Last Wednesday’s episode of The Riz Khan Show on Al Jazeera English dealt with Chinese industries in Africa. Khan hosted a debate among three experts on the subject: Richard Behar, an investigative journalist and author of an article this month in Fast Company titled “China Storms Africa;” John Afele, former director of the International Program for Africa at the University of Guelph; and David Shinn, former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia. The question on the table:
Is China exploiting African nations and reflecting colonialism, or is it offering them real economic growth and opportunity?
According to Khan’s guests and several callers, Chinese nationals are “enslaving” Nigerians, forging corrupt partnerships with African party leaders, using up the world’s natural resources like there’s no tomorrow, and possibly forming an “upgraded replay of colonialism” in Africa. On the flip side of things, one caller demands to know why China is being demonized when Western countries have been doing similar things in Africa for years, and Shinn points out that China is offering long-term low-interest loans to African nations without attaching the political conditions that Western nations stipulate. While the show is pretty one-sided (it’s not really a debate without a representative from the other side) it offers a window into the psyche of Western nations who are clearly afraid that China will contaminate Africa. “They’re not in Africa to spread democracy,” Behar states in the beginning of the episode. Towards the end, he adds: “We must keep in mind that China is at a different level here and at this point in China’s economic development it has a corrupt business culture that can’t be denied.”