Friday, February 02, 2007

Beijing Backlash Begins


Finally, signs that aggressive Chinese investment is beginning to step on African toes, from today’s Wall Street Journal. “In Africa, China’s Expansion Begins to Stir Resentment” (sub required) details how Hu Jintao canceled a stop in Chambishi, Zambia partly because Chinese supervisors at a Chinese-owned mine—there’s no polite way to say this—fired on protesting employees in 2006.

Set amid rolling hills in Zambia’s copper belt, Chambishi was supposed to be a showcase of Sino-African friendship. China’s state metals conglomerate, China Non-Ferrous Metal Mining (Group) Co., bought the mothballed copper mine here in 1998, bringing plenty of jobs and investments. Initial gratitude, however, quickly turned into seething discontent, as the new Chinese owners banned union activity and cut corners on safety. In 2005, dozens of locals were killed in a blast at the Chinese explosives facility serving the mine—the worst industrial disaster in Zambia’s history. Then, the following year, protesting Zambian employees were sprayed with gunfire. “The Chinese, they don’t even consider us to be human beings,” complains Albert Mwanaumo, a former Chambishi miner who says he was shot by a Chinese supervisor. “They think they have the right to rule us.”


South African President Thabo Mbeki has repeatedly cautioned in recent weeks that China risks replicating in Africa a “colonial relationship” of the kind that existed under white rule.

China, the colonial power! Since China spent the past half-century screaming about American “imperialism,” it’s refreshing to see Beijing run into the same complaint.


NYkrinDC said...

It's been evident for a while now. It's not only Zambians who are angry at China, it is also South African textile manufactures who are worried that they will not be able to compete against Chinese manufacturers. The mine issue isn't even the thing that has Zambians angry, what really got them mad was when the Chinese ambassador suggested during last years presidential contest that if the incumbents opponent won, China would withdraw all investment in the country.

Several countries are also complaining about China's practice of importing Chinese laborers to build infrastructure projects, when there is such high unemployment in Africa.

China has recently taken many measures to try to address these problems, and Hu's visit is one of these measures.

A.E. said...

China's also been meddling in African politics as well. Their monomoniacal obsession with Taiwan is leading them to pressure African politicians to stop dealing with them--and some aren't liking it.

Paul D. Kretkowski said...

A.E.'s comment fits nicely with the rest of Beijing's Taiwan policy, which is the closest thing to a Achesonian "containment" policy as the post-Cold War world has seen.

Also, thanks to NYkrinDC for providing broader context on African dissatisfaction with China's actions there.

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