Sunday, November 26, 2006

China and Africa | someone's getting screwed

Everytime someone talks about how China is our motherland and we should do business in China because a)it's a booming market b)we share the same culture, I just want to sigh. Or cry.

We don't share the same culture as China. And even if we did, so what? China's a nation now, and it thinks along national lines. Don't get sentimental about China. China'll bend you over the Great wall and fuck you blind.

The reason I mention this - another news report about how China's screwing over poor African nations through dumping practices.

China's ambitions in Africa

China has stepped up its business presence in Africa, but is being criticised for not pushing for improvements in human rights and governance in some countries.

All but a few varieties of Africa's flip flops now come from China and local companies cannot compete.

Mr Ghaddar claims end of line stock from Chinese factories is "dumped" here, sold for less than the cost of materials, dodging customs and import duties.


Some Tanzanians object that Chinese imports are shipped to the Chinese embassy in diplomatic containers from Beijing - but no-one can prove it.

Former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere visited Beijing 13 times

Outside, Chinese digger trucks are at work in the street - a Chinese company has won a government tender to renovate the sewage system.

And foundations have been laid for the new Julius Nyerere National Stadium, named after Tanzania's founding president.

The raw materials, machines, the pipe work and the scaffolding, come from Beijing.

Then there's the other way to colonise a country - through immigration. The part about language is the one that troubles.

Mr Yang is the 31st member of his family to settle in East Africa.

His uncle opened the first of their seven shops in Nairobi, a decade ago.

But after three years here, Mr Yang - who wears a sweatshirt with a picture of an American footballer and the logo "Top Class" - has learned neither English nor Swahili.

His showroom is draped with silks, curtains and upholstery fabrics and is crammed with furniture such as dining suites, reclining chairs and an emperor-sized bed with adjustable headrest.

Mr Yang, his wife and his teenage son sit at the back of the shop munching snacks - Chinese snacks - from a jumbo-sized packet on his desk.

Yes, Mr Yang admits, through his translator, he has heard about local businesses swamped by Chinese imports.

Then he shrugs and says: "Africans love my shop."

It's not that unusual for a first - or even second generation immigrant to fail to pick up the lingua franca of a country. But it doesn't bode well either.

And of course, China's disregard for international copyright law is strangling another African nation that is barely managing to climb out of the morass of international aid debt.

China's going to be the next superpower, just like the United States. And rather like the US, China knows damn well that it can do what it damn well wants.

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