Wednesday, September 06, 2006
China pushing its weight around in Africa
Evolving superpower China is paying a lot of attention to primary resource produce and does not have to worry a whit about human rights issues. It replaced Western oil companies in the Sudan and there's no danger that it will use its UN permanent Security Council seat to put pressure on the Arab Muslims in Khartoum who have allowed fellow tribesmen kill more than 200,000 African Muslims in Darfur, West Sudan and displace 2 million more.
China is also to seeking to develop the oil industry in Burma, run by a military junta for decades.
Yesterday, the Chinese government intervened in Zambia's upcoming presidential election in a signal of its growing influence in Africa.
Li Baodong, China's ambassador in Lusaka, said China might sever diplomatic relations with Zambia if voters elected Michael Sata, an opposition candidate, as president, Zambian media reported on Tuesday.
China is a leading investor in Zambian copper, the country's biggest export product by value.
China's investment in Africa in recent years and Chinese trade with the continent has quadrupled since the start of the decade, mainly through purchases of crude oil.
In Zambia alone Chinese companies are believed to have invested more than $300m (€234m) into copper and other industries.
Sata who is challenging Levy Mwanawasa, the incumbent president, in the September 28 election. He has been quoted calling Taiwan a "sovereign state," angering China and has also spoken out against Chinese labour practices in Zambia.
The Times of Zambia on Monday quoted Li saying Chinese investors were "scared" to come to Zambia because of Sata's "unfortunate" remarks. If Sata won and established relations with Taiwan, Beijing might think of cutting its relations, the newspaper reported.
"Chinese investors in mining, construction and tourism have put on hold further investments in Zambia until the uncertainty surrounding our bilateral relations with Zambia is cleared," the state-owned Zambia Daily Mail quoted Mr Li as saying.
In Zambia several mineworkers were shot and injured in July after a violent protest at Chinese-owned Chambishi Mining. There are conflicting reports on whether Chinese managers or Zambian police shot the workers. Sata has spoken out against Chinese mine managers' alleged ill-treatment of workers during his campaign. "They ill-treat our people and that is unacceptable," he was reported to have said.
Chinese influence can be seen in African countries as disparate as Liberia, Sudan and Zimbabwe. President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have both visited the continent this year.