Monday, September 29, 2008

The New Imperialists?

Provocative, disturbing article on China's investments in Africa. The title of author Peter Hitchens' piece: "How China Has Created a New Slave Empire in Africa."

Obviously you are not going to find a lot of positives here.

After recounting an incident in which he and his companions were nearly killed, Hitchens sums the up Chinese presence in Africa:
Out of desperation, much of the continent is selling itself into a new era of corruption and virtual slavery as China seeks to buy up all the metals, minerals and oil she can lay her hands on: copper for electric and telephone cables, cobalt for mobile phones and jet engines - the basic raw materials of modern life.

It is crude rapacity, but to Africans and many of their leaders it is better than the alternative, which is slow starvation.
One of more interesting points raised is Chinese attitudes towards worker safety and how these have carried over to their activities in Africa:
Denis Lukwesa, deputy general secretary of the Zambian Mineworkers' Union, also backed up Sata's view, saying: 'They just don't understand about safety. They are more interested in profit.'...
Hitchens quotes a Zambian worker who collected the remains of workers who died in an explosion at a Chinese-run mine:
'A Chinese supervisor said to me in broken English, "In China, 5,000 people die, and there is nothing. In Zambia, 50 people die and everyone is weeping." To them, 50 people are nothing.'
It's telling that Chinese workers are treated hardly better than the Africans (in fact the article speculates that many Chinese laborers in Africa are convicts off-loaded from China's vast penal system) — suggesting that the problem here is not so much Chinese attitudes towards Africans, but Chinese attitudes towards themselves.

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