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« Mapping the Future | Main | Street legal now at Time's Battleland blog »
1:00AM

The Chinese in Africa: welcome is wearing off

Nice Economist piece on the Chinese in Africa.  Echoes of the "ugly American":

Once feted as saviours in much of Africa, Chinese have come to be viewed with mixed feelings—especially in smaller countries where China’s weight is felt all the more. To blame, in part, are poor business practices imported alongside goods and services. Chinese construction work can be slapdash and buildings erected by mainland firms have on occasion fallen apart. A hospital in Luanda, the capital of Angola, was opened with great fanfare but cracks appeared in the walls within a few months and it soon closed. The Chinese-built road from Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, to Chirundu, 130km (81 miles) to the south-east, was quickly swept away by rains.

Business, Chinese style

Chinese expatriates in Africa come from a rough-and-tumble, anything-goes business culture that cares little about rules and regulations. Local sensitivities are routinely ignored at home, and so abroad. 

But here's the essential dynamic to take into account when making snap judgments:

 In the South African town of Newcastle, Chinese-run textile factories pay salaries of about $200 per month, much more than they would pay in China but less than the local minimum wage. Unions have tried to shut the factories down. The Chinese owners ignore the unions or pretend to speak no English.

They point out that many South African firms also undercut the minimum wage, which is too high to make production pay. Without the Chinese, unemployment in Newcastle would be even higher than the current 60%. Workers say a poorly paid job is better than none. Some of them recently stopped police closing their factory after a union won an injunction.

Good piece that explores a variety of theories as to why the Chinese are wearing out their welcome despite the money flow.

My sense:  The Chinese, like anybody else, try to see what they can get away with.  If Africa wants better from China, it needs to demand it but likewise provide it.  This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the continent, which can shape it for the better or squander it like other opportunities in the past that - in many ways - were far less kind.

References (1)

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Reader Comments (1)

Sounds like the Chinese have support in the Gulf of Aden.
The first anti-piracy joint exercise between China and Pakistan was conducted in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia as part of Combined Task Force 151.

Chinese warships Wenzhou, Ma’anshan and Qiandaohu and Pakistan guided missile destroyer Khyber took part in the drill, which included joint escort, helicopter cross landings, joint boarding, special operation members’ slide-landing from helicopter, helicopter air rescue and simulated airborne replenishment, according to a report in the Pakistan Times.

Wenzhou and Khyber alternated command of the exercise. The vessels also practiced search and rescue procedures.

China’s Navy is new to the anti-piracy effort, having received approval to participate in the rotating chairmanship of CTF 151, which will switch every three to four months. China is expected to take charge by the middle of this year, according to Chinese Daily.

CTF 151 is a multinational anti-piracy force operating over a 1.1 million square mile area in the Gulf of Aden. Republic of Singapore Navy Rear Adm. Harris Chan Weng Yip currently commands CTF 151.
http://www.breakbulk.com/piracy/anti-piracy-exercise-pairs-china-and-pakistan

May 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTerry Collier

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