Saturday, April 21, 2007

Chinese Capitalism exploits Africa

Channel 4's Unreported World draws our attention to the inroads that Chinese capitalism is making throughout Africa .
China's economic boom is resulting in the biggest scramble for Africa since the end of European colonialism. Trade between Beijing and Africa has more than quadrupled since 2000 and hundreds of new companies, many of them partly owned by the Chinese State, have set up. Thousands of Chinese workers are now in Central Africa, buying up copper and cobalt. Vital for the manufacture 0f Chinese-made goods such as mobile phones, MP3 players and laptops .
And the result of this economic expansionism to acquire raw materials - many Zambians accuse the Chinese of being so focused on making money out of Africa that they do not care about the local people. The team are shown a cemetery where 46 victims of one of Zambia's worst industrial accidents - an explosion at a Chinese-owned factory - are buried. Local residents accuse the Chinese management of failing to uphold safety standards. Other locals claim that the factory is responsible for environmental damage .
In the Congo, which has been torn apart by a civil war between armed militias fighting for control of its resources , Katanga province is one of the world's richest areas for mineral reserves from where Chinese companies are exporting thousands of tonnes of heterogenite - ore rich in base metals.In the boom town of Lubumbashi are located vast open cast mines where countless thousands of impoverished Congolese toil to earn a survival income. A scene of an apocalyptic landscape, in which many of the miners appear to be drunk or high on drugs, with fights frequently breaking out.
The key aspect of the huge copper and cobalt mining industry is the exploitation of child labour. Many of the miners have to hand-dig tunnels into the hillsides, and because the shafts are small they use children to hack out the ore and shift sacks of rocks. When it rains, the tunnels are vulnerable to collapse and dozens of miners die every month. The children are also exposed to radioactivity, since this area is close to the uranium mines which supplied the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Around the mine, dozens of Chinese brokers exploiting this chaotic environment by buying up the ore extract. Local villagers say that although the Chinese are bringing enterprise, their business practices are making a profit at a tragic human cost. But, they say, they have no alternative but to trade with them.
Reuters report that Zimbabwe received farm machinery worth $25 million from China even though many Western powers have imposed economic sanctions on Zimbabwe for what they say are widescale rights abuses by Mugabe's administration . Zimbabwe's minister of Agricultural Engineering and Mechanisation, Joseph Made, said the farm implements were purchased under a $58 million loan from the Chinese government. Zimbabwe will deliver 30 million kg of tobacco to China, with as much as 80 million kg to be exported by the fifth year - A cash crop using land and labour that could be devoted to providing food .

Also reported elsewhere is a contract with China to farm 386 square miles of land while millions of Zimbabweans remain landless with rural sociologist John Karumbidza blasting it as nothing more than land renting and typical agri-business relations that turn the land holders and their workers into labor tenants and subject them to exploitation.
Nor is it purely economic benefit that China are looking for . In Ghana top Chinese political advisor Jia Qinglin at a meeting with Ghanaian President John Agyekum Kufuorhailed the sound growth of bilateral ties, saying Ghana has become China's important cooperation partner in western Africa , promoting economic and trade cooperation with China . Naturally for the expected Chinese aid it is most definitely quid pro quo , Ghana will reciprocate on the diplomatic front by supporting the one-China policy to politically isolate its Taiwan rival .
Following the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which took place November 4-5, 2006. , attended by 48 African delegations, most of them led by heads of state, the Forum was the largest international summit held in Beijing , the two sides agreed to raise the volume of trade from $40 billion in 2005 to $100 billion by 2010 and set up of a China-Africa Development Fund that would be capitalized to the tune of $5 billion to support Chinese companies investing in Africa.

China now accounts for 60% of oil exports from Sudan and 35% of those from Angola. Chinese firms mine copper in Zambia and Congo-Brazzaville, cobalt in the Congo, gold in South Africa, and uranium in Zimbabwe and consuming 46% of Gabon’s forest exports, 60% of timber exported from Equatorial Guinea, and 11% of timber exports from Cameroon.
In Nigeria , China National Offshore Corporation (CNOOC), has acquired a 45% working interest in an offshore enterprise, OML 130, for $2.3 billion; the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) has invested in the Port Harcourt refinery; and a joint venture between the Chinese Oil and Natural Gas Corporation and the L.N. Mittal Group, plans to invest $6 billion in railways, oil refining, and power in exchange for rights to drill oil. The Nigerian government is increasingly turning to China for weapons to deal with the worsening insurgency in the oil-rich Niger Delta. The Nigerian Air Force purchased 14 Chinese-made versions of the upgraded MiG 21 jet fighter; the navy has ordered patrol boats to secure the swamps and creeks of the Niger Delta. Not surprisingly, the rebel Movement for the Emancipation of the Nigerian Delta (MEND) has warned Chinese companies to keep out of the region or risk attack.
In Sudan , China has very substantial interests . China obtained oil exploration and production rights in 1995 when the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) bought a 40% stake in the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company, which is pumping over 300,000 barrels per day. Sinopec, another Chinese firm, is building a 1500-kilometer pipeline to Port Sudan on the Red Sea, where China’s Petroleum Engineering Construction Company is constructing a tanker terminal. It is estimated Chinese investment in oil exploration to reach $8 billion.
Chinese interests go beyond oil. Its investment in textile mills is estimated at $100 million. It has emerged as one of Sudan’s top arms suppliers. In one particular barter arrangement, China supplied $400 million worth of weapons in return for cotton. It is active in infrastructure, with its firms building bridges near the Merowe Dam and two other sites on the River Nile.
It is involved in key hydropower projects, the most controversial being the Merowe Dam, which is expected to ultimately cost $1.8 billion. The construction of the Merowe Dam has involved forced resettlement of the Hambdan people living at or near the site and repression and an armed attack on the Amri people who have been organizing to prevent the Sudanese government’s plan to transfer them to the desert. Local police and private agencies now provide 24-hour security to Chinese engineering detachments, but civil society observers say the aim of these groups is less protection of the Chinese than repression of growing opposition.
As Ali Askari, director of the London-based Piankhi Research Group, puts it:-
"The sad truth is, both the Chinese and their elite partners in the Sudan government want to conceal some terrible facts about their partnership. They are joining hands to uproot poor people, expropriate their land, and appropriate their natural resources."
With their integrated political, military, economic, and diplomatic components, China’s strategic partnerships with governments such as those of Nigeria, Sudan, and Zimbabwe increasingly have the same feel of the old U.S. and Soviet relationships with their client states during the Cold War.

Chinese Capitalism at work - and they dare call it socialism !!!

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