Tuesday, February 27, 2007


We just got word late last week that Arcelor SA and Mittal Steel Co.NV, signed agreements worth $2.2 billion with the government of Senegal to mine iron ore in the West African nation. The total estimated ironore reserves are around 750 million metric tons at four locations in the Faleme region of southeast Senegal.

Let us review the equation:For Senegal, $2.2 billion for 750 million metric tons.

The Liberia deal was $900 million for 1 billion metric tons.

Of course, this is a gross over-simplification. The project in Senegalinvolves developing the mine, building a new port near Dakar and laying467 miles of railway to link the mine and the port. This leads to further speculation. A new hypothesis.

Liberia is already partly developed. Rehabilitation is cheaper thanbuilding from scratch. More profits for Mittal Steel... to take withthem to Senegal for their future project, due to start in 2011? Nowonder they were in such a hurry to get things going in Liberia. They are a big company, why should we begrudge them any part of theirprofit or their global ambitions?


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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Liberia Debt Relief, who's relieved?

If you think the NGO Staffers are saints, then you risk being offended by reading on. Stop now. On the other hand if you want to wade through the misconceptions and mass media manipulation, read-on.

The United States government's announcement last week to forgive Liberia's $391 million debt will free up more funds for reconstruction and development. This is good news. As we read about debt relief, let us not forget how difficult it was to spend nearly 400 million in the first place. Remember the NGO Chief of Logistics, Operations, Station, Regional Director, Whatever, Bossman. Remember the drop of sweat that rolled down his face as he realized the extent of his own naiveté. How through mismanagement and corruption the materials needed for the operation had vanished as quickly as the OAU carpet from the Unity Conference Center. The more money that came into the programs, the more things unraveled.

No problem, because by evening he was at his old jojo bar with a growna girl on each arm. Don't forget the dreamy days spent at the beach. Like a benevolent sovereign, snapping his fingers for a fresh round of Club Beers for his expatriate friends. Oh, and the trips to the Lebanese grocery to stock-up on European delights before a lounging leisurely by the U.S. Embassy pool.

As these NGO Staffers caroused with one another in their insular Monrovia enclaves, Liberians hung on for dear life. The audacity as they wrote home about all their good deeds, when by their mismanagement and lack of control the very people they had come to save were victimized.

During those terrible years there was an alphabet soup of NGO's who ate money at a prodigious rate with their primary funding coming from donor governments. Debt Relief! Who is relieved? Perhaps it is the NGO Staffers who squandered their budgets through mismanagement for years. Instead, we smugly say that we forgive the Liberians.

Moral conviction is relative when all you believe in is your own "goodness". When after a time in Liberia your mind is twisted, and your worldview paradigm has shifted. When you realize that "Third World," is just a convenient phrase when the real problem stems from the fast that there is just one world with many impoverished folks paying the way for the comforts of a relative few.

No doubt the NGO's had a difficult and complicated job. Becoming an expert of rationalization is a job hazard for the NGO Staffer. Even that is a rationalization. No, even the NGO Wonk is not relieved. He has no need for absolution. It was always someone else's money anyway. Their nightmares of mismanagement are as easily forgotten as they were disguised in the first place.

Is debt relief just the premise to another round of NGO mismanagement and corruption?

J. Carl Dealy

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Chinafrica (11) Watching for PRC Influence in Africa




Published on Asian Tribune (http://www.asiantribune.com) Hu rejects accusations that China has colonial ambitions in Africa Created 2007-02-16 01:24 By John Chan

- World Socialist Web Site

In the course of his recent eight-nation tour of Africa, Chinese President Hu Jintao was forced to rebut a mounting chorus of claims that Beijing was behaving like a colonial power on the continent. The controversy is a significant indicator of China's growing influence in Africa through trade and investment, which is increasingly cutting across the interests of the US and other major powers.In a keynote address at South Africa's Pretoria University on February 7, Hu answered China's critics. Because of its colonial oppression by the imperialist powers in nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, he declared, China was "most strongly opposed to colonialism, oppression and slavery of all manifestations.""China never imposed its will or unequal practices on other countries...

It will certainly not do anything harmful to the interests of Africa and its people," Hu said. Despite the recent rapid economic growth, he said, China was still a developing country that shared common interests with Africa. "We believe in cooperation and harmony... and we hold that the strong and the rich should not bully the weak and the poor," he added.A member of Hu's delegation told the Financial Times on February 8 that the Chinese leader had been stung by prominent comments in the South African press by Western officials suggesting that Beijing was developing a colonial relationship with Africa.

China's growing economic activities in Africa are driven by the same motives as its competitors-access to raw materials, cheap labour and profit. Its exploitative methods are provoking significant public hostility in African countries with significant Chinese investment. However, the criticisms of "Western officials" have nothing to with concern for the appalling conditions facing the African working class.

The US and European powers, which have long dominated the African continent, fear China's rapidly expanding influence into their traditional spheres of influence. Hu's trip to Cameroon, Liberia, Sudan, Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique and Seychelles followed a similar tour last April. In November, Beijing hosted a lavish Sino-African forum attended by senior government figures from 48 of the 53 African nations.British International Development Secretary Hillary Benn told reporters last week that London had made its concerns known to Beijing and would "ratchet up" pressure over the cheap Chinese loans to African countries. Such funds, he hypocritically declared, would prop up corrupt dictatorships and undermine Western efforts to improve "human rights" and reduce debt burdens. "We need to talk more to China about how we can work together because we both have the same interests, which are the development of Africa as a continent," he said.

Germany also stepped in last week with a proposal at the G-7 finance ministers' meeting in Essen to undercut China's financial influence by re-establishing Africa's regional bond market. Germany's deputy finance minister, Thomas Mirow, declared the measure would "ensure that these [African] countries do not suddenly find themselves in a new situation of dependence vis-à-vis a lender".

Western imperialism has brutally exploited Africa for centuries with scant regard for "human rights". Throughout the Cold War, the US and its allies relied heavily on "corrupt dictatorships" to ensure their dominant role on the continent. The real concern in London and Berlin is not for the people of Africa, but to counter China's expanding economic role. Having transformed China into the sweatshop of the world, the US and European powers are struggling to cope with the consequences as Beijing seeks out raw materials to feed its industry.Chinese trade and investment in Africa still lags well behind the US and EU but is increasing rapidly. China's trade with Africa has increased over five-fold since 2000 to $55.5 billion last year. It is now the continent's third largest trading partner after the US and France, ahead of Britain. Although Europe's share of African trade is still three times as much as China's, it has declined from 44 percent to 33 percent of the total in the past decade.

Burkina Faso, for example, had almost no trade with China in 1990s, but now sends a third of its exports, mostly cotton, to China. Last year Angola overtook Saudi Arabia as China's largest oil supplier. China is pushing to double the trade with Africa to $100 billion by 2010. Chinese investment in Africa is a long way behind. In 2004, China accounted for only $900 million of $15 billion in foreign direct investment. By 2005, China's cumulative investment in the continent was only $6.27 billion.It is China's rapid rise that is destabilizing existing economic relations and fuelling fierce rivalry not only in Africa, but also in Latin America, the Pacific and Asia. The sharpest reaction to China's influence has come from the Bush administration, which announced last week its intention to reestablish a separate regional military command for Africa.

A Pentagon official told the Los Angeles Times that the new Africa Command was not aimed at China, but nevertheless added: "There needs to be an understanding of what the US role is and what the Chinese role is."This militarist response is another indication of the declining US influence in Africa and globally. The Los Angeles Times pointed out that the US had been increasing aid to Africa. "So far, however, the Chinese approach, focusing on economic cooperation, appears to be gaining ground. Bush has not visited Africa since his first term. By contrast, top Chinese officials have relayed across the continent every few months, winning points with no-strings-attached promises of economic support," the article commented.

By establishing an Africa Command, the Bush administration is sending a message to Beijing that the US will counter Chinese influence in Africa by military means if necessary. Already the US has backed the Ethiopian military intervention in Somalia and threatened to intervene in Sudan in the name of protecting refugees from the Darfur region.In the case of Sudan, China is directly at odds with the US. During his trip, Hu defended the Khartoum government, declaring any solution in Darfur "needs to respect the sovereignty of Sudan and be based on dialogue". China has used its veto in the UN Security Council to block US and European proposals to deploy UN "peacekeepers" to Darfur.

What is at stake for the US and China is Sudan's oil. China is Sudan's largest investor and buys 80 percent of its oil output. During his visit, Hu announced an aid grant of $40 million, an interest-free loan of $12.9 million to build a presidential palace and a $77.4 million loan for infrastructure projects. He also wrote off $70 million in debt to China. To strengthen the pro-Beijing regime, China has supplied arms to the Sudanese forces.

Chinese capitalism in AfricaChina's economic activities have also created tensions with the African ruling elites. Last week when he met Hu, South African President Thabo Mbeki praised the burgeoning trade relations between the two countries. Late last year, however, Mbeki also cautiously warned that Africa should guard against China replicating "the historic colonial economic relationship in terms of which Africa served as a source of raw materials and a market for goods manufactured in the countries of colonizers".

Mbeki was responding to definite domestic concerns. South Africa's trade with China has surged in recent years, but with a deficit of $3 billion. Local businesses face intense competition from cheap Chinese manufactured goods. To protect the local textile industry, Johannesburg introduced quotas last year to limit the import of Chinese clothing.

There is growing anger among workers over China's oppressive methods. Two years ago, 49 Zambian workers were killed in an explosion at the Chinese-owned Chambishi copper mine due to lax safety. No compensation was paid to the victims. In 2006, five workers at Chambishi were shot by security guards trying to quell a riot over substandard living conditions. The case of Zambia underlines the shift in China's foreign policy. In the 1970s, Chinese leader Mao Zedong authorised the building of a 1,800-kilometre railway to transport Zambia's mineral exports and established Zambia China Mulungushi-the country's largest textile factory. Such symbolic projects were aimed at wooing bourgeois nationalist regimes in the Third World, to increase Mao's leverage in his sordid manoeuvring between the US and Soviet Union.The embrace of the capitalist market by Mao's heirs in 1979 brought an end to Beijing's empty anti-imperialist rhetoric. When Hu was in Lusaka, the Mulungushi factory had just shut down due to competition from cheap Chinese imports. Thousands of workers and cotton farmers lost their livelihoods. After a group of workers threatened to protest against Hu's visit, the planned launch of a $200 million smelter at a Chinese-owned copper mine was cancelled.

Local political leaders have exploited anti-Chinese sentiment for their own purposes. During last September's presidential election, Zambian opposition leader Michael Sata appealed for Chinese firms to be driven out of the country. China's ambassador intervened and threatened to cut off diplomatic ties if Sata won the election. After Sata lost the vote, his supporters rioted in the capital, targeting Chinese businesses.

Guy Scott, the opposition Patriotic Front leader in Zambian parliament, told the British Guardian: "People are saying: 'We've had bad people before. The Whites were bad, the Indians were worse but the Chinese are worst of all.'" Former Zambian trade and industry minister, Dipak Patel, commented: "We in Zambia need to be very careful of this new scramble for Africa. What's happening is that the Chinese are very aggressive. They have a strategic plan."These political figures have not the slightest interest in the plight of Zambian workers, but represent the interests of layers of business struggling to compete with Chinese goods.

As for the prominent coverage such comments receive in the European press, it should be recalled that the conditions in Chinese factories in Africa only replicate those in the sweatshops in China where the European corporate giants are only too happy to profit from the cheap labor supervised by China's police state.

- World Socialist Web Sites -

Source URL:http://www.asiantribune.com/index.php?q=node/4562 Copyright 2006 asiantribune.com. All rights reserved. The information contained in the Asian Tribune report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Asian Tribune.


So the message: don't worry China's flavor of imperialism will be tastier than the old Western imperialism. Yum, yum.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Chinafrica (10) Watching for PRC Influence in Africa

Guess Hu's Coming to Dinner
Published 08 Feb 07Strategic Interestsby J. Peter Pham, Ph.D.World Defense Review columnist

Last week, while much of the coverage by media outlets in the United States - and, consequently, American public attention and policy debate - remained riveted, as in the preceding weeks, on the situation in Iraq, President Hu Jintao of the People's Republic of China (PRC) kicked off a 12-day, eight-nation tour of Africa, the third since he took office in 2003.

Although the warmth of Hu's reception was never in doubt, before he left home, the Chinese leader announced a $3 billion program in preferential loans and expanded aid over the next three years for Africa. This increase comes on top of the $3 billion in loans and $2 billion in export credits for the same period that Hu announced last October at the opening of the historic Beijing summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) which brought nearly fifty African heads of state and ministers to the Chinese capital.

In the first stop on his current African tour, Hu dropped in on Cameroon where he had the opportunity to inspect two of the major public works made possible by recent Chinese largesse, the conference center in the capital of Yaoundé and a maternity hospital in the same city.

A third project, the Lagdo Dam and Reservoir, provides hydroelectric power in the mineral-rich North Province of the West African country, whose trade with China doubled in 2006 from the previous year, reaching approximately $338 million.

In addition to these growing economic ties, which will be boosted by the $100 million in grants and loans he signed off on during his stay in Cameroon, Hu was undoubtedly even more gratified by the evidence he saw of his country's diplomatic success in penetrating a country where a European power, France, had long been dominant.

In his toast at the state banquet concluding his Chinese guest's visit, Cameroonian President Paul Biya virtually gushed as he hailed China as a model for Africa: "Even if our ambitions may remain modest, we would like to be inspired by your example."

Moving on to Liberia, a country whose origin as a state go back to its foundation as a refuge for freed slaves from the United States who kept their new nation in America's orbit through most of its history, Hu became the first non-African head of state to call on Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf since her inauguration on January 16, 2005, as Africa's first elected woman president. The PRC has been active in Liberia in recent years, especially since deploying its troops for the first time as part of an international peacekeeping force with the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) in 2003. The price of that deployment was that the West African country's transitional government cut off its longstanding diplomatic ties with that of the Republic of China on Taiwan. Since then, the Chinese official and private presence in Liberia, once a rarity, has become ubiquitous.

Last week, following a triumphal entry into the Liberia capital - thousands of children waving Chinese and Liberian flags lined the 35-mile route from Roberts International Airport - and a round of closed door talks between Hu and his Liberian counterpart, the two leaders signed no fewer than seven different accords.

The first was a framework agreement for economic and technical cooperation between the two countries. The second cancelled the estimated $15 million debt owed by Liberia to China. The third concerned Chinese assistance to the Fendell Campus of the University of Liberia, while the fourth dealt with the PRC providing Liberia with anti-malarial medication through the China-Liberia Center for Malaria Prevention and Treatment, which Hu inaugurated in what was once a wing of Monrovia's John F. Kennedy Hospital. The fifth accord covered the Chinese undertaking to build three rural schools. The sixth agreement gave special preference to Liberian goods which will be able to enter the Chinese market under a tariff waiver. The final protocol provided the cash-strapped Liberian government with an immediate $1.5 million cash infusion.

From Liberia, Hu flew off to Sudan, whose regime Beijing has not only enriched by buying some 400,000 barrels of oil daily (about 80 percent of the country's oil exports and 5 percent of the PRC's imports), but also shielded from being held fully accountable in the United Nations Security Council for what even the world body has repeatedly called the "worst humanitarian disaster" on the planet, the genocide in Darfur which has killed more than 400,000 people and left more than two million others homeless. In his public comments while in Khartoum, Hu reiterated that "any solution [in Darfur] needs to respect the sovereignty of Sudan" - the latter a tragically risible notion that will get a new shine from the new presidential palace that Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir will be getting courtesy of an interest-free loan announced during the PRC delegation's sojourn in his capital.

During his discussions with his Sudanese homologue, President Hu also extolled the 1,600-kilometer pipeline, built with Chinese financing, which, as I reported in a previous column, is taking oil of out South Sudan at a feverish pace ahead of the referendum in which most observers expect the region to secede from the writ of the country's Islamist regime.
After Sudan, Hu traveled on to Lusaka for talks with Zambian President Levy Patrick Mwanawasa. Last fall, during Mwanawasa's tight race for reelection - he was ultimately reelected with 43 percent of the vote after his two challengers, Michael Sata and Hakainde Hichilema, with 29.4 percent and 25.3 percent respectively, split the opposition vote - the PRC's envoy in Lusaka, Li Baodong, told the government-run Times of Zambia newspaper that he was advising Chinese firms in the mining, tourism, and construction sectors to suspend investments in the African country pending the outcome of the September 28, 2006, vote.

While Ambassador Li acknowledged that Zambians would lose job opportunities as a result of the suspension - the unemployment rate was already around 50 percent - he also called the action necessary because of Sata's "very unfortunate" characterization of Taiwan as a "sovereign country." The incident, which led the Zambian leader to publicly apologize to China for his opponent's comments, was an unprecedented break with the PRC's traditional behind-closed-doors approach to influencing developing countries.

At the conclusion of the discussions Sunday, Hu and his now-safely-reelected host, Mwanawasa, announced the creation of the Zambia-China Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone, the first of five such areas which Hu promised the FOCAC summiteers would be inaugurated over the next three years.

The Zambia-China Zone, to be located north of the capital in the African country's Copper Belt Province, has as its official aim the creation of a chain of light industrial production around a $200 million copper smelting works in Chambishi to be built by the state-owned China Nonferrous Metal Mining Group (CNMC). CNMC already operates a 50,000-ton-per-year copper concentrate mine in the area and plans to expand its annual capacity to 110,000 tons by 2009. Other Chinese firms are expected to invest another $600 million in mines and factories within the new economic zone in exchange for exemptions from the import and value-added taxes that their competitors are subject to.

At the time of this writing, Hu still had four layovers remaining on his African tour - Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, and Seychelles - during which he is expected to sign a series of further deals on everything from opening African markets to Chinese fruits and tobacco to energy joint ventures. And he will have every reason to expect a rapturous reception from those Africans who, like the editor of the New Era newspaper in the Namibian capital of Windhoek, have attached themselves to the ascendant star in the East, proclaiming that "African-Sino [sic] friendship represents a partnership that is a departure from the neo-colonial relationship that may still define the relationship between the continent, the former colonial masters and modern-day Big Brother, the United States of America."

In a column last year on Chinese strategy in Africa, I noted that "the 2006 National Security Strategy of the United States declares that 'Africa holds growing geo-strategic importance and is a high priority of this Administration' - as it should be for a region that currently supplies America with 16 percent of its petroleum needs and which, according to a report prepared for the National Intelligence Council, will be providing more than one-quarter of its oil imports by 2015, thus surpassing the total volume of oil imports from the Middle East. Consequently, the growing influence of any major actor on the continent - especially one as dynamic as ascendant China - bears very careful watching."

While it is understandable how the foreign policy focus of U.S. policymakers and media might be trained primarily these days on the Greater Middle East, especially on the fight against terrorism, and perhaps even more narrowly fixed on Iraq, Hu Jintao's grand tour through Africa is a timely reminder that other potential challenges to America's national interests continue to loom, even if we might not always be paying them the heed we should.

- J. Peter Pham is Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs and a Research Fellow of the Institute for Infrastructure and Information Assurance at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. He is also an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington, D.C. In addition to the study of terrorism and political violence, his research interests lie at the intersection of international relations, international law, political theory, and ethics, with particular concentrations on the implications for United States foreign policy and African states as well as religion and global politics.

Dr. Pham is the author of over one hundred essays and reviews on a wide variety of subjects in scholarly and opinion journals on both sides of the Atlantic and the author, editor, or translator of over a dozen books. Among his recent publications are Liberia: Portrait of a Failed State (Reed Press, 2004), which has been critically acclaimed by Foreign Affairs, Worldview, Wilson Quarterly, American Foreign Policy Interests, and other scholarly publications, and Child Soldiers, Adult Interests: The Global Dimensions of the Sierra Leonean Tragedy (Nova Science Publishers, 2005).

In addition to serving on the boards of several international and national think tanks and journals, Dr. Pham has testified before the U.S. Congress and conducted briefings or consulted for both Congressional and Executive agencies.

© 2007 J. Peter Pham