China roars in Africa as Europe’s power wanes

Thursday October 3 2019

 

By Karoli Ssemogerere

This week, the People’s Republic of China marked its 70th birthday. The separation of China from Taiwan in 1949 was perhaps the third most important global event in the post-war era. First was the partition of Europe into Eastern and Western Europe and the propping up of several states in the former inland empires of Europe. Germany paid the ultimate sacrifice losing territory and partition of East and West Europe along with massive war reparations.

The founding of Israel in 1948 also was of great consequence in the Middle East. Israel has an identity, but lacks a territory on which to legitimately base its ambitions. The independence of India in 1948, founding of Pakistan and later rebellion that led to the founding of Bangladesh in 1971, formerly Eastern Pakistan, was the other key event.

The founding of China was more of a defacto situation. The Kuomintang nationalists on dry ground in Taiwan still have dreams of reuniting with the mainland, but that is now mostly in theory. In the 1960s, with the support of Africa, China acceded to the Security Council and has been the informal guarantor of African interests at the United Nations because it lacked a colonial background.

From a dearth of resources, industry and a general state of underdevelopment, China is now the world’s second largest economy, largest in terms of population and third in area. India is sixth, second largest in terms of population and greater India that touches China at the edge of Jammu Kashmir rivals China in terms of total territory.

China used force, ideology and regulation of religion to achieve this rapid growth. It never offered a mass party; membership in the Communist Party is actually by invitation.

Alongside centralised political and military structures, the president is both the civilian and military leader, China adopted unbridled capitalism, where money is worshipped as a universal value. In fact, China is more capitalist than the West. In this feat, it has successfully adopted a foreign ideology capitalism. It is now the largest lender in the world. Foreign countries all over now run to China for investors and cheap capital.

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In 2019, the China behemoth lent more than the IMF, World Bank, African Development Bank in Africa combined. African countries have taken advantage of Chinese loans to instal infrastructure to defend their identity as independent states. The Chinese may be accused of bribing their way, but that is a naïve statement that ignores the greed of our leaders to personalise state resources.

China’s rise and rapid development has put a lot of pressure on natural resources, especially energy, demand for energy and minerals. In 2030, China wants to ban sale of diesel automotives in the country, a bow to its pollution problem. China’s rich live abroad in the cleaner West shielded from pollution that took root in the rapid development phase. But we are yet to see the real Chinese prowess.

Between China and India and their neighbours are three to five billion people who need food and water. China has arrived on the doorsteps of complacent African countries with proposals for factory led agriculture. Faced with weak systems, crippling debts, African countries have been quick to offer massive leases forgetting that Africa also has one billion hungry mouths to feed.

The West still has some fighting power, but it is mostly rhetorical. They need Chinese banks, financing and markets as much or even more than the Africans. The Americans need the Chinese to invest in their treasury bills to finance domestic consumption.

In the next 30 years, it’s likely this Chinese reality may metamorphose into a China block stretching from Africa, Iran in the middle East, Russia and India. The second block will cover Europe and North America, but little else. Both blocs will have loads of nuclear arsenals, control strategic water resources like the Himalayas, Jiangtze river, the mineral rich Arctic circle and vast maritime territory.

Mr Ssemogerere is an Attorney-at-Law
and an Advocate. kssemoge@gmail.com