The Political Effects of China in Africa

While we noted that most analysis of China in Africa has focused on the economic ties, and where studies have dealt with politics (e.g. Broadman 2007) it is a normative analysis about how to smooth flows of trade and investment. Recently there have been more critical attempts to analyse the politics of these relationships. Tull (2006) concludes his piece by arguing that 'China's massive return to Africa presents a negative political development' (p. 476) and his thesis usefully examines this in broad political economy terms—something I return to below.

The tendency of China to exacerbate African governance problems is seen by some as an extension of China's own lack of concern for human rights and accountability at home—the Chinese export the capitalism they know best (Henderson 2008). In terms of putting Chinese aid in the wider context of 'older' donors, Dreher et al. (2010, p. 18) point out that new donors 'do not generally exhibit a stronger bias against better governed countries', the corollary being that older donors, despite their criticisms of China, have also been willing to support corrupt and authoritarian states.

Although there have been useful contributions over the past few years as better data has emerged (e.g. Brautigam 2009), they still tend to attribute the power to China at the expense of Africa. For example, the 'Asian Drivers' agenda (Kaplinsky and Messner 2008), which we adapt later, is premised on a conflation of all Asian countries as sharing some essential characteristics and that they do the 'driving', which denies African agency. This is echoed in Carmody et al.'s (2011) analysis of Chinese 'geo-governance' in Zambia which argues that the Chinese state projects its power into Africa as part of a broader goal of shaping globalization, although they are among the few analysts to factor in African political agency (see also Large 2009; Haglund 2009).

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >