Posted by: Home Strange Home | January 11, 2011

“It’s all good,” says China

In late December, right before Christmas, the Chinese state information office released a white-paper entitled “China-Africa Economic Trade and Cooperation.”  It is the first official policy paper on China-Africa cooperation, and it comes across as a propaganda document, praising China’s “South-South cooperation” with Africa and arguing the “mutual benefit and reciprocity” of China-Africa economic and trade relations.

While the paper is convincing at points, other assertions sound absurd.  Take for example the statement, “now China and Africa are both in the process of industrialization and urbanization.”  Firstly, this blanket statement groups together all 53 African states and treats them as one country (throughout the document, “Africa” north and south is referred to as a single entity).  Secondly, many African countries (indeed the majority) are agriculture-based economies and nowhere near the level of industrialization of China, so to put them on par is a real stretch.

The document also says that “the vast Chinese market provides wide space for African products.”  While it is true that China is now the African continent’s largest trading partner (with $115 billion of bilateral trade in 2010), and China’s growth has created an export market for Africa, the “African products” are mostly limited to oil and other resources.  On the other hand, Chinese exports to Africa are very broad, comprising not only the usual mass market consumer goods and textiles, but also equipment, machinery, and construction vehicles.

The document suggests that the China-Africa relation is balanced and equal. It cites statistics that Chinese direct investment in Africa has grown from $490 million in 2003 to $9.33 billion by the end of 2009.  While these figures are believable, the report also says that “By the end of 2009, African countries’ accumulated direct investment in China amounted to US$9.93 billion.”  It is not clear exactly what this figure is supposed to mean (“accumulated” being undefined), but it seems likely to be an overestimate.

For the full text of the report, see:


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