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جمعہ، 10 دسمبر، 2010

Is the US losing Africa to China?


The WikiLeaks cables have revealed that the US is closely monitoring China’s activity in Africa, which causes serious concern in American diplomatic circles. The growing flow of Chinese investments is one of the particular causes of concern. The fault with the Chinese is that they invest in African countries’ economies without interfering in their internal affairs, while Western powers put forward demands of “good governance”, whatever this may mean.
China is "a very aggressive and pernicious economic competitor with no morals," writes Johnnie Carson, US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs.
The cables further “reveal” the fact that "China is not in Africa for altruistic reasons. China is in Africa primarily for China."
And further Mr. Carson adds: "A secondary reason for China's presence is to secure votes in the United Nations from African countries."
The very wording of the diplomatic cables is quite telling, although the cables reveal nothing at all. The fact that, unlike major Western powers, China has been using the so called «soft power» tactics” in its efforts to penetrate the regions that for a long time have been looked upon as exclusive Western domain is no new to any international observer. And Africa in this respect is not the only region. Lately, there has been massive Chinese activity even in Latin America that has for a long time been regarded as “US soft belly”.
The statement that “China is not in Africa for altruistic reasons. China is in Africa primarily for China," is even more ridiculous. Isn’t it the primary purpose of any country’s diplomacy “to be there for their country?” Or, maybe the US Assistant Secretary means to say that the US presence in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan is “for altruistic reasons?”

In fact, the American concern is for the most part very well understandable. China is using its increasing political power and weighty foreign currency assets in order to establish itself as a major partner of “Third World” countries. At the same time China does not seem to be as ideologically blindfolded as the West and primarily the US, so as to demand that the country invested in should follow any prescribed political and ideological line. Hence, China DOES maintain relations with such regimes as Mugabe in Zimbabwe or basher in Sudan.
What may be even more important is the fact that by all political forecasts for the 21st century, it is going to be the “China Age” in global politics. Therefore the major superpower of today, the US, feeling that its grip on world affairs is loosening, shows natural concern over the rise of China.
The recent events around the Korean Peninsula are just one more example of the confrontation which is sure to dominate the 21st century. North or South Korea, Taiwan and even Japan mean little for US diplomacy. But all these countries are pawns in a “Big Chess Game” played by the two main gamblers – the US and China. Therefore both players are determined to inject maximum power into their allies in the region – just to show the opponent that they are not ready to submit.
Africa has for a long time been basically neglected by the major players. And the Chinese were only too wise to use the opportunity. Basically, they have outmaneuvered the US in this region. And, what has not yet been “revealed” by WikiLeaks, but what seems inevitable, is that they have firmly established their influence in a region where until recently the US monopoly wasn’t even questioned, that is, Latin America. The Chinese “soft power” policy has yielded such results that will be very difficult to throw down by means of conventional diplomacy.
In any case, it is rather doubtful that the US diplomats should blame the unfavorable course of events on any outside power. While China is using its“soft power” policy, investing in road-building, enterprises on social infrastructure, the US has stuck to a completely different policy of bombing, overthrowing the ruling regimes, destroying roads, enterprises and social infrastructure, of which Iraq and Afghanistan are the best (or, more accurately, the worst) examples.
So, is there reason to wonder why Third World countries tend to welcome Chinese diplomacy in a much more cordial way than that of the United States?
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