The main theme of my book is the following; the history between Africa and China points to a non-exploitative relationship. There is sufficient evidence to show that China’s engagement in Africa has provided tangible economic results. Africans are not giving away too much to the Chinese. The practice of paying for infrastructure projects through raw materials is nothing new. The Japanese did it with the Chinese.
The objectives of the book are to provide an historical context through which the current debate can take place. A further objective is to have Africans be aware of the history of the relations between Africa and China. Its worrying that some criticism of Sino-African relations emanates from non Africans. Even more worrying is that these same sources are doing brisk business with China. It’s important that we know our own history. It is equally important that we know the history of those that we have a relationship with.
Understanding the history of Sino-African relationships is critical to what Africans can gain from this relationship. It is also critical to how Africans respond to the Chinese. Sino-African relations are evolving. Failure to understand the historical context in which this relationship has developed, will lead to misunderstanding and perhaps even conflict, which would be detrimental to both parties.
Why is it needed
China and Africa is a current hot topic. Chinese engagement in Africa has raised various concerns. Although these concerns are real, it seems much of the debate does not take into adequate (sometimes no) account of the historical relations between Africa and China. Indeed one would be forgiven to think that China and Africa started their relations in the 1990s. But this is not the case. Already back in 1957, for example, the Chinese were making large cotton purchases from Egypt. The current debate about Aid also reveals a lack of historical perspective. China has been providing aid to African countries since 1961. And more important, most of this aid has been in infrastructure and without strings attached or political interference in the recipient’s country.
Given the gradual decline of old colonial powers and the more recent reorganization of geopolitics that has been necessitated by the unraveling of neo-liberal globalization and economic orthodoxy, to many Africans, young and old alike, China is sometimes seen as having come to Africa only recently. Similarly, many people in Europe and the Americas see Chinese activities as part of the recent rise of China as a global economic power. The majority know little of the long ties that have existed between China and Africa. Hence why this book is needed.
What makes my book special and original?
I am a black African, born in the 1960s. 25 years ago, I first wrote about this topic. My interest was based on my childhood encounter with the Chinese in my native country of Sierra Leone. I became curious as to what the Chinese were doing there. Why they, unlike the Europeans, were mixing with the local workers. Why were they building roads, hospitals and bridges? I wanted to learn more. I also wanted to see what will become of this relationship. This was in 1989.
Already then, I had predicted that the relationship between China and Africa would become stronger. This was based a correct analysis of China’s determination to become the world’s largest economy. I also correctly analyzed, based on the researched, that Africa’s natural resources would be critical and valuable to China as they strive to become a global economic power house.
I tell a story starting from the 1960s, and ending in the present. I am not a Sino-African expert. I have written a simple book, which I hope the reader will find interesting.
Looking at the history of Sino-Africa relations so far, one could conclude that despite the obvious voices of concern, China is not exploiting Africa and the Africans are not giving away too much. The unprecedented economic growth numbers is testament to the benefits Africa is reaping from this relationship. The relationship may not be equal; for no relationship is. But what is important is the founding principle that no one party seeks to exploit the weakness of the other.