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1 November 2018
Chinese President Xi Jinping announced at the 2018 China-Africa Cooperation Forum that $60 billion will be offered to African countries in aid and loans to enable it speed up development. Many bourgeois commentators and unfortunately some trade union activists have hailed China as being magnanimous. It is not true that China is being magnanimous, it is that other factors are forcing China to look elsewhere to sustain its exploitation. Although its leaders falsely call themselves "socialist" China is an imperialist country and must seek other places for exploitation and pillage.
Africa is rich in natural resources and that is what China and other imperialist nations seek to exploit and they do this in collaboration with African self-seeking leaders. China's mining investment in Africa is almost one-third of its total Foreign Direct Investment. Africa is home to 90% of the world's entire cobalt and platinum, two-thirds of world's manganese, fifty percent of the world's gold, three-quarter of the world's coltan, a resource used in the manufacturing of cellphones and electronic devices. The primary motivating factor for Chinese investment in Africa is the quest to secure and control its raw materials to fuel the Chinese expanding economy. The other factor driving China investments in Africa is to find new markets for its service industry and that explains the interventions in port construction, roads, railway, telecommunications etc. One advantage China has is the fact that most companies that carry out construction work in Africa are state owned that benefit from subsidies from the government.
Imperialism is derived from a latin word of imperium which means "to rule over". Imperialism means extending dominance, control to other nation states. According to Lenin, it is a stage of capitalism wherein monopoly has replaced competition. At the current moment, America is the most dominant imperialist nation but China is catching up with it and it has other imperialist rivals as well like Germany, Japan, France, Russia etc.
Endorsing China relationship with Africa is like choosing one of the slave masters available to continue the enslavement. China emerged a force in world relation as a consequence of the 1949 revolution led by Chairman Zedong Mao. It was this revolution that defeated the privileged landlords and capitalist exploiters and ushered in massive investment in basic amenities after the nationalization of the commanding height of the economy. But with the absence of working class democracy the bureaucratic mismanagement of this potential over time has led to the powerful privileged caste ruling over a return of capitalism in the form of state capitalism. Despite this it needs to be remembered that without the revolution in 1949 allowing the foundations to be built, China would not have emerged as a super power in science, technology, economy and military. If the previous revolutions in China and ex-Stalinist stateshad been carried out and were run by the working masses democratically, something act that would have become a model of inspiration for mass movements and socialist revolutions in other countries, it might have ended the ruthless rule of capital globally.
Debt from China does not come with stringent conditionalities similar to other powerful nations. One of such conditions from the Western nations is for the debtor country to adopt austerity measures, cuts in public spending, hike in tax etc. Where the loan is tied to a project, the multinational service companies from the creditor countries must be the contractors to execute the projects, materials for the projects are sourced from the creditors' country. To satisfy the interest of ruling elite of the debtors' nations, most projects are usually inflated. From the beginning of the contracts, a chunk of the loan comes back to big business as profit. Besides, another layer of beneficiaries from this inflated contracts are top political office holders in the debtor countries who get kickbacks.
Inevitably, China in future will demand more stringent conditions from African countries, and that is if it has not already made such demands. During 1980s, countries in African had been so indebted such that newer loans in 1990s came with stringent conditionalities that led to "Structural Adjustment Programs", the neo-liberal policies that devastated so many countries. In 2005, the Obasanjo-led government in Nigeria claimed to have exited debt by paying a whopping $12 billion to the Paris Club while education, healthcare and other social amenities were in dire need of these huge funds. Today, Nigeria owes $73 billion (N18 trillion) enough to mortgaged two generations.
The reality is that China like the Western countries is not 'Father Christmas' and her policies in other countries are predatory, it is aimed at exploiting the rich natural resources at the detriment of the people of Africa. The ruling elite will use the state to serve the interest of big business and will seek opportunities elsewhere for these big businesses. The colonization of Nigeria by the British Empire was initially largely influenced by the interest of United African Company and later Royal Niger Company, a private trading company that was in the fore front of the exploitation of Nigeria's resources. Then British imperialism consolidated its rule as it felt threatened by its French and German rivals' West African colonies
China democratic credentials are terrible. China is one of the most policed countries in the world and will not hesitate to extend that record to other Africa wherever their interest is in jeopardy. In response to Uighurs' nationalism, one million out of 12 million Muslim Uighurs in China are detained in political "re-education" camps and children are split from their parents. It was the same China that does not allow genuine trade union rights, freedom of speech, right to belong to independent political organisations. China's military massacred at least 5,000 youths in the famous Tiananmen Square in 1989 when young people demanded socio-political rights. China has been expanding its military power in Africa which is linked to the protection of their investment and strategic rivalry with other imperialist powers.
All imperialist countries or previous empires are all guilty of one form of brutalization and predatory exploitation of resources of their country and other nations. It is clear that the interests of the working masses are sacrificed on the altar of the profit interest of big businesses across the world. Like Karl Marx called on the working masses of the world to unite against capital, it is the suffering working masses in struggle that will end capitalism, imperialism and its dictatorship, bringing an end to inequality, poverty, want, misery, wars and crisis. This is only possible through the socialist revolutionary victory that will bring about public ownership of societal wealth/resources, planned and democratically management by the working masses to meet the needs of all as against the profit of a handful few.