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China and Japan in Africa: Who is seeking ‘Africa’s interests’ first ?

January 31, 2014

Africa was seen by Leopold II as a ‘magnificent African cake’ and still is considered as such by new foreign interests. Between the Chinese and the Japanese it seems the Japanese, like the West, seeks to ‘contain’ China’s influence in Africa. The Chinese aspire to a win-win-South-South cooperation and the restoration of Asia and Africa’s dignity.The logic of foreign powers’ competing interests in Africa denotes a colonial mentality still prevailing toward Africa! What Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent visit to Africa uncovered is a clear plan that Japan and Western powers have: To “contain” China’s influence in Africa. Africa is talked about just as a “walk over”, a battleground for other people’s interests except African people’s interests! Africa has been in that position since the slavery, apartheid, colonialism, neo-colonialism, and now what I call “neo-multi-influencialism”, that is to say, after the Cold War, all major powers are seeking to maintain their influence in Africa to safeguard their strategic interests there (raw materials, geopolitical support at the UN Security Council) without taking the interests of Africans themselves into consideration (making other people rich while remaining poor yourself and being convinced by those you make rich that you are actually poor and you need help, help, help!). It is the strategic interests of these major powers that drive their strategic policies toward Africa (they decide everything about Africa without African themselves). Congo’s natural and mineral resources have been systematically looted in the last 16 years by the same people who are coming to Congo as investors. What does the term “investor” mean in this case? If America and its NATO allies can go and bomb Iraq and Afghanistan back to the stone age and award contracts to American companies to “rebuild” these countries, is that what “globalization” is all about? PANDERING TO WESTERN POWERS’INFLUENCE African countries themselves may have their own policies toward these major powers, but they remain on paper. Africans do not have any means to implement their own policies. Nearly 90 percent of the African Union’s budget itself is financed from outside. So, Africans have only one policy: the bigger the donation, the happier they are! Pandering to Western powers’ influence is exactly what Zimbabwean scholars Jonathan Moyo and Charity Manyeruke think has been happening. According to Jonathan Moyo, the one very clear and disappointing state of politics in Africa today is precisely the issue raised by President Mugabe in the interview on the occasion of his 88th birthday of not just cowardice of the so-called new breed of African leaders but also their treachery (Sydney Kawadza, “Some African leaders coward,” ‘The Herald,’ 20 February, 2012). “It’s not only that they want budgetary support from Western powers or genuinely want to address anything in Africa. It’s simply that they are sellouts by definition. They don’t think about their people but themselves and their pockets.” (Herald Reporter, ‘Political analysts castigate puppet African leaders,’ ‘The Herald,’ 21 February, 2012). Charity Manyeruke stresses that African leaders’ reliance on foreign aid while Western powers have been taking Africa’s resources, is the reason why some economies were still struggling. She thinks too much dependence on the North stifles development in Africa because you cannot make independent decisions. “There is need for us to unite as a continent for genuine regional integration but if we still have other countries singing from the same hymn with the West then we have a problem,” Manyeruke emphasizes. We cannot sacrifice principles for donated money. Otherwise what do we become? What do we make of the sacrifices of Patrice Lumumba – and others – Lumumba whose assassination we commemorated on 17 January 2014 as I was writing this paper because he refused to betray Congo and Africa? The fact that warring South Sudanese factions were driven to the underground part of a hotel in Addis Ababa, which is a night club venue, by the visiting Japanese delegation should have provided a good lesson for them and for all Africans (“South Sudan talks resume in Addis Ababa nightclub Gaslight,”, BBC, 13 January 2014). I remember warring Congolese factions also holding talks in Sun City, the Las Vegas of South Africa. We Africans have gambled with our lives and our future for too long now. It is high time for us to take our destiny into our own hands. JAPAN REMAINS A CATCH-22 FOR AFRICAN DONATION RECEIVERS Japan is an industrial state without natural resources wants to consolidate its interests in Africa to ensure a steady flow of African resources to feed its industries. China too needs natural resources to feed its growing economy. But there are differences between the two Asian countries, as far as their policies toward Africa are concerned: 1. As a Congolese who mourn 6 million of my compatriots massacred by Rwandan and Ugandan invaders, supported by Britain and America in the 16 years, I am troubled by the fact that Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe can visit the controversial Yasukuni Shrine to honor wartime criminals during the invasion of China by Japan, and shortly after that, he visits Africa and several African countries and the African Union just roll out the red carpet for him. I totally agree with Mr. Xie Xiaoyan, Chinese Ambassador to the African Union for reminding the African conscience about Japanese atrocities in China – in pictures (I used the same method in London to highlight the genocide in Congo). There should be no support for apologists of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity anywhere in the world, let alone in Africa where genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed on a grand scale with impunity, especially currently in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The fact that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Ivory Coast where many of President Laurent Gbagbo’s supporters have recently been massacred on a massive scale is troubling. Africa should treat any apologist of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity as a pariah because Africa has been the victim of such crimes from slavery up to today. The current Japanese government should be treated as “a scar on the conscience of the world”, including by the United States and Europe, its allies. Japan should not bring its contradictions to Africa. 2. Unlike Japan, China is not totally bereft of natural and mineral resources under its soil. 3. Japan’s interests in Africa are not subjected to a near hate campaign, including the accusation of colonialism, like Chinese interests in Africa. As an African I wonder why. The reason is that Japan comes to Africa riding on the back of Western powers to “contain” China’s influence in Africa. The proof is: France and Japan have just formed an alliance to target Chinese influence in Africa. We are witnessing another “pivot to Africa”, involving Japan, the United States and Europe. The recent France-Japan talks focused largely on a stepped-up imperialist intervention in Africa, to destroy China’s rising influence in the continent. Japan pledged to support ongoing French wars in two former French colonies, Mali and the Central African Republic (CAR). The new defense cooperation between Paris and Tokyo comes at a time when Japan and China are embroiled in a bitter dispute over the disputed Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea. These tensions have been largely driven by the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia”—a US policy of forming strategic and military alliance with Japan, Australia, India and other regional powers to surround China (the policy of “a ring of fire around China”) and contain its rising economic influence. Following the talks between French and Japanese ministers, a joint statement was issued apparently criticising China’s declaration of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) last year that covers the disputed Diaoyu islands. The statement emphasized the importance of ensuring the freedom of flight above the open sea and exclusive economic zones, as well as securing the safety of civilian aircraft. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, stopping short of naming China, said, “The tensions [between China and Japan] are a source of concern. We want this part of the world to find solutions to ease tensions.” (Kumaran Ira, “France, Japan Form Alliance Targeting Chinese Influence in Africa,” ‘World Socialist Web Site,’ 13 January 2014). 4. Japan boasts modern high-technology industries. But unlike China, Japan has never transferred its technology to Africa. Africa does not need big donations forever. Africa needs modern technologies so that it can transform its resources on the spot and create jobs and markets for its people at national, regional. continental and international levels. China has already transferred some of its technologies to Africa (the Hisense company in South Africa and oil extraction technology in Sudan). Indeed, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” (Chinese proverb). 5. History has proven that we Africans can believe and trust China. We trust China when China says that it is ready to cooperate with any other major power in Africa provided that “we put African interests first”. As Chinese scholar Luo Jianbo writes, “of course, it is well known that a nation’s foreign policy always serves its national interests first. China is no exception. China never denies that its African policy aims to pursue its own strategic interests in Africa [nor that it has not made mistakes there]. However, one of the most outstanding features of China’s African policy from the very beginning is its aspiration to promote a win-win-South-South cooperation and the restoration of Asia and Africa’s dignity. China’s engagement in Africa provides Africa with new development opportunities and promotes Africa to integrate in the international system in a more favorable way, that is to say, as an equal partner (Luo Jianbo, “China-Africa relations and China’s international responsibility,” ‘World Economics and Politics,’ 2013, Vol.9, No.397, pp.52-70). Those who want to keep a kind of “master-slave” relationship with Africa are not happy about that. *Source Pambazuka   *Lokongo from Congo]]>

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