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Africa and China

Published May 4, 2006 8:04 AM

The attitude in the imperialist establishments of Europe and the U.S. toward Black Africa is so dripping with racism that almost every mention in the mass media of this rich and vibrant continent takes it for granted that the people will be perpetually poor and their societies woefully underdeveloped. We always hear of “aid” for Africa—which amounts to little more than a pittance—but never of the great wealth produced by African workers that continues to be taken out by imperialist corporations, which feast off its minerals, its rubber, its lumber, its diamonds, and more and more, its oil.

For example, after years of terrible civil war in which millions have died, the state mining company of Congo, Gecamines, has had to sign agreements with foreign mining companies that let it keep only 12.5 percent of the wealth ripped out of its subsoil. Under the dictator Mobutu, that figure was much greater—about 40 percent! But when he first took power, with CIA support, there were liberation movements all over Africa, many receiving help from socialist countries. The imperialists knew they had to let military figures like Mobutu keep enough wealth to stay in power or they could lose everything.

Africa won’t be able to develop until it regains some control over its own resources. Everything the imperialist banks and corporations do is designed to prevent that from happening. And behind them are the mercenary armies and the open military intervention of U.S., British and French troops. The Pentagon is now spending hundreds of millions of dollars on new bases in West Africa, most around the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea.

In this difficult situation, African governments are expressing guarded optimism about developing economic relations with a country that has never oppressed them, never stolen their people or their resources, but is willing to invest in their infrastructure in exchange for raw materials. That country is China.

Chinese President Hu Jintao just spent a week in Africa, most of it in Nigeria and Kenya. Before he left Nigeria, the two heads of state signed an agreement that will allow China to drill for oil at four locations and to buy a controlling stake in Nigeria’s 110,000 barrel-a-day Kaduna oil refinery, which it will upgrade. In exchange China will invest $4 billion in oil and infrastructure projects in Nigeria, including a railroad system and power stations.

The deal struck with Kenya also involves exploring for oil, which is believed to lie offshore. It was welcomed not only by the government of Kenya but by business interests in other African countries as well.

An editorial in East African Business Week of Kampala, Uganda, on May 1 was entitled “Let’s Embrace China for True Partnerships.” It said that “one significant thing that President Jintao stated all through his sojourn in Africa was China’s desire to forge a new style of relation with Africa—a relation based on an equal footing while respecting the sovereignty of African nations. What Africa needs today are not imported programs conceptualized in foreign capitals and dropped into Africa to be adopted or mimicked. What the continent needs urgently are homegrown approaches into solving African problems.

“This is the path China took and the path most of the successful Tiger economies adopted. And it is here that we in East Africa stand best to benefit in the relation with China.

“If, as President Jintao indicated in Nairobi, China is willing to help Africa grow, and if the price of that is a little bit of our natural resources, we say it is worthwhile.

“Worthwhile because China offers assistance without strings attached, assistance that does not demand a host of expatriates from a donating country.”

This is the African bourgeoisie talking. One can feel how bruised and battered even they feel at the way the imperialists arrogantly come in and tell them what to do. But it probably also reflects the mood of the masses, who are tired of hearing the World Bank and the IMF pose as champions of human rights in their countries as they front for the thieving corporations. And it reflects the belief that China will share its newly developed technology with Africa in a way that the imperialists never would.

China has its own national interests in this growing relationship, of course. But these national interests contain within them many aspects inherited from its own anti-imperialist, anti-
feudal revolution.

For now, the imperialists are expressing alarm over this development purely on the basis that China is muscling in to markets that they want to control—especially the oil. If the African countries can get a better deal from China than they can from the U.S. and Europe, then progressives should of course support them and spurn the anti-China campaign that is sure to come.