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  Global Views
China in Africa vs. USA in Iraq:
The Economics of Failure
By Stephen Fox
Editor of New Mexico Sun News
Great Wall of China

I am no fan of China, due to genocide of Tibetans and Islamic Uighurs. Yet China IS correct in Africa by investing in resources, factories, and agriculture, while the USA's billions of dollars go down the drain of Iraq.

Our "investment" in Iraq is an unprecedented bloody kleptocracy orchestrated by Halliburton, Brown and Root, and Dick Cheney as former Halliburton CEO, to the tune of $20 billion per month, while China, with its monstrous balance of payments, has invested $40 billion in 2006 in Africa and another $50 billion in 2007. By comparison, USA will soon do a $20 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia. How does that help anybody? Iraqis die to make the point that they don't want us there. No American could conclude that USA is "investing" in Iraq any more than Nazi Germany was "investing" in Czechoslovakia by lumping it into Germany as the Sudetenland or that China is "investing" in Tibet by killing millions and suppressing all Buddhist culture.

These are really the economics of failure, whether or not you accept that the US presence in Iraq is a deranged Hegelian devolution of imperialism and a perversion by corporate greed.

Imagine waking every day to military checkpoints, random shootings, deafening bombs, and the slaughter of civilians, rapes and murders of 14-year-old girls or executions of innocent adult males, just because your squadron failed to prevent a terrorist from escaping and the squadron needs
a "kill," and Marines,Army officers, and even the torturing miscreants at Abu Ghraib, all generallyget a slap on the wrist: this is what life in Iraq has become.

China certainly points this out in its dealings with Islamic Africans already horrified by TV News from Iraq, where the war has reached unparalleled depths of stupidity and irrationality, comparable to LBJ in Vietnam, where 250 Americans died daily.

In 2002, Bush promised to rebuild Afghanistan in a speech detailing a new quasi-Marshall Plan, yet this nation actually received less aid per capita than did post-conflict Bosnia and Kosovo, and even less than the poorest of the poor nations: Haiti. Who could blame other nations for being baffled and
insulted by these apparent Economic and Foreign policy contradictions?

In 2006, Chinese trade deals included an aluminum plant in Egypt, a highway upgrade in Nigeria, and a copper plant in Zambia. China's Export-Import bank, which reports to the State Council in Beijing, has projects including $1.2 Billion in loans to Ghana, $2.3 Billion for financing a dam and hydroelectric plant in Mozambique, $1.6 Billion for oil development in Nigeria, $2 billion line credit line to oil rich Angola, and export credits for projects in Congo-Brazzavile, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. Africans appreciate China's investments resulting in improved nfrastructures. "There is no doubt China has been good for Zambia," said Felix Mutate, Zambia's minister of finance. "Why should we have a bad attitude toward the Chinese when they are doing all the right things? They are bringing investment, world-class technologies, jobs, value addition. What more can you ask for?"

"China knows what it means to be poor, and has evolved a successful wealth creation formula that it is willing to share with African nations," wrote former Nigerian Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Genocidal regimes like Sudan's Al Bashir's or repressive regimes like the astro-inflationary aegis of Zimbabwe's Mugabe welcome China's capacity to offer cash, technology, and political protection from international pressures.

"The solution to all kinds of development challenges is to have economically sustainable growth," said Li Ruogu, President of Ex-ImBank. "We welcomeunderstanding and opportunities for collaboration toward this end that it represents." China's Xinhua News Agency estimates that at least 750,000 Chinese entrepreneurs are involved in Africa. This has caused Western influence to dwindle. China is building new railroad lines in Nigeria and Angola, large dams in Sudan, and new roads everywhere. China Road and Bridge Construction has 29 projects in Africa, many financed by the World Bank. South Africa has manganese mines, Niger has Uranium pits, Sudan oil fields, and Congo has cobalt mines, all Chinese projects. As micro-entrepreneurs rather than investors, the Chinese are sometimes resented since some are petty traders selling flip-flop sandals and T-Shirts as well as opening restaurants and massage parlors.

Sometimes the Chinese fail, as in Zambia when a joint venture cotton mill failed: "We are back where we started," said Wilfred Collins Wonani, Chamber of Commerce director. "Sending raw materials out, bringing cheap manufactured goods in. This isn't progress. It is colonialism."

Thus, the battle is on, to dominate Africa involves neo-colonialism, mercantile trade, military prowess and intervention, and resource exploitation, pitting China's production and trade prowess against American
military power. With its history of supporting African independence movements, China is winning the battle.

Since Somalia in 1993 when 18 servicemen died, the Pentagon has been uninterested in Africa, as if knee jerk military response is all the USA is capable of. Many Saharan nations obtained help as part of a Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative focusing on Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Nigeria, and Morocco. The Pentagon has been donning humanitarian roles formerly filled by the US Agency for International Development; this will prove to be a major mistake: adding aid to military
support perhaps brings stability and better government, but with a catch transparent to all Africans: the goal of US national security is motivation for antiterrorism support.

Meanwhile, China is building more genuine friendships and a different kind of long term allies, by developing trade gains for its own national interest. The President of China, Hu Jintao, recently toured Africa to develop partnerships. In South Africa, where diplomatic ties have strengthened trade, Hu announced loans, increases in trade, and increases in
South African tourism by Chinese. Agreements were signed in South Africa and Namibia to increase "brotherly friendship." Beijing grants unconditional loans to African countries to secure access to resources and markets. China is one of the world's premier arms suppliers; thus, nations not able to buy expensive Western arms buy from China. China has extensively invested in Sudan despite its internal genocide, fueled by Chinese arms deals, a point
that has been repeatedly made by New Mexico Bill Richardson. China claims to not want to obstruct or meddle in the internal affairs of countries; however, its arms deals massively impacts internal affairs. China is concerned with being viewed as a "responsible world power," so it also makes efforts to invest positively.

Brazil has been quick to follow China's lead: President Lula da Silva apologized for 400 hundred years of slave trade on a visit to Senegal. Brazil is in contention with China and India as superpower; courting Africa is vital to Lula's diplomacy, with bilateral agreements with Ghana, Nigeria, and Mozambique. Lula is "digging beneath the layers of guilt and sorrow to find commercial and geopolitical issues."

This is all juxtaposed with the continuing and worsening idiocy of Bush's grudge match in Iraq, which is already having devastating effects on the internal USA domestic economy, and when used by nations like China and Brazil to prove their point in wooing Africa economically, acts to seal our nation's doom in the near to distant economic future. Surely, the Democratic candidates could help wake up our slumbering monstrous nation to the real truth of this looming economic catastrophe for the USA in all of Africa.

"Who is winning? The Chinese are, for sure," said Michael Sata, a Zambian opposition politician. "Their interest is exploiting us, just like everyone who came before. They have taken the place of the West as the new colonizers of Africa."

"Let the Chinese come," said Mahamat Hassan Abakar, lawyer in Chad, a former French colony with deepening ties to China. "What Africa needs is investment. It needs partners. All of these years we have been tied to France. Look what it has brought us."

Iqbal Meer-Sharma, deputy director of South Africa's Department of Trade and Industry, said: "We've always known we have a dysfunctional relationship with the West. Now with China we have a relationship as equals. They don't look down on us. They are not condescending."

Comment on this article by James Fallows, Washington Editor of Atlantic Monthly, former Chief Presidential Speechwriter for James Carter, and author of what I consider the best book on emerging economics of East Asia, Looking at the Sun:

I thought before the invasion of Iraq that it would be America's worst foreign policy mistake since Vietnam. I think it is now proving to be an even bigger mistake than Vietnam — not as costly in American lives, of course, but more broadly damaging to America's interests, reputation, and ideals. So I agree with the argument that the people who recklessly entered this 'discretionary' war should be held accountable, as they will by history, and that the U.S. needs to limit the damage it is doing as soon as possible.

I also agree that China has, within its own borders, applied a remarkably effective way to bring tens of millions of rural people out of poverty. That is the process I tried to describe at length in last month's Atlantic Monthly article on China's emergence as the factory of the world. ('China Makes, the World Takes,' Atlantic Monthly, July-Aug 2007)

But I'm not so sure that China is applying this policy outside its borders. I have not myself seen Chinese installations in Africa, but accounts I've read suggest that many are pure resource-extraction operations, which yield oil, metals, minerals, and other commodities for Chinese manufacturers. If these Chinese ventures also bring some sustainable industry to other countries, of course that's too the good. My sense is that the Chinese effort in Africa has had more mixed results that you argue here.



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In 1980, Stephen Fox founded New Millennium Fine Art, a Santa Fe gallery specializing in Native American and Landscape, and is very active in New Mexico Legislative consumer protection politics, trying above to get the FDA to rescind its approval for the neurotoxic and carcinogenic artificial sweetener, Aspartame. In a strictly legislative context, his most important writing has been for the Hawaii Senate. In his capacity as Contributing Editor of the Santa Fe Sun News, Fox recently interviewed Mikhail Gorbachev.

 

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