the anti-imperialist struggle is over.

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