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1:00PM

Ben Shobert on Wikistrat's look at China-->Africa FDI dynamic

Find the post at Cross the Rubicon.

The bit I found interesting:

Dr. Barnett several years ago made a prediction that I imagine some rolled their eyes at, if for no other reason than it seemed outlandish at the time.  He suggested that as China’s presence in Africa grew, they would be greeted as a new colonial power, admittedly different in form and context, but none-the-less viewed as an outside power interested only in extracting resources from lowly Africa.  This would ultimately, as he saw it, create situations where African extremists would target Chinese operations in Africa, kidnap workers, etc.  It is worth noting this is precisely what has been happening, with a handful of other people asking the question, as Stan Abrams did earlier this week, what the world would think if China were to drop its equivalent of a Navy SEAL Team into Africa to get its people out.

If you want to participate in this business and do it well, your work will constantly be on the edge of outlandishness, otherwise you'll be trailing the pack and just picking up the conventional wisdom (like the increasingly regurgitated debate on state-capitalism-ruling-all versus America-in-decline-or-not?) as it's beaten to death.  

Spending my time, as I have for nearly a decade now, exploring the future reality of Chinese and US co-management of the world, puts me on the edge of most people's plausibility. After all, we got that "Chimerica" definition from Ferguson just as the global financial crisis killed the long-running model he was describing, so OF COURSE we now shift into a long-term rivalry between types of capitalism (strategic pivot et. al) and the "resumption of history" and so on.

But, of course, none of the larger structural dynamics in the world system have changed. We're just seeing the elite's perceptions begin to catch up, and when they do, they naturally package the undeniable reality into old boxes - like containment and superpower rivalry and AirSea Battle Concept (a painfully unimaginative retread from the 1980s with the Sovs).

However, for those of us who stick to their stories (scenarios), tomorrow's superpower interdependence will have less to do with the promise of shared death (MAD) than the promise of shared wealth - and the commensurate challenges of a world ruled from the middle for the first time in history.  That world, dominated by the C-I-A troika of China, India and America, is the subject of my next book, which I'll simultaneously crowd-source within the Wikistrat community over the next several months.

Reader Comments (2)

I don't think your prediction was outlandish (at least for Nigerians like me).

In conflict ridden Africa all foreigners and rich locals are fair game. Malaysians and Filipinos are also being kidnapped, athough that doesn't make the front page news.

Chinese are being kidnapped where everyone else is being kidnapped - mainly for money and mainly in resource rich parts of Africa.

Will Chinese be regarded as the new colonialists? Probably, but there are many faces of China in the continent. What many of us fail to grasp is the speed of assimilation of the Chinese.

I am privileged to live a few houses away from some Chinese guys and a road across from the Chinese market. I see increasing numbers of Chinese-Nigerian couples in Lagos shopping malls and the many Chinese interact with the locals on a deeper level than 99.99% of Westerners (Chinese speak fluent Lingala in Congo and no one in the US embassy speaks that language).

There isn't going to a uniform response to the Chinese because the Chinese don't have a uniform experience in Africa. For example, the less business savvy Zambians and Malawians tend to have their business destroyed by Chinese competition. While on the other hand, more business savvy Nigerians will tell you that the Chinese are heaven sent - lower costs, more technology transfer, less hassle and a common understanding of the language of bribery. The Ethiopians have a robust industrial policy and have been able to use the competition from Chinese imports to their advantage.

For example, the Nnewi industrial cluster in Nigeria is dominated by joint ventures between Nigerian businessmen and their Chinese partners.

There will be violent reactions to the presence of the Chinese, but these reactions are unlikely to be either widespread or long lasting. The Chinese will be tolerated like the Lebanese and the Indians before them.

On the movement of low-cost labour from China to Africa - that question is not theoretical (at least to me). All I need to do is to drive a few kilometers to the Lekki Free Trade Zone to determine how far and fast that process is going. I'll give you a definitive answer in four years.

Africa's major bottleneck is the lack of infrastructure and the Chinese are working overtime to bridge those gaps. What many people don't realise is that much of coastal Africa has higher literacy rates than East Asian nations like Cambodia (In Southern Nigeria, female literacy rates can be as high as 96%, coastal Kenya has similar figures). The Chinese are not stupid, and they are working hard to harness that talent.

N.B: I know you don't like going into detail in your posts.

February 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaduka

Tom, delighted to hear your next book with C-I-A, the three World Leaders as allies is next. Ever since you first espoused this I have felt this is our best chance to perpetuate World Peace as we proceed in the 21st century. Your timing looks good just as it was for Great Powers. Looking forward to this next World Strategy contribution.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterElmer Humes

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