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Western critics of the China-Africa relationship are often guilty of superficial research and a lack of objectivity, according to a leading South African academic.
Garth Shelton, a professor of international relations at the University of Witswatersrand in Johannesburg, said many use terms such as "neo-colonial" without thinking.
"It is often based on a lack of research. There are a lot of academics who subscribe to the idea the China-Africa relationship has negative consequences," he said.
"When you ask them for specifics, they have nothing to add. They are just repeating a general viewpoint: We need to work harder to assess this relationship."
The new links between China and Africa are certainly one of the defining geo-political relationships of the last decade.
Trade between China and Africa increased more than tenfold, from $18.54 billion in 2003 to $200 billion in 2012.
China's stock of overseas investment on the continent has increased similarly from just $1.6 billion in 2005 to $13.04 billion at the end of 2010, according to China's National Bureau of Statistics.
This has been evidenced by Chinese-built hospitals, airports, ports and other infrastructure facilities right across the continent.
Even the gleaming new $124 million African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was not only built by Chinese workers but was a gift to the African people.
Yet China is continually accused of operating a resources grab on the continent, acquiring oil and much-needed iron ore and copper to fuel its own economic growth.
Sven Grimm, director of the Centre for Chinese Studies at Stellenbosch University, said there is a "blame game" taking place.
"The major chunk of resources from Africa go to the US and Europe. The US buys more oil from Africa than the Europeans do, and the Europeans buy more oil than the Chinese do," he said.
"Western companies are still the major players in the oil industry and the resources sector, and there is a bit of defensiveness from the West in that regard behind this aggressiveness toward China."
Mahmood Mamdani, executive director of the Makerere Institute of Social Research at Mekerere University in Kampala, said China is transforming the economies of many African countries by its investment in infrastructure.
He said that in the past, all roads led to the ports so all of the cash crops could be exported, but now many more cities and towns are being linked to create internal business and trade.
Mamdani, voted by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazine as one of The Top 100 Public Intellectuals in the World, said the Chinese don't have a history of being colonizers.
He points out that China ruled the waters in the 15th century when Zheng He made his voyages to Africa, but it never sought to colonize any nation.
"The Indian Ocean was demilitarized pre-15th century in spite of China being a dominant power in the Indian Ocean. This only changed when Vasco da Gama and his fleets came in," he said.
Deborah Brautigam, director of the International Development Program at Johns Hopkins University and author of The Dragon's Gift: the Real Story of China in Africa, one of the major books on the China-Africa relationship, said the strength of China's involvement in Africa has been its simplicity.
She said that Western aid - particularly since the late-1980s under the Washington Consensus, which aimed to foster private sector development in Africa - has always come with strings attached, whereas Chinese assistance has been more straightforward.
Chris Alden, head of the Global Powers and Africa Programme at the South African Institute of International Affairs, said China's involvement in Africa since the middle part of the last decade has shown up the failure of the Washington Consensus.
China's State-backed aid and investment in infrastructure over the past decade on the other hand, he argued, has secured tangible results.
"I think the first and most important legacy China has had is in breaking the Western donor cartel. This monopoly of ideas that had been produced out of the World Bank or adhered to by the OECD had patently brought limited results in development terms," he said.
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(China Daily 03/27/2013 page2)