Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

50 Dead in Mud Slide in Chongqing, China – and Chinese Views on Africa

June 5, 2009

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 ; 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, so if you search for pictures on 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.


Oil Giant Shell Accused of Ogoni Murders – Still no Justice

May 30, 2009

In the news today:

14-year-old trial still being post-poned. This time from monday to wednesday.

From BBC, 1995:

“The activists were condemned to death 10 days ago after being found guilty of involvement in four murders.

Mr Saro-Wiwa insisted they were framed because of their opposition to the oil industry in the Niger-Delta region of southern Nigeria.

At his trial Mr Saro-Wiwa said the case was designed to prevent members of his tribe, the Ogoni, from stopping pollution of their homeland and getting a fair share of oil profits.

Dozens of Ogonis have been imprisoned by the military regime led by General Sani Abacha who seized power two years ago”

Youtube comments:

“since when does ANY corporation care about humanity over profits? that’s why they go over-
seas, where they can pollute and disturb those without voices”

“More brown people suffering at the hands of the dutch, read your Twain on “King Leopold’s Soliloquy””

“Ignorance is bliss.. I hope they make shell pay millions or billions of dollars to the poor people of nigeria.. Lets boycott Shell people its the 21 century this is ridiculous”

“This is just disgusting.. If this is even a quarter true I hope to see all the Shell CEO’s burn in hell.”

“The scandal is that it’s merely a civil case.

There should be a full criminal investigation of Shell to identify the individuals who colluded with the Nigerian junta. If probable cause is satisfied, such individuals should be charged with criminal homicide (by proxy).

If the owner of an American company hired a hit man to murder a U.S. citizen who spoke out against his company’s products, it would be completely uncontroversial that the owner should face homicide charges.”

“The only way to push Shell out of the destruction of the Nigerian delta and murder of social activists . is to picket their petrol (gas ) stations around the world .Shell is controlled by evil sociopaths with the power of a super power ,small wonder they can turn you tube around into a banal sexual comment and moral trivia post board the struggle will continue with or without you”

“God bless peaceful martyrs such as Ken-Sara Wiwa… Never forget what they are doing on all of our behalf”

“Rothschild are the main stock and power brokers of Royal Dutch Shell. Rumor has it that their the richest family on the globe with seats on trade and banking boards around the world, not to mention a rumored estimated net worth of 491 Trillion. Good luck with that law suit, they own the courts to.”

“I will never buy gas from shell again.”

“I only buy gas from shell. Fuck black people! I need superior gasoline.”

Swedish Military Capture Pirates in the Red Sea/Indian Ocean

May 29, 2009

Now, this is weird. Swedish soldiers are patrolling international water between the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa. The Swedes are part of a European Union army (!) and they’re looking for Somalian pirates. The EU has an agreement with Kenya that pirates should be tried in Kenya. Today it was a Greek ship involved in the capture and so the question was raised whether to send them to Greek courts. A Swedish trial is not on the map though, even if all other countries on the map seem to want a piece of the pirates.

The pirates are mostly recruited to mob-like organizations from amongst poor fishermen who can’t earn enough money on fishing to provide forthemselves or their families. And the reason they’re out of work is because they have very low-tech fishing equitment and vessels, while the waters have been opened up to huge international corporations who quickly suck up all the fish out of the water and send off to the rich Western. Hence, it is far beyond irony that the pirates kidnap rich Westerners to extract money from.