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18.04.2019 Feature Article

The Scent Of Africa In China

The Scent Of Africa In China

In 1960, no less than 113 African delegations, including groups from countries such as Gabon, Dahomey and Ivory Coast, whose governments recognized Taiwan, visited China.

Many Africans, including Ghanaians, are not happy about the occupation of China in African countries because the Chinese government has assumed the post of the former colonial masters. Like a virus, the Chinese have spread to every part of Africa, where anything from the soil fascinates them.

China began to show interest primarily in the countries of Southeast Asia, participating for the first time in an international conference such as that of Geneva in which it showed a broad moderate and conciliatory attitude.

Later China went more specifically towards the Third World countries, especially Africa, where they entered in those years as protagonists of their own policies. The African countries could actually offer China more possibilities to improve conditions in the country.

At the time of the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, only four African states Egypt, Liberia, Ethiopia, and South Africa, were independent. The Chinese interest in Africa intensified in coincidence with the Bandung Conference, in 1955. Zhou Enlai and Abdel Nasser had talks at the conference and there were also frequent contacts between the Chinese and Egyptian delegations.

The Sino-Egyptian talks laid the foundations for the opening of a Chinese sales office in Cairo eight months later. Zhou Enlai also invited all the delegates present in Bandung to visit China, but the invitation was accepted only by the Egyptians who continued discussions on commercial and cultural collaboration. This led to the establishment of a Chinese mission in Cairo.

At the time, Cairo was a crossroads of political traffic, home to the headquarters of the Afro-Asian Solidarity Organization and also a point of reference for some African liberation movements that had their representatives there.

In 1956, Chinese cultural missions not only visited Egypt but also Sudan, Morocco, Tunisia, and Ethiopia. In 1957, China intensified its cultural exchanges with Africa and its stand at the trade fair in Casablanca in Morocco gave a good impression on the results achieved.

In Africa, China and the Soviet faced each other in a very amicable friendly competition, which included the distribution of propaganda through both print and radio, the exchange of students, exhibitions, invitations to groups and individuals to visit their respective countries and finally the allocation of economic aid.

The Soviets, for example, invited only elite groups to Moscow, while the Chinese extended the invitation to their capital to any African government. Thus, in 1960, no less than 113 African delegations, including groups from countries such as Gabon, Dahomey and Ivory Coast whose governments recognized Taiwan, visited China.

In 1960 the Association of Friendship for the African and Chinese People that had the task of organizing the visits of Chinese officials in African countries and vice versa. Above all in the field of economic aid to the development of these countries that China tried more strongly to make a distinction between its approach than the Soviet Union.

In revolutionary terms, China hoped to take its revolution as an example in countries still in search of its own independence. Similarly, the Chinese argued that their experiences regarding the rural development of African countries were more suitable than the Soviet industrialization model.

As a result, they emphasized the value of a low investment, intensive work, and small industrial projects. At the beginning of their contacts with Africa, they recommended fast industrialization and their aid projects tended to influence the total economy.

The Soviet Union, unlike China, started prestigious projects such as the Aswan Dam in Egypt and the Bihar steelworks in India. This obviously reflected the difference in the availability of resources to be allocated abroad between the two communist giants.

Already, China has marked its presence almost on the entire continent of Africa. On the fifth edition of the Africa Summit, organized in London by the Financial Times, speaking on the subject "Ghana, Africa mean business," President Akufo-Addo refutes the growing concern about China's continuous ties with Africa, including Ghana, saying that the suspicions that the Asian country is colonizing the continent are unfounded.

Nana Akufo Addo stressed: "We are all much wiser about these things, and we are entering into these new relationships with wide eyes. No one comes, pretending to carry the Word of God in one hand, and to take our lands with the other."

He went further to say that: "we will take care of our interests, as we will do with all the other nations we are dealing with. We are not the only ones dealing with China. Everyone has to do with that country and we do it with wide eyes."

The fact we can't ignore is: Africa is denying and wasting the education, skills, and professionalism of its own population, as long as they continue to invest in Chinese workers.

Joel Savage
Joel Savage, © 2019

Joel Savage is a Ghanaian-Belgian journalist and author. The accredited press-card holder of the Flemish Journalists Association once contributed regularly to the features column of the Daily Graphic, The Mirror, Ghanaian Times and the Weekly Spectator. The writer currently lives in Belgium., Author column: JoelSavage

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