Sunday, October 08, 2006

Bad Boss, Bad Diplomacy

For all of China's recent and much touted diplomatic successes in Africa and elsewhere, any friendships forged won't last long if this kind of thing keeps up:
Deep in the tunnel of the Collum mine, coal dust swirls thickly, and it's stifling for workers such as Chengo Nguni. He describes his $2-a-day job with a sigh: His supervisor yells incomprehensibly in Chinese. His rubber boots leak. The buttons to control the flow of ore out of the mine often deliver an electric shock.

But the worst thing about life in the Chinese-owned mine in southern Zambia is that there is no such thing as a day off. Ever.
The unhappiness with the Chinese goes far beyond a few disgruntled workers and up to the highest levels of government:
The growing resentment sparked an acrimonious debate in Zambia's recent presidential elections, with Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong making comments suggesting that Beijing might sever ties and investors might pull out if leading opposition candidate Michael Sata won the Sept. 28 vote.

Sata, who at one point threatened to expel Chinese traders if he became president, lost the election, and he alleged massive vote fraud. In the heat of the campaign, his Patriotic Front claimed that the use of Chinese computers to tally the count could skew results in the government's favor, an accusation strongly denied by Chinese Embassy officials.

Sata argued that most Chinese investors in Zambia were exploiters who brought the country no benefit. He accused Li of interfering in the election.

"I find the reaction by the Chinese government very childish and dictatorial," Sata said, accusing China of campaigning for the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy, which has been in power 15 years.
It's one thing to make deals with other governments without any regard for ideology or character of said governments. It's quite another to exploit foreign workforces. Nationalism and resentment of outsiders are traits you'll find in just about every country in the world, perhaps submerged but ready to rise to the surface if conditions are right.

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