Op-Ed Contributors

China not neocolonialist

By Zhang Hongwei (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-11-16 07:58
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China not neocolonialist

Mutual benefits and respect distinguish China's presence in Africa from Western colonialists and profiteers

Recently, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), H.E. Jean Ping, mentioned in his new book, Africa Will Shine Brighter than a Thousand Flames, that Africa is in danger of "being colonized again" by the West in the post-Cold War period, and many African countries fear that their former exploiters are coming back.

This reminds us of a word very popular in the Western media - neocolonialism. It's a word usually used in connection with China.

Chinese people and most Africans will never accept that China is neocolonialist. They think it absurd. Why then are some Western media so anxious to put the neocolonialist label on China?

There are two reasons. On the one hand, the West, up to now, still enjoys worldwide media dominance. On the other hand, it seems that China's rebuttals and clarifications are not eloquent enough. It has now become a serious issue that affects the country's image and a nation's reputation.

When accusing China of being neocolonialist, Westerners usually say that China is "plundering Africa's resources" and "dumping goods in Africa" and that Chinese enterprises evade social responsibility in Africa. However, this is not only misleading, it's wrong.

The fact is that China's practice in Africa is fundamentally different from that of the Western colonialists. For decades, the development of Sino-African relations in every field has been firmly based on equality, mutual benefit and reciprocity.

China has never defrauded Africa of one inch of land, and has never forcibly acquired even a small amount of resources in Africa. This is a world of difference from the centuries of Western colonialism, which rampantly plundered Africa.

Take energy and resources for example. Each barrel of oil China buys from African countries is priced through equal agreement and in accordance with the international market price.

China's energy cooperation with Angola and Sudan has made the two war-torn countries acquire a completely different outlook, especially the significant improvements in infrastructure.

Meanwhile, we can see that, even today, the pricing power of Africa's most profitable mineral resources is still firmly held by Western multinational corporations, and as a result, African countries have benefited little from the exploitation of their resources. This is why African countries universally welcome China's involvement and insist on cooperation with China.

Some Western media outlets are skilled in substituting the fake for the genuine, taking a part from the whole and employing double standards. An individual enterprise's behavior cannot represent a government's African policy and any country cannot guarantee all its enterprises perform as well as expected in Africa.

For example, some Western media have turned a blind eye to the serious environment destruction caused by Western oil giants' exploitation in Nigeria. While for China, they use a variety of channels and resources and put the propaganda machine into high gear to exaggerate individual problems in Sino-African cooperation and groundlessly accuse the Chinese government for the responsibility of some Chinese enterprises' problems in Africa and even problems facing Africa in international cooperation.

What is the real purpose of the Western media in doing so? Well, the answer is simple. They seek to smear China's image and contain Sino-African cooperation. Thanks to the rapid advancement in Sino-African relations, some Westerners want to try and disrupt the momentum.

In a broader sense, the accusations of neocolonialism are an extension of the West's desire to contain the "China threat".

Today, the mentality and behaviors of neocolonialism still exist in modern international relations, but they have nothing to do with China. The fact is that, in the name of cooperation with Africa, some Western forces are paying lip service to supporting economic development in Africa, but they continue to use Africa as their raw materials supplier.

By edging out China, which is one of Africa's most important partners, the West would be better able to control Africa. Far-sighted people in China, Africa and Western countries are fully aware of this.

Recently, more and more Africans are speaking highly of Sino-African cooperation. In the West, objective and rational voices on Sino-African cooperation are mounting.

It's true that Sino-African cooperation is not perfect, but I firmly believe that as long as China and African countries can constantly strengthen and improve cooperation, share more and more fruits, and genuinely benefit people on both sides, Sino-African cooperation will continue to proceed on a more solid and broader road.

The author is an international issue observer.

(China Daily 11/16/2010 page8)