China's rise to power. Grouped economies being formed globally.
- Article: MARVELLING: China shows initiative - by ORLANDO MARVILLE
Date: Sunday, February 01st, 2004
Source: www.NationNews.com - Barbados Daily Nation News
While the Western media ended the past year with tales of mayhem in
Iraq or preparations for Christmas around the world, there was a
quiet (or at least little reported) meeting going on in Addis Ababa,
the headquarters of the African Union, reported on by PANA, the Pan
African News Agency. While the West was concentrating on the civil
wars and displacement caused by such wars and the decimation caused
by HIV/AIDS all in Africa, China had decided to fill the void left by
centuries of European exploitation and neglect.
Just one week before Christmas, about 650 delegates descended on
Addis, 185 of them from China, including Wan Jiabao, premier and a
few vice-presidents (VPs) of important Chinese corporations. Around
47 countries were represented. They were ready for the Africa-China
Perhaps the most immediate result of the gathering was that China
forgave 31 African countries a debt of US$1.27 billion. Additionally,
all African goods would enter China on a zero tariff basis.
Liberia, better known for the horrors of its recent civil war and the
excesses of its now deposed President Charles Taylor, offered the
opinion that Africa should now also recognise the importance of intra-
Africa trade as a preparation for the wider world of commerce. One
hopes that such optimism rings truer than it does in the Caribbean
Tanzania invited some Chinese firms in to explore the possibility of
manufacturing joint ventures with a view to producing
pharmaceuticals, tractors and mining its vast deposits of iron ore.
For China Steel, this was a giant opportunity. As the Chinese say,
the longest distance begins with a step.
China last year consumed more iron ore for steel production than the
United States, Japan and South Korea put together. An open door for
the acquisition of raw material was therefore not to be sniffed at.
The Chinese were not to be outdone in terms of an optimistic approach
to the possibilities. They felt that through joint ventures it would
be possible to process raw materials and create job opportunities for
local African people.
China was also interested in mining South Africa's vast resources of
manganese as well as in increasing its production of steel. Its
import volumes of 147 million tonnes of iron ore will undoubtedly
rise from 2003 levels at the earliest possible moment. The Chinese
delegation was also impressed by their African hosts' eagerness to do
business with China and this translated into some fairly blunt
statements on European disrespect for Africa on both sides. China
also pledged enhanced support for Africa without any political
discrimination. This allowed President Mugabe a long-awaited
opportunity to strike out at the British.
In the meantime, at the business level, the momentum was maintained
by the female vice-president of Shandong Huanri Group. She was eager
to establish factories for the manufacture of LPG cylinders, water
valves and oil pipelines in Cameroon, Sudan and Tanzania.
Clearly China is thinking way beyond an ill-defined war on terrorism,
which it also embraces, to a world where it will be possible to be a
world power without swagger, but with the economic and moral power to
change the developing world while China itself assumes its role not
only as a great economic power, but also as a space contender and a
new champion in the world of knowledge.
Indeed, China and Africa pledged to build stronger economic and
political ties to counter Western dominance in world affairs as well
as to improve the status of poor countries.
One sees in this historic meeting place the continuation of what
happened in Mexico. While China and its African partners are unlikely
to give up on the World Trade Organisation, they recognise that the
best way to move forward is not to wait for another round of trade
talks where, undoubtedly the West will refuse to do away with the
enormous subsidies on farm goods, and the most likely outcome will be
another stalemate with China, India, Brazil and other non-Western
countries holding firm to their view that a level playing field has
to be horizontal as well as level.
The interesting scenario here is that Africa, left perhaps to be
again taken up when HIV/AIDS has ravaged more of its population (and
even then on Europe's terms) has proven itself a small, but very
interesting market for China.
As the Chinese repeatedly said, China possesses the technology and
Africa has the resources. With mutual respect and understanding, the
possibility for the beginning of a new era has emerged. While Europe
bothers about enlargement and whether the French and Germans should
be penalised for ignoring the Community's financial rules, and the
United States concerns itself with quickly getting out of Iraq in
preparation for elections, China has taken an initiative which can
only be described as good news.[-End]