June 20, 2018
Here are the Chinese goals and motivations:
• The African nations are rich in natural resources, but are weak in infrastructure development, especially transport infrastructure. China is now the world’s leading manufacturing nation, and it needs raw materials and natural resources to keep Chinese factories busy. For this reason, it makes sense for Chinese construction companies to improve the transport infrastructure of the African nations;
• The quality of government and governance in the African nations has been gradually improving, and the African farmers and miners of today are destined to become the African consumers of tomorrow. It makes sense for China and Chinese companies to improve their standard of living so that these Africans will eventually buy the output of Chinese manufacturers, instead of only supplying raw materials to Chinese manufacturers;
• Because the African economies will become more important, it makes perfect sense for China to build goodwill with future African political leaders and business leaders and entrepreneurs. If they attend Chinese schools, learn Chinese, and understand Chinese culture, they will become future ambassadors for China in their home countries, and will be well disposed to building bridges between their government, society and Chinese official and business interests. These societies are also likely to have significant local Chinese populations which will serve as bridges between China and their new African home countries. Because China’s relationship with Africa has never been tainted by a history of brutality, racism and slavery, Chinese and Africans are able to deal with each other equally, and are not burdened with negative historical stereotypes based on racism and discrimination. This racism, discrimination and condescending attitude are something which western societies have great difficulty escaping from, which hinders the development of relations with the African nations and societies. For Africans, this mutual respect with China and Chinese based on pursuing their individual interests, and seeking shared interests when possible, is a breath of fresh air.
• Chinese manufacturers have the know-how many African nations need to move up the value chain. Some of the lower value-added manufacturers, such as textile manufacturers, may move some of their operations to African nations since the Chinese government no longer sees China as being leaders in these areas, and is encouraging high-tech manufacturing development, especially with the Made in China 2025 plan. So far, most Chinese textile makers have been moving to Vietnam, Thailand and SE Asia, but it is likely that some will move their operations to African nations. This will help Africans to get their first step into manufacturing. In contrast, during the colonial period, the British, French and Germans never allowed manufacturing in Africa, instead preferring to keep Africans poor and underdeveloped. China and the Chinese have no such agenda.
To sum up, China is not giving away free money.
China is investing in the African consumer of the future, and sees them as important future Chinese partners.