walter chari 19-06-11.jpgBy Walter Chari

A lot of debate has been going on concerning China’s vast investments in Africa and other developing countries, with some skeptics arguing that China has come to re-colonise the resource rich continent while others see it as a long overdue counter to the overbearing West.

Many African leaders have embraced the Look East Policy much to the chagrin of dissenters who say Chinese industry will swallow business on the continent.

 

In the world of diplomacy and international relations, there are neither permanent friends nor enemies, and only national interests are permanent. and this means that relationships between and among nations are motivated by the pursuits of national interests.

We are daily witnesses to the double standards, shameless and sometimes scandalous ways that Western countries go about pursuing their national interests.

 

A case in point is that of the war in Iraq which was motivated by a desire to guarantee oil security for the West. The ongoing  bombing of Libya by the West via NATO is motivated more by the desire to get access to the oil fields than the ‘human rights’ claims that are often bandied.

Too many African leaders have been used, abused and dumped by the Western governments.

 

There was a time not very long ago when President Robert Mugabe was the darling of the Western governments. The British awarded him honorary degrees and the Queen went further as to give him the knighthood.

 

All that ended when Zimbabwe became firm on the issue of land tenure in the country.

Suddenly President Mugabe was labelled a “mad man” and a “tyrant” who must be brought low.

 

Libyan leader Muammar  Gaddafi was at one time deemed to be working against the interests of the West. and was called all sorts of names.

When we thought the West had “rehabilitated”  Gaddafi, after he surrendered his weapons expansion programmes and allowed the West to invest in Libya, the same West turned around and armed rebels to cause chaos in the country and give an excuse for NATO to come in and seek to assassinate him.  

The relationship between African countries and the West has been that of “master and servant” for centuries now.

 

If the truth be told, Africans do not have much to show for their relationship with the West.

 

All we can point to is exploitation and all sorts of abuse.

African countries have been at the mercy of the Western countries through the “aid industry .“

 

This “aid” has left many African economies crippled with debt only to be told that we have to declare ourselves Heavily Indebted and Poor Countries (HIPC) for us to be “assisted” with yet more “aid”.

 

Naturally this “aid” comes with a lot of strings attached.

As Africans we should ask ourselves, what interests are we pursuing in our foreign policies?

 

Are our people benefiting tangibly from our foreign policies?

 

Are our conditions getting any better as time goes by?

 

Africa is richly endowed with huge mineral resources; therefore the interests of Africa should be how to use these plentiful resources for the development of the continent and improving the lives of its people.

 

Europe’s primary interest is to get these African resources as cheaply as possible for their own development.

There has recently been a lot of attention to China’s rapidly expanding presence throughout Africa.

 

China’s growing economy is altering global balance of power.

 

Beijing has an ever rising profile in Africa and this growth is probably the most significant global development since the Cold War ended.

 

It has sparked new interest in Africa’s economic potential.

The rise of China has ended European and America’s complacency that Africa would always belong in their sphere of influence, a continent for pacifying guilt rather than fostering development.

One observer noted that for the first time in two decades most African and other developing countries are now getting a choice of whom to do business with.

 

China’s importance is in that it offers the whole developing world a viable alternative.

There was a time when conventional wisdom had it that when America sneezed, the world caught a cold. Today the health of the global economy now rests largely with China.

Bilateral ties with China, one of the world’s leading economies has seen African countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Sudan among others prosper in terms of infrastructure development.

China together with India are fast becoming “diplomatic superpowers” and this means that any well meaning government would do well to treat them with due respect.

 

One of the reasons why many African and other developing countries are increasingly opting to do business with China and India is because these countries tend to treat other nations as partners in the global village.

India and China have their own interests that they are actively pursuing but they have not let this result in them getting obnoxious when dealing with other countries.

 

There is a lot of friendliness, respect and mutual understanding for development.

 

China is a country that pursues its own national and economic interests without interfering in domestic affairs of other countries, unlike Western countries particularly the United States which seeks to impose its own order on the World and acts like a big brother.

 

The US,   through institutions such as the World Bank, forces developing countries to adopt policies that further Washington’s foreign policy and it is for this reason that the Third World prefers doing business with China.     

China has shown the rest of the world that it is possible to develop without taking the World Bank and IMF prescriptions.

 

It has managed to alleviate poverty and its state owned companies have been managed effectively and efficiently resulting in them increasing investments globally.

India is also rising as both a political and economic power.

 

It used to suffer from the Western policies that have been so detrimental to Africa but has shaken these off and followed its own development route.

According to historical records, the Chinese came to the African coast before the Europeans could navigate outside their waters.

 

They never thought of conquering or colonizing the continent and the people they met but were more interested in cultivating mutually beneficial ties.

 

It is this same approach to the rest of the world that China and India have today and from which they are benefiting. 

Last week, the shadowy society known as the Bilderberg group met in Spain to formulate strategies to counter China’s growing dominance in Africa.

 

Western governments have been shaken to the core with the rise of China and are meeting secretly to counter the emergence of this Asian power.

 

We should embrace the Chinese and explore meaningful ways of doing business with them for the betterment of Africa’s children.

Disclaimer:

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.

The article has also appeared in The Southern Times.