Economist Dambisa Moyo on China’s ‘symbiotic relationship’ with African economies

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China’s rush for resources in Africa is good for both parties, argues the author of a new book about Beijing’s “global shopping spree.”

“The approach has been incredibly symbiotic,” said Dambisa Moyo, author of Winner Take All: China’s Race For Resources and What It Means for the World on Wednesday’s edition of Morning Joe. She went on:

It’s been incredibly encompassing. So they go to these countries, and they offer them what these countries want in return for gaining or accessing these resources. And it works beautifully. A Pew survey a few years ago went to Africa and asked the Africans, “What do you think of the Chinese? Do you like them? Do you hate them? And how do you think of them compared to the Americans?”

And by wide margins—55%, 98%—the Africans said, “We love the Chinese. They’re improving our livelihoods, this is really meaningfully important, and by the way, they’re better than the Americans.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, among others, has warned that China’s activity in Africa may be the harbinger of a “new colonialism” that would benefit the leaders of African countries while leaving ordinary citizens behind. Moyo dismissed such concerns, saying of China, “I think they have absolutely no interest in acquiring political power at this time. … This is all about economics.”

But to development consultant Sanou Mbaye, China’s “credo of ‘non-interference in domestic affairs’ and ‘separation of business and politics’ ” masks a deeply exploitative form of economic engagement. China, he writes,

has struck bargains across Africa to secure crude oil, minerals, and metals in exchange for infrastructure built by Chinese companies. Hence, the import of Chinese labour into a continent not lacking in able-bodied workers. Indeed, within a mere decade, more Chinese have come to live in Africa than there are Europeans on the continent, even after many centuries of European colonial and neocolonial rule. With apartheid-style practices – including the gunning down of local workers by a Chinese manager in Zambia – Chinese managers impose appalling working conditions on their African employees.

“[I]n perpetuating a partnership with the same breed of corrupt leaders that colluded with Africa’s previous invaders and exploiters,” Mbaye concludes, “the Chinese have forgotten that Africans, albeit often their own worst enemies, have nonetheless gained the upper hand over their foes in the end.”

Economist Dambisa Moyo on China's 'symbiotic relationship' with African economies

Updated