Chinese Neo-Colonialism in Africa

Imperialism walked into the global polity as early as Fifteenth century. The powerful nations of the Europe walked into the new world under the disguise of civilizing them and looted the enormous amounts of wealth that these nations possessed. The worst of all atrocities were the displacement of the native cultural values, traditions, languages and faith systems. The indigenous traditions and values were deemed to be ‘inferior’ to the so-called superior culture of the West and they took it as the White Man’s Burden to eradicate the inferior cultural systems through the ‘superior’ values and faith systems. The colonies were thus imperialised and were brought under the administration of the colonial invaders. This was followed by the dark-ages of exploitation and abuse of the subjects from such nations by the imperialists and it continued till the early 1940s when many of the former colonies started gaining independence from the imperial masters. For another decade, democracy was planted in many such countries; some of them thrived and replenished while some others withered away.

While it was the colonial past that inspired many of these nations to embrace democracy, democracy was not that popular in many countries, China being one such nation. For a long period of time, in fact, for several centuries, China was under the rule of a monarchy which had a wide variety of powers and influence over the day-to-day lives of the Chinese. An empire spread from the Southern coasts to the mainland, China was too big for any European power to invade. Further, China had its own thriving economy which had the ability to sustain itself by producing everything required. However, there were also attempts to colonise China as the wealth that China possessed was something that tempted many countries. The Japanese invasion or the Mongol Conquest were some of the aggressions that China had to face externally, which the country however, overcame very successfully. The argument here is, essentially, that China never experienced a prolonged period of imperialism.

While China was never colonialized, it experienced the humiliation of being subdued to the foreign power, like any other foreign colonies. For instance, China’s supremacy and sovereignty was questioned during the opium wars fought with Britain. This was fought by Britain to gain control over the domestic market of China to sell the opium. Today, China is fighting a similar ‘war’ with several other fellow nations. However, this war is fought towards protecting and expanding the economic interests of China. And this time, the war is fought in favour of Chinese economy. The war is essentially, the trade war and the outcome is, as many experts call it, the neo-colonialism of China.

The Chinese Neo-colonialism debate is as old as the Chinese economy post 1970s. When the country slowly transformed itself from a Communist State into that of a Capitalist-Communist State, many saw a surge in the Chinese exports which flooded the global market with cheap Chinese goods. The same old debate is today getting resurrected due to the expansion of the Chinese influence in the African continent as well as across the Central Asia. China is investing across the African continent both in terms of the expansion of business as well as creating infrastructure in those nations which have been historically under the influence of poverty and underdevelopment.

While the neo-colonial tendencies of China may not have a direct bearing over the Indian economy, it is a matter of concern for India which aspires to be crucial economic power in the region. While India had strong relationships with several countries in Africa for a long period of time, China emerged only in the past couple of decades. Considering the fact that two-third of the world population would be residing in Asia and Africa by 2030, Africa would be a lucrative market for Indian economy and this opportunity can be spoiled by a growing Chinese influence in the region. Similarly, Africa is home to large deposits of natural resources like oil, gas, metals and stones. As the global supply of such resources are already under constraint, there would be no wonder if Africa becomes another spot for a future ‘gold rush’.

In the world of free trade, no country can survive without mutual cooperation and beneficial interactions. However, at the same time, no country can also afford the growth of a fellow competitor at the cost of one’s own economy. Thus, India should be more proactive in the African region to protect its trade and economic interests.

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