Friday, February 10, 2012

Links I Liked: William Wallis on China, Europe, Africa

William Wallis, the Financial Time's Africa correspondent, reflects -- in "China Builds on Europe's Africa Ruins" -- on the new AU Headquarters. Wallis ponders the contrast between the Chinese approach and that of Europe, noting French president Nicholas Sarkozy's October 2007 speech in Dakar (which barely made a ripple):
“The tragedy of Africa is that the African has never really entered history,” Mr Sarkozy said to open mouths in the audience and a barrage of outrage on web sites throughout French-speaking Africa. “The African peasant only knew the eternal renewal of time marked by the endless repetition of the same gestures and the same words. In this realm of fancy there is neither room for human endeavour nor the idea of progress.”

Buried though they were in broader remarks, the French president’s comments were reminiscent of the Hegelian underpinnings of colonial thinking and the notion that African history only began when Europeans brought “progress”. It was an extreme example of the kind of outmoded thinking which still influences debate about Africa in the west.
Wallis also notes (as I pointed out in The Dragon's Gift), China has been building Ministry of Foreign Affairs buildings (and some Ministry of Defense buildings) as diplomatic gifts for African governments in many countries. My thought was that this helps boost good will and soft power in a key ministry. Wallis wondered "has Beijing hardwired African diplomacy to its own advantage?" An interesting question. Perhaps these ministry buildings would benefit from a thorough "bug cleaning"?

A hat tip to Henry Hall at China Africa News.

1 comment:

  1. Strange …

    My whole life some "friends of china" blamed me for reading to many business newspapers ...
    Approximately since the end of last century they accuse me now to read … just not enough business newspapers!
    Here we are again confronted with a light weight piece from the FT. I can agree that N Sakozy is not exactly an Africa specialist. But I look eagerly for the first Chinese specialist who is somewhat like f.e. Basil Davidson in his approach, knowledge and solidarity with Africa.
    And then we will be miles away from the usual crap, sorry, lies, about Zheng Hue and the rectilinear friendship between China and Africa since the 1950s of last century.
    As Horace Campbell rightly states "China" sees Africa somewhere in an outdoor circle of the globalisation, on the lower sport of it, as a raw materials supplier, and follows an Africa policy, in the footsteps of the Western, dominated by the same economic vision and realpolitic assessment.
    Nowadays, China outwights the West in Africa? Certainly, but this has everything to do with the above: we make no more "stuff" because the multinationals have outsourced this to China Inc, who therfore now requires, among other things, the African raw materials …
    Where half a centruary ago Congo was the kingpin for the Belgian “haute finance”(powers that be), there are now only 3 Belgian "giants" still active in the Congo, namely; Sarens, Sipef and Texaf, each of which one can define without almost no exaggeration, as companies that no Belgian or Congolese has erver heard of…
    China Inc has several opportunities to secure its supply from Africa and now, one of the most successful, namely through privatisation, is slowly on his last legs.
    Due to the African and world economic conditions this is now slowly replaced by a worldwide "drilling on the stock exchange trading floors", where so far China Inc. is the most succesful in the oil and mining sector. Finalised or complimentated by all sorts of mergers and acquisitions thanks to direct sales, or cooperation through joint ventures by Western companies …
    Have I something against this?
    Yes, just the same as what all anti-colonialists in Belgium argued against Belgian colonialsm: it was presented under the guise of "development" of Congo but served prioritarely the interests of the Belgian "high finance" whereby the Congolese "development" was only a by-product that was needed to achieve its main goal…
    The sequell: still each day in the DCR ...
    Alternatives: virtually none ….
    Lessons to learn from China: ubuntu …
    dan

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