Monday, December 31, 2012

On This Day: The 1988-1989 Nanjing Anti-African Protests

NOTE: This posting would not have been possible without the research of Michael J. Sullivan ("The 1988-89 Nanjing Anti-African Protests: Racial Nationalism or National Racism?" The China Quarterly, No. 138 (Jun., 1994), 438-457), Barry Sautman ("Anti-Black Racism in Post-Mao China," The China Quarterly, No 138 (Jun., 1994) 413-437), Philip Snow (The Start Raft. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, New York 1988) and George T. Crane ("Collective Identity, Symbolic Mobilization, and Student Protest in Nanjing, China, 1988-1989," Comparative Politics, Vol. 26, No. 4 (Jul., 1994) 395-413). I urge anyone interested in the incident to read what they wrote for a much more complete understanding of what happened. There is much more information out there on the matter, such this text which I have not read, so if any study contradicts what I have written here please let me know.

The Nanjing Anti-African Protests are, for me, a defining moment of Sino-African relations because they revealed how people on the ground interacted, rather than what leaders expressed to each other in meetings and documents. Now, as a diplomatic historian, I obviously put a lot of value on the latter. If one wanted to look at Sino-African relations through the prism of Bandung or FOCAC 2000, there is nothing wrong with that. Still, I wanted to write something to commemorate the anniversary of this sad event. Also, I want to emphasize that I do not believe Chinese people to be uniquely or irredeemably racist. Americans have their own history of rioting against black students, for example. I am simply trying to insure that these sorts of stories do not disappear.

Friday, December 21, 2012

With Friends Like These...

There was an interesting connection I noticed when reading over my tweeter feed today.

Tarila Marclint Ebiede, a PhD candidate in the political science department at KU Lueven, linked to this Reuters article about South Sudan wanting international support for a new airline and airport. There was a passage that caught my eye:
The new country will also need to bring in experts to help set up the airline, he said. He did not say how long it might take to get the airline running or name any of the potential investors.
The biggest carriers in the region include companies like Kenya Airways (KQNA.NR) and Ethiopian Airlines. South Sudan said last week China would provide a $158 million loan to help finish a new airport in Juba.
The work will be done by Chinese companies and supervised by South Sudan's transport ministry, Malek said.
"Once we're satisfied, we tell the minister of finance ... to tell the Chinese Axim Bank that this part of work has been done, you pay that company," he said.
That sounds like a really great deal for South Sudan, China, and the Chinese Exim Bank. If an American NGO wants to gain traction with African governments, perhaps the Enough Project should have chipped in some money. China did a masterful job of improving the, at times quite acrimonious, relationships with the people of Sudan and South Sudan.

I then came across a set of juicy quotes from the recent video interview with Malawian president Joyce Banda:
"China doesn't keep us waiting for two years. China will decide today and will go ahead. The next day you sign, and work starts … so, the choice for Africa is: do I want to have a road next year, or do I want to stay for two years discussing about human rights and governance before we can even talk about the road?"
These were broadcast by Tolu Ogunlesi, a first-rate journalist and a prolific tweeter. The video interview was made by Lucy Lamble, Nick Francis and Marc Francis, the latter two famous in Sino-Africa circles for their documentary "When China Met Africa." President Banda has a good relationship with the U.S., so for her to make such a blunt assessment of the difficulties in dealing with the U.S. and Europe when it comes to infrastructure projects is significant. 

The U.S. knows all too well that China offers very attractive aid and trade packages, it just stings when another leader acknowledges it. In the span of a week, China is agreeing to finance the completion of an airport in a country which does not hold the highest regard for the Chinese, and the president of a country friendly to the U.S. is pointing out just how the Americans are failing said country. I still believe the U.S. and China operate quite similarly in the African continent, but my view is not what matters. What President Banda thinks is what matters.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Reading: The Dragon's Gift

UPDATE: I finished finished reading Deborah Brautigam's The Dragon's Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa. I wrote an earlier post describing some of my initial thoughts and I just finished something a little more substantive.

Prof. Deborah Brautigam has written a text that should be on the shelf of anyone interested in Sino-African relations, plain and simple. Professor and Director of the International Development Program at Johns Hopkins University/School of Advanced International Studies, Brautigam has more than three decades of experience studying development, specifically African development, and she is one of the world's foremost experts on Sino-African relations, having been interested in Chinese aid projects to Africa since the 1980s. Looking primarily to debunk some of the more excessive stories being written about China's presence in Africa, she succeeds in that mission. However, she also either ignores or does not deal with evidence that contradicts her thesis, and she does both in a way that made me wary of her overall research. However, even with that said, her research and arguments are compelling enough to make up for those problems.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

One Continent, Two Approaches: The U.S. and China in Africa

I went to a fascinating event here in Washington DC held by the Center for American Progress. Ambassador David Shinn and Joshua Eisenman were on the panel, who together just wrote the Sino-Africa book that I myself wanted to write when I was younger, so kudos to them! Anything they say pertaining Sino-African relations should be listened to.

Please click on the link and watch the video. I did manage to ask a question, and I was heartened by the response.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Well, at Least They Changed the Name to 'Darlie'

Today I read this piece, courtesy of Wendy, that tied China Daily's African edition with China's sometimes fraught relationship with dark-skinned peoples. This quote, by Isaac Stone Fish, sums things up nicely:
While there's plenty of anecdotal evidence out there, it's hard to generalize about what Chinese think about Africans without being hypocritical, so I'll just quote what a Chinese English teaching recruiter once told me in Beijing: "We try not to hire black people. They tend to scare the children."

Friday, December 14, 2012

What is the Chinese model of development?

Some think that China is helping build Africa's development capacities, others think that China's involvement in Africa is less than beneficial. Still, everyone can agree that China is affecting African countries, one way or another. And yet, what is the end-game of Sino-African relations? What will they look like in a decade, or five? China and the Asian Tigers all built their economies from levels comparably lower than independence-era Africa, and peoples in Africa were quite interested in the implications for countries under the domination of Europeans to develop so rapidly. Can Chinese relations with African countries turn Africa into another China? Will Botswana or Rwanda turn into another Guangzhou by manufacturing or exporting things to Guangzhou itself?

Sino-Africa scholar Deborah Brautigam argues that Africa cannot develop like China:

There isn't any country in Africa that has the same kind of leadership as China where there is such a focus on development....There might have been a few places that have come close such as Ethiopia under Meles Zenawi (prime minister until his death in August) and also currently Rwanda, but very few....There are 54 countries in Africa so you can't really say there is one model for Africa,...But it is true there is more focus on manufacturing in Africa. There are a number of countries that have also concentrated on manufacturing such as Mauritius, South Africa, Kenya as well as Tunisia and Egypt and others that are not naturally resource-rich. For some parts of the continent, the manufacturing model is already working.
Abdi Ismail Samatar, a prominent researcher of African political development, emphasizes self-reliance as an element of true development in his recent op-ed. Relying on commodity exports (a massive generalization of African economies, but a useful one) while importing the tools and ideas of others will do those countries no good in the long run: 
A number of African scholars have recently argued that China is working with African countries to advance the continent's development, while the United States is deeply engaged in security and terror issues in Africa... Although there is an element of truth in this thesis, particularly with regard to the American involvement in Africa, I beg to differ with the claim that China's interventions are significantly advancing Africa's capacity to develop....The critical question is: What the Asian or PRC leadership did differently than Africans to advance their economies? For starters, the younger Asian Tigers had a model of industrial development in Japan. East Asians and PRC understood that without a strong industrial base they could not develop.Consequently, their industrial strategy was qualitatively different than any other Third World government through the discipline their state exercised. State companies took the lead and this approach blossomed in China after the post-Mao reform in the late 1970. It is the emergence of state-directed industrial development that has given Asia or China an incredible competitive advantage in so many fields....Beneath the media glare that surrounded the inaugural ceremony of the AU ceremony, the Chinese guest must have minimally felt pity for his hosts whose incompetence created the opportunity for such gift giving. In the colonial era, Africans were denied the opportunity to develop their skills and build their enterprises.For instance, early last century, King Khama of Bechuanaland (today's Botswana) established a state company to assist his people compete with South Africa's white businesses in his territory. But the British authorities forced Khama to liquidate his enterprise and this damaged the future Republic of Botswana.More recently, African governments have failed to learn from their history and those of others by squandering opportunities to capacitate their people so they can design and construct their own domes.The African people's disability is unmistakably exemplified by the AU building and that is why it is Africa's "Dome of Shame". To challenge this history, the response of young Africans must be: never again will others build things for us and steal our precious natural resources and markets."
One wonders if, ultimately, the perception that African countries are relying on "the Chinese" (The quote is there to signify that the term is more complicated than its use implies) to build necessary infrastructure is really the way to go.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

About Me

It began with the wrong color.

I must have been ten years old. I was in Accra, Ghana, eating lunch after getting home from school when I noticed that the rice I was eating was not white. Nor brown. Nor yellow.

But Pink. I asked my cook, Christina, to explain, and she led me to the pantry where I saw that the sack of rice had it's ink bleed onto the grains. I noticed that the sack had strange marks on it.

"Those are Chinese words."

"Chinese words? Why are Chinese words on this sack?"

"Because this rice comes from China, Winslow."

"You mean it isn't from Ghana?" I said indignantly. To think, Ghana importing foreign foodstuffs? Ghana, land of the sweetest pineapple, the juiciest mango, the best quality cocoa, had to IMPORT rice? While I had not even the slightest understanding of agriculture, international trade, specialization, subsidies, or rice-growing in general, the whole thing seemed somehow perverse. Ghanaian agriculture was world-class, everyone in Ghana ate rice, why would they have to import it, especially from China which was so far away?

"What else does Ghana get from China?"