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China’s Growing African Empire -The Good

Today we’ll be looking at how China’s influence is growing in Africa, and what might be a few of the positives coming from this relationship. This will be followed up tomorrow with the downsides (the bad), and the next day with the ugly.

Brief history

The most important thing to remember in China’s current African Empire, and yes I mean it with all of the colonial baggage, is that it is not a recent development. China has been cultivating it’s presence there since the 1960’s when it started bringing aid projects to Africa when it was courting rulers for UN votes to oust Taiwan from its seat. Zhou Enlai, China’s Premier at the time, declared that these aid projects should have no strings attached to them, and would be purely for the benefit of the African people (note: just a declaration).

In the past decade this total aid has reached more than a billion dollars annually, and is starting to raise some questions in the West; especially given some of Beijing’s more embarrassing allies in the region. It seems now that China’s objective in Africa is no longer just UN votes (which it still uses), but is more focused on resources. We’ll leave that for further discussion tomorrow.

The Good

China has now become the major investor in Africa’s infrastructure, and infrastructure is an absolute necessity when it comes to development.

This includes road projects, which are key for bringing goods to market, as well as making goods available for export. It also includes the construction of several coal and hydro power plants throughout the region. While these things come at a price, they ultimately serve Africans and will hopefully help the more desperate nations reach that first rung of the development ladder (read about the development ladder here).

Another major project in Africa are China’s massive medical programs. Since 1960 they have sent more than 17,000 medical staff and have treated more than 200 million cases. They have built hospitals, malaria clinics and provided AIDS prevention education.

Over the next 5 years China is planning to train 5,000 Africans in Chinese medical universities. They are provided with full tuition and housing in some of China’s best medical schools. I know this is more than just a declaration, since we have several beneficiaries of this program training in my hospital. It is fitting, seeing as one of our doctors traveled with Zhou Enlai on his first state visit to Africa to begin the project nearly 50 years ago.

The Bad. The Ugly.


15 Comments

  1. Meryl Mackay aka 马美丽 says:

    What an interesting post, Tom. BBC recently showed a programme on this very subject. It is a very complex subject so I am glad that you are devoting more than one post to it. I look forward to your next post. Kind regards!

  2. Rick Cramblet says:

    I am enjoying your Blog and the insights you offer from your tenure in China!

  3. Let’s hear more about China in Africa. Dambisa Moyo claims that China has done more good there in 20 years than the West in 200 years–though that doesn’t set the bar very high!

    • Tom says:

      Well, I’m not entirely sure I’ll be able to find as much good as Dambisa Moyo. Over the next couple days, I’m going to bring up some less than flattering examples of China’s behavior in Africa.

  4. […] Today we’ll be looking at how China’s influence is growing in Africa, and what might be a few of the positives coming from this relationship. This will be followed up tomorrow with the downsides (the bad), and the next day … Continue reading → […]

  5. […] Seeing Red in China My life in their world Skip to content HomeAbout MeMap of China ← China’s Growing African Empire -The Good […]

  6. Someone thinks this story is fantastic…

    This story was submitted to Hao Hao Report – a collection of China’s best stories and blog posts. If you like this story, be sure to go vote for it….

  7. […] this week I brought you the good and the bad that has come out of China’s role in Africa, today we are focusing on the truly […]

  8. M says:

    What percentage of the drugs are counterfeit? I’ve only had a 50% success rate in getting real meds in China. Given how flawed the domestic supply chain is, I can’t imagine the stuff they’re sending overseas is any good.

    And if they’re sending fakes, then won’t that just increase infectious disease resistance?

    • Tom says:

      Fakes wouldn’t necessarily increase infectious disease resistance, but they could have a lot of other side effects. In the mainland there are problems with the supply chain, but I don’t think it’s quite as bad as you’ve mentioned.
      However at the hospital I work at it is the policy not to give pregnant women Chinese made drugs, since they are often of unknown strength.
      Drug resistance is also a problem in China, not because of counterfeit drugs, but over use of antibiotics.

  9. […] and thought some of you might enjoy another look at this topic. If you missed my 3-part series (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly) on China’s Growing African Empire, I would suggest reading that along […]

  10. […] top of that China currently has massive investments throughout Africa (read my series on that topic here), South America, and most recently the South Pacific. These foreign investment projects put China […]

  11. […] more about China in Africa in my three part series on the subject (The good, the bad and the […]

  12. Fred Odhiambo says:

    Late last year or should be early this year the Dalai Lama was supposed to attend Desmond Tutu 90th birthday but the South African goverment denied him the visa at the prodding of China. If this is not intefering with a country’s internal affairs then i do not know what else China means by this.

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