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Misleading portrayal of China in Africa

Updated: 2013-05-17 08:08
By Chen Weihua ( China Daily)

Misleading portrayal of China in AfricaFor years, many in the West have accused China of grabbing land, extracting resources and neocolonialism in Africa.

Hillary Clinton, then-US Secretary of State, made a veiled attack on China during her visit to Africa in August when she said "the days of having outsiders come and extract the wealth of Africa for themselves leaving nothing or very little behind should be over in the 21st century".

The many seminars on China and Africa I have attended over the years in the United States more often than not have sent a similar message, although, ironically, Chinese and African speakers were often absent at these talks.

When they are present, as they were at the Brookings Institution in Washington on Monday, the mood and message are totally different.

On Monday, Chinese, African and American speakers talked about win-win-win, instead of a zero-sum game, in Africa, in sharp contrast to the past rhetoric that China's presence in Africa cuts into the US' and European interests and threatens Africa's future.

While more than 80 percent of African exports to China are oil and raw materials, Nwabgi Kimenyi, from Kenya, now working at Brookings, reminded the audience that 90 percent of US imports from Africa are also oil and other raw materials.

So why do we never read about the US grabbing resources in the headlines? Is it because they have been doing it for so long that it is no longer news?

Many Western media outlets like to suggest that Chinese are hated in Africa. So I asked Patricia Aidam, a researcher from University of Ghana, whether China is viewed favorably on the continent.

"China is actually doing a great work in Africa... and China is seen favorably," she said.

Aidam said that loans with no strings attached are a good thing because not all African countries can meet the conditions set by Western countries for their loans.

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