Friday, December 9, 2011

London Debate on the Motion: "Beware the Dragon: Africa Should Not Look to China"

SOAS Dean Stephen Chan at the Intelligence Squared Debate
I spent my birthday (!) last week debating the motion: "Beware the Dragon: Africa Should Not Look to China" at an Intelligence Squared event at Cadogan Hall in London.

For the motion: Ghanaian intellectual George Ayittey and Ana Maria Gomez, European Parliamentarian from Portugal. Against the motion: myself and Stephen Chan, Dean of Arts and Sciences at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies).

What struck me most was the large number of people who were undecided about this issue, and how hearing actual evidence and research -- instead of what passes for that in much of the media -- can swing public opinion. The audience vote before we started the debate was For the Motion: 154. Against 106, and Undecided 126. When the debate was over, the audience was polled again. For the Motion: 149. Against 212 and Undecided 25. Our side picked up 106 new votes. To understand why, you have to watch the debate. Don't miss Stephen Chan, he was superb!

The entire debate went from 6:45 until 8:30. It's all on Youtube. But you can also watch short pieces of it on Intelligence Squared's website, including each debater's starting presentations, about 10 minutes each. Here's the link to mine and the others are on the same page.

12 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing. I don't know if there is another issue where western masses are as ignorant and have their minds incorrectly made up about than China. Of course, the media much to blame. The selective filtering of what passes as news is ridiculous. Just this week, the Korean fisherman incident is making waves (no pun intended) and furthering the established biases and "story" about china.

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  2. I just watched the whole debate. It interesting and scary that the anti-China side are so much more emotional and based on broad tired generalizations.

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  3. What I found most interesting is that it is always non-Africans who seem to know best what is good for Africans. The "for the motion side" could have made better use of facts supporting their side, indeed. They didn't, so their loss is understandable; plus I believe that the make up of the audience also played a significant role. However, more and more, the next African generation are looking to African traditions to solve the problems of the continent. The great misconception of the Africa/China story is that there is a belief that Africa and China share the same evolutionary trajectory. Therefor Africa "should be" like China. No, Africa should be like Africa and until Africans empower themselves to be Africans, no amount of China-nizatoin of Africans will help. I am amazed that the Dalai Lama/South Africa visit fiasco didn't factor into the debate as it should have. Talk about ulterior motives. Also, the gunning down of African mines workers by their Chinese bosses, or the over-fishing by mega-large Chinese vessels of the West African coast causing African fisherman to wade out to sea in greater distances for their catch, or the shoddy constructed Chinese buildings that are collapsing, etc. What I also found very cynical was the talk/belief that African governments represent the interest of Africans.

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  4. “The great misconception of the Africa/China story is that there is a belief that Africa and China share the same evolutionary trajectory. Therefor Africa "should be" like China. No, Africa should be like Africa and until Africans empower themselves to be Africans, no amount of China-nizatoin of Africans will help.”

    It is not the mind of China that Africa should be like China; rather it is the mind of the west that Africa should be like the west. Chinese are there to do business, not to lecture like the two experts arguing for the motion. Can one do business without getting into his political view? Most importantly, Africa can always say no, can they? Why does China have to be a model of the west (which country is the model of the west, India or____?) to be able to do business with anyone? If the business benefits Africa, why shouldn’t Africa do business with China, India, or alien?

    “I am amazed that the Dalai Lama/South Africa visit fiasco didn't factor into the debate as it should have. Talk about ulterior motives.”

    Should Africa talk about the atrocities committed by the west, every time there is a business deal with the west on the table?

    “Also, the gunning down of African mines workers by their Chinese bosses, or the over-fishing by mega-large Chinese vessels of the West African coast causing African fisherman to wade out to sea in greater distances for their catch, or the shoddy constructed Chinese buildings that are collapsing, etc.”

    How many horrible deeds that the west has done to Africa in the last 60 years? Criticism has no meaning without proper comparison. Nobody talks about China being a saint and why matters. They are there to do business, like any capitalists would. If China is good, it is mostly because capitalism; if it is bad, it is mostly because capitalism. Everything in life is never perfect; you take the good with bad. The western companies from the west have created huge environmental, economical, and social problems in China. The west has not blamed themselves for any of those issues; instead they fault the Chinese government and rightly so.

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  5. For this debate to be meaningful. It should be held in Africa, before an African audience.

    An African audience has a better understanding of the impact of China on Africa than anyone else.

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  6. The moderator was great! Especially with cutting off speakers (or audience members) who go on too long. Reminds me of Betty Boothroyd.

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  7. Africa is capable of making right decisions, like any one else and she will make mistakes along the way like everyone else. The west does not know any better. Look at what the US has done to the American Indians. I am not talking about the ones that did them harm intentionally, I am talking about the ones that tried to do all the “good things” for the Indians. The bottom line is that almost all American Indians, including peoples, languages, and cultures will become extinct within this generation in the US.

    Does the US know any better than the Chinese or Africans? The answer is clearly positively negative. In addition, this overbearing attitude that “I need to stop you” is contradictory to the idea of democracy, the spirit of live and let live. Sadam Hessen had murdered 4000 Iraqis in his life by CIA’s own account. How many Iraqis have been killed during the American decade long occupation? Is it worth it?

    The west has continued to make incredible claims and yet the rest of the world follows. I agree with the idea that Africa needs to think and do it on her own, as she sooner or later can and will find her way to prosper. 50 years of the help from the west has brought nothing to the Africa should make us stop to think. China, India, the west, or anyone else would be one of the options at her own discretion.

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  8. Fantastic job. Those fearing the dragon consistently showed less of an objective and fact-based argument (and appeared far-less knowledgeable than Dr. Brautigam). It's also great to know that people in this setting actually gravitated towards these qualities. Slowly, maybe minds can change. 慢慢来

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  9. I commend Ms. Brautigam on her work in bringing Chinese policies to light. The minds that need changing are in the West. We need to match China's pragmatic carrot-and-stick approach in order to beat them at their own game in Africa. Stop the food and medical aid, and offer infrastructure upgrades in exchange for economic benefits with no political strings attached.

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  10. I salute you, Deborah, for having the courage to speak out the truth and against the co-called "conventional wisdom" spreading by the mass media! Those "conventional wisdom" only makes the mass ignorant. We have way too few intellectuals like you who have traveled the world and know other languages to be covered by the media in the West to tell the truth.

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  11. Great job Ms. Brautigam. It was refreshing to hear your side on the debate. I believe our plague in Africa is that we turn to blame the rest of the world for our problems. What breaks my heart most is that even the so called intellectuals like George Ayittey don't seem to get it. China or the West are not charity organizations. African nations sign these contracts, they should make sure it works for their nation. You may also want to look into China's role in Cameroon. The Chinese are exporting strong work ethics in my country.

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  12. I believe that China is new neocolonialism. Looking at the activities China is doing in across Africa. nothing is different what neocolonial Europe did after the many African countries achieved independence. China is exploiting Africa's natural resources and its labor.The evidence of my claim relays on how China is operating across Africa. China takes the raw material from Africa and gives back Africa only poor constructed roads and bribery to our corrupted leaders who only cares their own interest rather than the interest of the continent and their fellow citizens. I strongly argue that the only way that Africa can develop is developing self-reliance spirit and develop it self. Viva AFrica

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