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China's Low-Profile Imperialism

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

PARIS -- Hardly a day goes by without America-bashers accusing the U.S. of "imperialism" or "interventionism." Meanwhile, China is largely exempt from that sort of criticism from the same crowd. If only they'd listen to the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and a few other stray voices.


In late 2011, I had the privilege of sitting on a panel in Morocco with Lamido Sanusi, the aforementioned Central Bank of Nigeria governor, who's on a mission to clean up Nigerian corruption. Sanusi told me that the moment an official can place his hands directly on your money without any oversight, it constitutes a problem. Within weeks of taking office, he had 16 top bank officials charged. Now, Sanusi has taken aim at China.

In an op-ed piece for the Financial Times, Sanusi was critical of China's "new form of imperialism" in Africa, whereby "China takes our primary goods and sells us manufactured ones. This was also the essence of colonialism."

Excuse YOU, Lamido! America-bashers call this "trade" -- at least when it's conducted by nations other than America and its conventional allies. Of course, this speaks volumes about their anti-American bias. You'll often find the same people complaining that the West ignores the will of the people of any conflict zone -- because only the America-bashers can ever truly know what the people of any given country really want.

Instability in any country creates a vacuum that will inevitably be exploited. Whether you'd prefer to see China or America benefitting from a nation's instability depends on the values you'd like to see exported or disseminated. Personally, I'd rather live in a Western country than under a Chinese regime where, according to the U.N. International Labor Organization report, workers earn a paltry average of $656 per month in jobs that occasionally require the placement of suicide nets at factories. Therefore, I'd prefer to see the dissemination of Western labor standards win out a global scale.


In Africa, China is now winning. Anyone cheering this fact might want to reassess, starting with the following:

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), China passed France last year to become the third-largest global arms supplier, behind only the USA and Russia. As for sub-Saharan Africa, where Chinese imperialism is arguably most active, the SIPRI arms transfer database reveals that China went from fourth place, supplying just 6 percent of sub-Saharan major conventional arms between 1996 and 2000, to becoming the top supplier during the period between 2006 and 2010, with a 25 percent market share -- knocking former top supplier Russia down from 31 percent to just 11 percent. This doesn't even take into consideration the illicit arms trade that fuels civil insurgency in places such as Sudan, where China dominates the oil market.

And while the Hate America First crowd is busy defending Chinese "trade" and business practices in places such as Africa as somehow morally superior to that of evil Uncle Sam, a 2012 South Africa Rights Watch report, "Win-Win Partnership? China, Southern Africa and the Extractive Industries," proves revealing in various ways, starting with the knee-slapper title.


Why so funny? Because despite all the praise for the BRICS alliance (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and its aggressive marketing efforts -- which might lead naive souls to believe that the NATO alliance of stable advanced democracies should be concerned about its position in the global marketplace -- it's clear that even South Africa knows that it can't turn its back on its so-called "partners."

While China is slowly elbowing its good pal Russia out of African arms deals, the South African report concludes that "(a)nalysing the impact of China's investment in the extractive industries in six southern African countries -- Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe -- (this report) illustrates that Chinese investment does not, in most cases, promote a win-win scenario."

The report recommends that "(t)he Chinese authorities need to ensure that Chinese companies adhere to international standards, promote the transfer of skills and technology, and engage in international initiatives to promote transparency, sustainability, justice and social responsibility. The Chinese government should admonish, encourage, and (where appropriate) insist that Chinese businesses actively contribute to Africa's social, political and economic development."


Admonish? Please. That sort of thing is reserved for America and its conventional allies. And good luck using a stern ethical lecture on the dragon you apparently mistook for a Labrador retriever. Perhaps try smacking it across the nose with a newspaper.

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