China, the fastest growing economy in the world, is looking for every opportunity to expand itself in order to compete with developed countries like the US and Japan. Its most recent search for fuel and trade has been in the continent of Africa. China has been importing coal and oil from African countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, and Nigeria (according to the Council on Foreign Relations), in return for giving money to the African governments to help build infrastructure there. This fuel helps supply Chinese power stations, which do not meet their current required carbon emission targets and are therefore creating a lot of pollution.
Freshman Jeremiah Chiteri, a non-trad from Kenya, believes that although they are polluting heavily, China is doing a lot of good in Kenya and in other African nations by providing “money that goes to infrastructure.” He explained that infrastructure was either non-existent or not to the required standard beforehand.
Chiteri made the point that although there is a significant amount of money going towards building infrastructure, the “common man does not know the amount given” from China. There is evidence to suggest that African national governments are not fulfilling their role in spending this money on building infrastructure, as some projects that were started years ago are still unfinished. For example, one Kenyan church has been waiting for 17 years to be completed because money to fund its building ran out, according to Chiteri.
Chiteri identified other benefits of trade with China, including the introduction to Kenya of electronic goods, more clothes and increased tourism. Chiteri pointed out that most African nations do not have the necessary machinery to make the electronic goods and textiles that China trades to African nations. Chiteri “believes it is so,” that China has similar trade relations with other African states. Chinese relations with Africa are mainly business-oriented as Chiteri sees it, but there is a “small part of welfare concern” for Africa.
China may have a bad human rights record and be only interested in economic growth, but Chiteri believes the relationship to be “a positive.” Enrichment student Luke Wanga of Kenya thinks that the Sino-African relationship is a “bilateral relationship” in which both China and African nations are “benefiting.”
Most controversial in China’s trade with Africa is its business with Zimbabwe, a country that rumour has it is being supplied weapons from China in return for fuel. Wanga believes that Zimbabweans are “resisting harsh conditions being lumped on them” by the international community, and China is being a friend to Zimbabwe, while also looking for a new market.
Another country trading with China is Angola, which, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, exported 465,000 barrels of oil a day in the first six months of 2007. Chiteri said he believes that this is “too much” and that Angola is being exploited, although he emphasized that it depends on the exports that Angola trades and if they have resources like oil or coal, which help Angola “climb the economic ladder.” Additionally, Wanga pointed out that Angola depends on the amount of oil exported by China to run economically.
Like other countries, China’s pollution is having an effect on the ozone layer. Chiteri said that this is “really contributing to erosion of global health.” China signed the Kyoto protocol, according to the BBC, to reduce carbon emissions, and at the time was the world’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, although China has not done a great deal since. African countries cannot be held accountable for global warming to the same extent as China, according to Chiteri, because they lack the machinery to reduce carbon emissions.
Chiteri believes that Sino-African trade relations have created a “threat to the US” and means that citizens in this country have to pay taxes to increase America’s competitiveness with the rest of the world. This “indirectly relates” to Americans, including those on the Principia campus, according to Chiteri. It is clear therefore that China’s push for social and economic expansion is going to affect the whole world including the supposed last remaining super power.