Several million cubic meters of dirt and rubble flooded into a pit burying an iron mine. Last year 3,000 people were killed in mining accidents in China. When it comes to managing global resources and the artificial environment that sustains us, iron is a major player, partly because it’s such a useful metal, partly because the Earth’s core consists mainly of iron, which is the reason for our planet’s particular gravitational pull strength.
This is not about iron, though; this is about China.
Today, police caught a Chinese man suspected of espionage. “Details of the case were sealed, the police said in a statement, citing legislation aimed at shielding Sweden’s relations with foreign countries.” (Sorry for disregarding the aim of our legislation. Also, China is not the only country suspected of espionage in Sweden.)
Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of the protests on Tiananmen square in Beijing. At one point 1 million Chinese were protesting against the new regime and 2 600 were killed according to the Red Cross. However, the state has tried to keep a lid on this and most Chinese have no idea what really happened. China also censor information about events like this and a lot of other things on the Internetz. They call it 六四事件; the June 4th Incident.
In Europe, nationalism was a means for the kings to find popular support in the country so he could wage war against other countries. In China, there is only one party. It’s an idea that has the potential to work, but not surprisingly, the Communist party feels the need to control the media to be able to hold on to the popular support. If popular support was important to the kings of Europe and so many other places, imagine how important it is to the leaders of the billion and a half people colossus of China.
“There’s plenty of porn to keep the masses happy”:
Google agreed to censor Google.cn, so if you search for pictures on google.cn with the text Tiananmen you’re gonna get 0 pictures of the “Tank Man”. And in the West, we worry about China. In China they call this worrying “The Chinese Threat Theory”. Now, that’s an interesting concept to consider. And it specifically applies to things like China’s involvement in Africa. To understand, we need some perspective.
In Europe, we see the world as a map with 6 major parts. Europe is the white light in the top-middle, Africa is black counter-continent below us. The Americas are to the left and Austral-Asia to the right. From a Chinese perspective it’s a bit different. The Eurasian continent has three parts, Christian Europe to the left, the Muslim Middle-East and the Confucian China to the right. China has 3 times the population of Europe and in most respects balancing out Europe as an equal counterforce on the seesaw, except for the colonization period when Europe did whatever they pleased with the globe and it’s people.
All of a sudden, China is taking over Africa, the forgotten continent. From a Chinese perspective, Africa is an old friend and China, like most African nations, is a developing country only there to support the African nations in their strive towards democracy, liberation and human rights. However, democracy to a one-party state means “reform with moderation”, and it is even suggested that democracy and the chaos of multi-party elections are detrimentally counterproductive to advances in human rights.
This is not all of a sudden, Europe does not think of China as a threat, China is not a threat and Africa is not an old friend of China. These are all rhetorical exaggerations from both sides (and we’re still ignoring the opinions of the forgotten continent). The Chinese have experienced rapid growth lately, economic growth of 10% yearly, and a lot of foreign investments in the growing Chinese market has put a lot of money in the banks; money that now should be spent. And where better to spend the money than in Africa, the incredibly resource-rich continent still available for vulturing.
The only really problematic thing I find when learning about Chinese views on Africa is that there is a lot of talk about human rights and progress, but when progress is defined, there is no mention of human rights being considered, progress, to the Chinese, is economic growth. “The Chinese” is of course quite the horrendous generalization. Xia Jisheng writes:
“Currently, the overall situation in African politics follows a stabilizing trend, and there has also been an improvement in economic development. All these conditions are favorable for the development of the human rights cause. The structural problems of the economies in African countries have not been resolved, however. Economic globalization brings serious challenges with it: political instability, like tribal contradictions, corruption, factional struggles, religious conflict, and land disputes, are all factors that can erupt into new conflicts at any time… In short, development of the [cause of] human rights in Africa will be an arduous, long-term endeavor; it can only go forward with difficulties.”
Liu Hongwu explains how Africa has always defined itself in comparison with Europe or the West, either in terms of similarity or disparity and that Africans are now given the chance to compare themselves to something else, China. “Even if some people now easily see China becoming the savior that will reduce Africa’s poverty – which is perhaps as ridiculous as in the past regarding the West as Africa’s savior – it is undeniable that today there are indeed many areas and spaces of mutual benefit and need between China and Africa.”
Li Zhibiao writes:
“Currently, when foregin scholars discuss china, the topics often focus on China’s rapid economic growth, the huge trade surplus, the notable success in poverty reduction, and so forth. These are all undeniable facts. [Gloating a bit here, “the Chinese success story” of the past 28 years of the latest regime…] On the other hand, in the transformation of Chinese society there are also several apparent and conspicuous contradictions and problems, some of which are left behind by history, but many of them have been borne out during and accompanied by the more than twenty years of reform and opening up. These are seriously impacting and constraining the sustainable development of china’s economy and society”
The listed problems include that 20 % “of the population lives in ‘severely polluted cities,'” and in 70 percent of rivers and lakes, the situation is critical.
China is responsible for 5% of the global production but consumes a LOT of aluminium, copper, iron, minerals, coal and cement. (Psst, Africa)
“The income of the majority of peasants still does not exceed US$500.”
“China is still one of the countries with the biggest gap between rich and poor regions in the world,” and although peasants “pursuing a dream” roam to and live and work “in cities, they still do not enjoy the same political, economic, or social guarantees, or other such rights.”
“China has up until now not established a relatively comprehensive social security system, which is a constraining factor for deepening the reforms.”
Lastly, Li Zhibiao mentions the craving for foreign investments by local goverments leading to lowered standards of quality, environemental protection and lack of supervision and legal reprecussions for foreign companies breaking the law.
“The most crucial tasks are to see that the general direction of the reforms and opening up is correct and to examine how the implementers and decision makers of these reforms confront new and emerging contradictions and problems… it is something that would be valuable for African countries to draw lessons from.”
And here we are again, Africa being the receiver, the West (me) and China being the spokespersons.