By Brad Settelmeyer
The age of Imperialism is over. Long gone are the times of puppet states or extensively large overseas colonies in which European powers ruled with an iron grip. While the rule of the people now prevails across the world, nations still try and meddle with the politics of other, less developed nations; in many cases, with economic help in the form of massive political change. The rapid expansion of global economic institutions like the World Bank or the IMF has also seen an increase of nations receiving external help to improve or promote economic growth within the respective country.
With only the best of intentions at first, many cases of economic intervention of other bigger and more economic stable countries have caused a very serious backlash towards developed nations. Most of the anger stems from the fact that with the implication of certain economic deals in the world, there was also a sort of catch 22 that came with it. World Bank loans usually required the nation in question to modernize their political systems to a more western stance of what is a government.
Economic interference from these major international economic institutions have also called into question whether the economic aid/development help that these nations will receive will benefit them in the long run, as the nation based industries are not profiting from this. Most of the time, international organizations like Nike can enter the country and start to produce products there.
The Western/ International organizations have such received a bad reputation for doing more harm than the good they do in promoting economic growth in developing nations. Most actions taken by the Western world and international organizations are now seen as not only not benefit for the nation, but also another way of making one nation an essential puppet of another.
All that said, it is surprising to see a country like China try and move towards and provide the same types of services that were given a bad name by international organizations. In recent years, China has moved towards helping develop infrastructure and security in developing countries in Africa, and because of such actions, are one of the biggest imports of African goods in the world.
Africa has becoming a major contributor of raw materials raw petrol in return to the Chinese investment in both industry and infrastructure of countries such as Zambia, Angola, and many other minerally rich countries with a low level of infrastructure.
Now, two of the biggest questions that can be brought up into the economic venture by the Chinese into the African region is not only how they are able to foster such level of trust between the African countries and the Chinese state, and a more basic question, why are the Chinese so interested in not only trading but building up these African States.
It can be obvious that the Chinese are looking at taking advantage of a weak state to find material gain because of their recent maritime expansion into south Oceanic region, as there needs to be a something that fuels those warships patrolling the Oceanic region, and the Chinese see the States of Zambia, Angola, and other rich with petroleum as the best target. The Chinese could go somewhere else, such as the petroleum rich area of Saudi Arabia, but the problem is that a very close ally to the State of Iran, there is really no room to move in that region considering the very much hostile relation the current Saud and Iran State has towards each other since 1979.
Even in their own backyard, with the previous actions of the United States to increase influence in South East Oceanic region, as well as China’s recent shows of force in the region, China does not have good relations with its neighbors, though they have proven their dominance though which doesn’t help in a trade or economic way of dealing with nations.
To an extent, most of the options that the Chinese have in store for them all are already used up. Africa is a very open area and in many cases undeveloped as well. Political turmoil in the region has caused the ineffectiveness of the government to be extremely prevalent in its ability to give to its citizens.
Because of such, the Chinese can very much easily enter the region without any competition, as not only western intervention seen by many as a political move, but also there is really no domestic competition that China has to worry about, as most of the countries that they work with, as stated above, do not have the resources to effectively work as a state, and because of such do not have really any significant control over what happens in the country.
It is not to say that the states of Africa cannot prevent the Chinese States from building infrastructure or oil refineries in their land, it is just more in the sense that they really have no other option other than to allow the Chinese to do so. Much of the States actions are directed towards internal strife, and because of such issue, many states must sometimes have to worry about the preservation of the state instead of giving their citizens basic infrastructure.
The Chinese government does not see their actions in the international stage as way to boulter a certain way of government or allegiance to their state, but just in a normal business deal between two states. In return for the acquisition of the raw materials that are found in the nation trading with China, the State in question would allow Chinese run business into the nation to allow them to work in infrastructure projects, etc.
China has usually worked through SOE or State-Owned Enterprises, which are not under the full control of the state, but its major stocks are held by the State, meaning that the State has a very big hand in the actions of said company. Because of such, the State of the Chinese nation can use these companies to not only act in non-diplomatic ways to achieve economic promises, they not only decrease the chance of getting entrenched into conflicts into the region that would give a bad name to the Chinese state, but also it allows for new markets to pop up once the nation’s in question economic growth can allow for the increase of foreign products into the nation; say Chinese products.
China is working within the constraints of the states they deal with, be it authoritarian or democratic. They really have no push to change the way the state runs in a nation or how much power a state can have inside its own nation. What it can do and has been doing for a while now is helping those states build up in places that they need growth, and one of the most crucial aspects is in infrastructure. The Chinese not only saw the resources that came with the partnership with these African countries, and also the prospect to grow that nation to a point where it could not only operate in a level of economic and political stability, but also give reassurance to the Chinese state of their economic two-sided commitment that has foster over the time of trading and building between the two nations.
While China is not the only nation to start to focus more on the economic partnership towards African countries, it is probably going to be have significant head start in the region, as with the rapid economic growth seen in the past, as well as not having no really history within the region, the Chinese are not only seen as very good dealers to work with, they have a clean slate to work on when it comes to make an economic course in the African continent.
It is unknown how far China will go with its economic endeavor into Africa, but one thing is clear, there is something every State can learn from China in respects to their relations to developing countries.