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New African choices? The politics of Chinese engagement in Africa and the changing architecture of international development. Giles Mohan (Open University) Marcus Power (University of Durham). Outline. introduction towards a postcolonial political economy of China in Africa

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New African choices?The politics of Chinese engagement in Africa and the changing architecture of international development

Giles Mohan (Open University)

Marcus Power (University of Durham)

outline
Outline
  • introduction
  • towards a postcolonial political economy of China in Africa
  • geopolitical traditions and development co-operation
  • the politics of class and race
  • democratisation, rights discourses & the contemporary politics of aid
  • conclusions
introduction
introduction
  • China as imperial power, an imperial relationship?
  • China as once a victim of colonial aggression
  • Sympathies and support for anti-colonialism in Africa
  • Neo-colonialism disguised as ‘south-south’ development?
  • “as if there were relationships between two countries instead of between one & fifty-three” (Chan, 2007: 2).
a post colonial political economy of china in africa
A post-colonial political economy of China in Africa
  • Simplistic, racialised readings of Sino-African relations
  • Journalistic and broad-brush coverage, exotica as hallmark
  • Lack of case studies, nuance, disaggregation and empirical detail
  • A surfeit of poor & tentative scholarship, not grounded in particular contexts or political economies
  • Media discourses and Orientalism
  • Constructed imaginaries of ‘Africa’ & ‘China’
a post colonial political economy of china in africa1
A post-colonial political economy of China in Africa
  • China’s ‘scramble for Africa’, ‘African safari’, ‘resource grab’
  • China as monolithic ‘beast’ (‘enter the dragon’) with insatiable appetite
  • Lack of sociological nuance in discussing the ‘Chinese’ in Africa
  • China’s corporate engagement with Africa & the ‘China inc.’ model often exaggerated
  • China as exceptional, as impervious to western logics of rationality, humanitarianism & ‘development’
  • China’s ‘rogue aid’
a post colonial political economy of china in africa2
A post-colonial political economy of China in Africa
  • Combinations of critical political economy and aspects of post-colonial theory
  • state-capital dynamics & class forces combined with deconstructive method & decentering of ‘the West’
  • Changing class and racial dynamics of Chinese economic engagement
  • A genealogy of China’s historical engagement, a critical geopolitics of China’s enunciation of ‘development’
a post colonial political economy of china in africa3
A post-colonial political economy of China in Africa
  • Decentring ‘western’ accounts of China in Africa, making space for other voices and perspectives
  • Deconstructing the official discourses of the Chinese state
  • multiple commonalities between the agendas & policies of ‘developed’ western states & those of China
  • Understanding less visible exchanges (commodity flows, education partnerships, creation of new political & economic elites)
geopolitical traditions and development co operation
Geopolitical traditions and development co-operation
  • 1950s, focus on Afro-Asian solidarity, shared history, common enemies, exporting revolution from China to ‘Africa’
  • Rhetorical unity of ‘third world’ post-Bandung, focus on South-South co-operation for development, ‘camouflage tactics’ (Snow, 1995)
  • Cold war context, ideology & geopolitics, confrontation with the U.S (1950s/60s) & U.S.S.R (1960s/70s)
  • Non-alignment, neo-colonialism & China’s diplomatic offensive against hegemonism
geopolitical traditions and development co operation1
Geopolitical traditions and development co-operation
  • Countering the international recognition of Taiwan, building a ‘third world alliance’ in Africa
  • Principles for aid and co-operation reflected China’s own experience as an aid recipient with ‘client’ status
  • Aid programmes aimed to ‘show up the North’ (Snow, 1995)
  • ‘Missionary’ like convictions of being morally ‘right’, production of distance from ‘western’ approaches
  • Preaching the gospels of nationalism & independence but African leaders knew little about China
geopolitical traditions and development co operation2
Geopolitical traditions and development co-operation
  • Aid given as grant, strictly bilateral, Chinese aid workers did not “loll in hotel suites & run up expenses as other expatriates did” (Snow, 1995)
  • Aid as a means of exposing the limitations of China’s opponents, reluctance to co-ordinate with other donors
  • China happy to work on projects that were inessential monuments to the glory of African regimes they worked with
  • Tazara as a symbol of Afro-Asian solidarity
geopolitical traditions and development co operation3
Geopolitical traditions and development co-operation
  • Ideological inflections of foreign policy diluted in favour of flexible, differentiated and proactive stance
  • Post-Mao focus on modernisation, access to foreign markets, capital & technology
  • Search for new commercial engagements that would strengthen the PRC economy
  • Post-Tiananmen re-evaluation of foreign policy, focus on access to energy resources, efforts to counter US hegemonism
  • China’s rhetoric of non-aligned, socialist ‘brotherhood’ remains but its geo-strategic interests have changed dramatically.
geopolitical traditions and development co operation4
Geopolitical traditions and development co-operation
  • China’s renewed interest in Africa is not much different from those of the ‘Western’ powers, namely to advance the class power of its elites
  • Will China’s engagement with Africa radically alter Africa’s ‘extraverted’ relationship to the global economy?
  • Resource diplomacy, ‘soft power’ & support for China in multilateral agencies
  • Chinese aid provides leverage for African states in multi-polar world?
  • FOCAC meetings, China-Africa Development Fund, Trade and Economic co-operation zones in Africa, China’s Africa Strategy (2006)
the politics of class and race
The politics of class and race
  • Need to disaggregate the potential costs and benefits of Chinese trade and investment and how these are manifested in terms of wealth accumulation and class composition
  • Work exists on complementary and competitive relations between China and Africa
  • Some work on ethnic networks through which transnational enterprises operate
class and race politics
Class and race politics
  • Evidence that a Chinese merchant class has emerged in some countries
  • Beginning to organise is through organisations like chambers of commerce
  • Competition from China can increase African unemployment
  • May erode the support base of organised labour
new cultural politics
New cultural politics
  • Chinese have always played an ‘intermediary’ role
  • Not ‘White’, but also ‘non-black’
  • Race relations okay, but varies with impact on the local economy
  • In some cases local politicians have played the anti-China card
democratisation rights discourses and the contemporary politics of aid
Democratisation, rights discourses and the contemporary politics of aid
  • Political effects will be conditioned by the nature of China’s interests, the modes of engagement, and the political systems operating in the African country concerned.
  • Most African leaders share an uncritical openness to China
  • Very little internal debate, either in China or African countries, about the efficacy and impacts of China’s Africa policy
the politics of aid
The politics of aid
  • Chinese aid still predominantly bilateral despite commitment to aid coordination.
  • ‘Rights-based’ development become major ideological battleground
  • Tensions between bilateralism and multilateralism/pan-Africanism
conclusions emerging issues and methodological priorities
Conclusions – emerging issues and methodological priorities
  • Greater involvement in capacity building and governance
  • Tentative multilateralism
  • Need for grounded research to appreciate context/difference
  • Need to hear more African voices in debates