After focusing yesterday on criticism in Nigerian media of China’s role on the continent, there was evidence today of the positives that China is able to bring to the continent, and the equal relationship it attempts to foster. Chinese sources have remained silent on the Congo situation while they have taken criticism from within Africa for their role in continuing the colonial politics that have cost so many lives in the Congo. As was pointed out in an earlier post this week, China is only likely to intervene through the UN, so news that a delegation will be sent to DRC today might be seen as China’s response.
However, Chinese officials have confirmed that major aluminium and ceramics producers intend to set up factories in Ogun State in Nigeria creating up to 50,000 jobs. This could be a response to recent criticism of Chinese industry in Nigeria, and it represents the willingness that China shows to listen to complaints from its partners in Africa while potentially opening the market to its goods. Meanwhile an Egyptian official at the Supreme Council for Antiquities has spoken of his hope for increased cooperation with China over the reclamation of artifacts plundered from countries such as Egypt, Syria, China etc. by European and North American museums for their collections.
The offending nations are generally China’s chief competitors in Africa and this complaint underlies China’s ability to access African governments at a seemingly equal footing. As Chinese officials often remind critics, China also suffered imperialism and so it understands its wrongs. This lack of arrogance in China’s relations with African states has been the cornerstone of the relationship, so whether or not China’s role is any different to western powers’ roles, embattled African leaders have felt more receptive to Beijing’s overtures. In recent meetings aimed at creating an African free trade zone, China is sending delegates while Europe seems disinterested.
An official from the Ford motor company spoke today of South Africa’s failure to compete with rival developing nations in the cost of manufacturing of cars. He highlighted protectionism and high logistics and labour costs as the chief causes of this obstacle. South Africa’s car industry is struggling to survive, and if it is to continue it must take heed of this advice, and look to China for examples of how conditions can be improved. Government subsidies might persuade Chinese car makers to move a plant to South Africa in order to sell to the African market.