China is an emerging economic power, likely to power the world economy for the foreseeable future. Between its domestic growth and international investments, China is an expanding market for commodities and industrial materials.
From the Chinese point of view, the rest of the world is slow to investment. Because of the slow supply growth of raw materials (oil, zinc, copper, aluminum, steel, petrochemicals and plastics), China faces a strategic dilemma and higher costs and planners in Beijing suspect they are too dependent on supply routes dominated by the G8 countries. They ought to be worried, if they aren’t already.
Africa is the most underdeveloped region in the world. It has rich natural resources and great reserves of undiscovered human capital. It has always been treated as the reservoir of primary materials. A few corrupt politicians in Africa started projects that enriched their foreign bank accounts instead of their home countries. The human capital of the region was wasted. Leaders fought over measly local resources. They became warlords and narcotic barons.
With this in mind, the Chinese building the Sudanese leadership a presidential palace is at least tangible aid. Politicians will change, some time in the future, but at least the palace will remain as part of Sudan.
Anyway, modern rules of commerce and the World Trade Organization endorse colonization. They may repackage it, but they sponsor another form of bi-directional dependence. The interdependence of economies and flows of goods and services to markets have created complex layers of colonial control in most countries: German and French companies dominate the European electricity market; Saudis and Venezuelans have a large share of refining capacity in America; two Indian groups control more than 20% of world steel output; a Turkish company produces and sell one of every 4 TV sets sold in Europe and Russia. (offee is no longer a strategic product of the colonies, but gasoline, electricity and TV sets are certainly as addictive these days!
The common thread is economic activity. Growth in demand leads to greater circulation of money. Trade, not aid, is the word of the day. That ought to improve lives and create jobs. It should divert attention from civil disputes and fights over measly resources.
The naked truth is that the G8 do not have a large enough demand to jumpstart African economies. The old colonial masters of Africa -- Britain and France -- no longer have the global influence or deep pockets for direct aid. America and Russia never found a compelling strategic case to develop Africa anyway.
So China has no choice but to look beyond local politics and internal conflicts of African countries to secure its supply of raw materials. Thankfully, jobs, economic activity and stability might be the welcomed by-product of their financial engagement.
The world ought to encourage the new spenders, China and India, to create jobs in Africa. Petty politics will eventually take care of itself. Violence will subside, and in its place we will see Africans shopping for Chinese products in Khartoum’s new Wal-Mart.
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