Weekly news

There was a lot of coverage on Zambia this week, after a Chinese company Zesco won a $334m contract to extend power lines in the country.

There was a lot of coverage on Zambia this week, after a Chinese company Zesco won a $334m contract to extend power lines in the country. This seems to have reignited the debate over China’s involvement in the country, with academics on both sides of the argument producing articles on the relative faults and merits of Chinese interaction, in the Lusaka Times.

The featured article this week from that publication however refers again to the Collum coal mine, where Chinese managers injured a number of workers late in 2010. What I did not see reported at the time however, was that a Chinese manager had been killed by a Zambian worker as recently as February of last year. Although this in no way excuses the actions of the Chinese managers, it certainly seems relevant to the discussion. It again highlights Beijing’s failure to properly manage the media impact of their African misadventures.
Light relief this week is provided by Africa News who report that China’s efforts to rescue prostitutes from Africa are proving largely unsuccessful, due to the opportunities provided by a life of prostitution mixed with import/export. The report centres on a Chinese girl promised a better life in Europe, who ended up in prostitution in a Kareoke bar in Kinshasa. However when questioned the girl confirms that she is happy in DRC, and feels the opportunities are better than those offered in China. Last week’s article on the immorality of Chinese competition for aid funds is put into perspective here.
Although some provinces experience heady export led growth, huge areas of China’s interior are still extremely poor. Opportunities for petty trading for Chinese in Africa continue to tempt large numbers to emigrate. This is a well established pattern for hundreds of years, as poor Chinese traders create a trading class in poorer neighbours (Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand etc.).
Increasingly China is replacing the West in African aspirations. One frequently reads eulogies to China’s anticorruption measures and tough stance on on criminal law. This theme is extended this week in Ghana Web, this time focused on the merits of China’s political system. The article below celebrates the meritocracy and long termism of China’s political appointments. This taps in to the well ploughed argument over whether democracy works in Africa, but it also jars against the Washington Consensus and its relevance to the continent.
The USA’s legitimacy in Africa is further questioned in the South China Morning Post, drawing on a study from the Hong Kong University for Science and Technology. The study shows that the US is a far worse exponent of arms sales to autocratic regimes, although it seems this is heavily influenced by enormous arms sales to Egypt.

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