Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Comparative Analysis of Liberia-China Relations

Thanks to Mr. Yengbeh, Jr. the discussion of the PRC's singular influence in Liberia has advanced a bit. People, we must ask ourselves, do we want the short term gain of five china rice bowls now or one a week for the next year from Liberia's own hand. (Article follows)

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How Public Perception Influences Foreign Policy: A Comparative Analysis of Liberia-China Relations
Modern Ghana News

A recent Pew Global Attitudes Survey indicates that "Across Africa, favorable views of China outnumber critical judgments by two-to-one or more in every country except South Africa, where opinion is divided. The survey provides a trend only for Nigeria, where favorable attitudes toward China are sharply up, rising 16 percentage points in just the past year from 59% to 75%."

The survey further suggests that "Across sub-Saharan Africa, China's influence is seen as growing faster than America's, and China is almost universally viewed as having a more beneficial impact on African countries than does the United States. Clear majorities say America's influence in their countries is generally good. But the perception that China has a positive impact is far more widespread."

In the International Herald Tribune Survey conducted in sixteen African countries, 76% of Africans hold positive attitudes toward the general image of China compared to 14% negative and 10% neutral.

In Liberia, public perceptions and attitudes toward China are generally favorable today. Liberia's domestic and foreign policies are based on the following four key pillars: enhancing national security, revitalizing the economy, strengthening governance and rule of law, and building infrastructure and basic services. The situation context of post-conflict Liberia has played a major role in terms of the strategies and tactics the government has employed to advance the country's domestic and foreign policy objectives.

But what is unclear is whether Liberia's foreign policy is informed by clear understanding of the complexities or intricacies involved in the international environment of the 21st Century. Of particular importance is that there is no grand strategy. The process of formulating, implementing and evaluating the policy of a grand strategy is beyond the scope of this article. As a practical matter, it is an effective grand strategy, coupled with a bold, long-term vision, reason and principle that will determine the destiny of peace, security and prosperity in Liberia. Moreover, the vital role of foreign policy leadership will also be crucial in the balancing art or balance of power relations between America and China, which will be paramount for the promotion of global stability in this century. This would also require the consistency and continuity of foreign policy for the foreseeable future.

In the field of international relations, each country is freed to advance its national interests. Of great significance is the fact that the current Liberian government is pursuing her own interests through an economic and development diplomacy aimed at securing much-needed strategic partnerships in support of Liberia's post-war reconstruction and development initiatives. While it is too early to predict precisely whether Chinese long-term engagement in Liberia will produce a positive influence, the recent impact of China is highly visible in infrastructure investments and development projects such as building roads, hospitals, schools, agriculture, and timber industry among others. China has agreed to rebuild the University of Liberia Fandell Campus, which was destroyed during the civil war. Chinese peacekeepers served in the 15,000-strong United Nations Mission in Liberia. All of these projects create opportunities for the Liberian government to fulfill the hopes and aspirations of a better life for the people. Therefore, the government and people hold positive perceptions and attitudes toward China. However, this belief is based on a false sense of so-called Chinese humanitarian aid and philanthropy.

A close-up examination of Liberia-China relations reveals a different but more realistic image based on a foreign policy perspective. The rapid growing Chinese presence in Liberia has much more to do with China exerting a unique combination of geopolitics, diplomacy, national security and business interests rather than humanitarian aid and philanthropy.

Over the past three or more decades, various Liberian governments have been aligned with either mainland China or the Taiwan Strait. President William R. Tolbert had established one China policy. President Samuel K. Doe continued close relations with China. Doe recognized the relevance of such strategic partnership and seized the opportunity for the implementation of the Tolbert doctrine by using the Chinese government to build the SKD Sports Stadium in Monrovia. President Charles Taylor switched ties to Taiwan. Taylor too realized that Taiwan could help by renovating a section of the John F. Kennedy Hospital. Charles Gyude Bryant, Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia, went back to China. Edwin Snowe, former speaker of the Liberian Legislature, who was loyal to the Taylor regime, met secretly with the Taiwanese government officials in the Gambia. This caused a forceful storm of disapprovals and negative reactions because many Liberians at home and abroad felt that his unilateral action undermined Liberia's foreign policy. In February 2007, President Hu Jintao of China cancelled Liberia's debt of 15 million dollars during a state visit. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf reciprocated in-kind by signing a joint agreement reaffirming Liberia's commitment to the one China policy.

Furthermore, the effectiveness of the one China policy has been that Liberia supports China's national reunification, while Liberia will not support Taiwan on major foreign policy issues such as declaration of independence and the proposed referendum of United Nations membership. China views Taiwan as an integral part of its territory, which means that such events would be considered provocative. China is happy to remain in Liberia as long as Taiwan is out. China sees a small window of opportunity to consolidate its influence and project its power. In principle, the fundamental implication is that China advances its geopolitical and national security interests.

On the one hand, China is further interested in Liberia to feed its growing need for energy and natural resources. Liberia's vast natural resources will fuel Chinese economic growth. For example, Chinese companies have been working in the Liberian logging industry, construction, telecommunications sector and are now prospecting for the mining sector. Moreover, the Liberian government is working hard to secure their mutual economic interests. Today, some Liberian political and economic elites even believe that America and, perhaps, other Western allies cannot force them into deals they don't want or cannot afford. In their view, China is not only a credible and willing international partner but also a strategic option for Liberia.

On the other hand, the Liberian market is relatively small in comparison to many African markets. Ordinary Liberians feel that Chinese-made commodities are not durable. Indeed, Liberians believe that Chinese made products for the American market are far better than those made for African markets. Liberians prefer American products

Liberian consumers, workers and small businesses are worried about the economy. People are specifically concerned about the high costs of living, taxes, food crisis, transportation vis-à-vis gas prices, housing, and education for their children. Meanwhile, Liberians appear to be taking a wait and see attitude at this time. Because of the present severe economic conditions and mass poverty, negative feelings may not be isolated only to Lebanese and Indian business communities. In turn, these foreign business people, who have enjoyed a much longer commercial experience within the economy, are now feeling the squeeze and carefully studying the situation. Negative feelings will likely rise if government failure creates a self-fulfilling prophecy due to high unemployment, high inflation, costs of living, depreciation of real value of Liberian dollar, and economic depression. The general security situation is also declining at an alarming rate. Armed robberies and mob violence (or mob justice as it is sometimes called) are especially on the rise. All of these factors together will be key determinant of what will happen as China continues to exert her influence in Liberia.

In summary, after successive Liberian governments have danced in a seesaw fashion between China and Taiwan, Liberia has today exerted even more crucial Liberia-China relations. China has certainly emerged as a contender in global economic trend. China is also viewed as a serious threat to the West. America too is clearly concerned. Liberians must heed the lessons learned. History has shown that whenever a rising power, like China, creates fear among its neighbors and other great powers, such as America, that can be a cause of conflict. Applying Newton's third law of motion to global politics, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Consequently, the achievement of a successful foreign policy leadership within the context of the complexities of the 21st Century international environment implies the conscious application of a grand strategy. African leaders – particularly from either politically unstable environments or post-war countries such as Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Rwanda, and Democratic Republic of Congo among others – must avoid relying on foreign aid, importing development and reducing poverty from abroad. Among the key policy level considerations are the following:

The importance of Liberians and their African brethren to inspire and expand the ideas and ideals of a freer society, free thinking and brighter future for their own people; and, The future prosperity of Liberia should take into account the uniqueness of the country in terms of encouraging and rewarding hard work, creativity, innovation, self-reliance, entrepreneurial spirit, and productivity.

Only through thy selfless labor, love for liberty and freedom, and destiny creed, the Liberian people shall truly achieve durable peace, security and prosperity for all. Now is the time to seize the opportunity of building a better future in Liberia. As Liberia celebrates her 161st Independence Anniversary, it would be unwise and naïve for Liberians and others to believe otherwise.

Varney A. Yengbeh, Jr. is President & CEO of The Liberia Institute, an independent public policy think tank associated with and Mr. Yengbeh holds a MA from The Fletcher School, and a M.Sc. from the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Source: Varney A. Yengbeh, Jr. Story from Modern Ghana News:

Published: Thursday, July 31, 2008

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Rare Pearl of Great Worth

We can sometimes focus too narrowly on our home on our nation on West Africa. While doing some research on rural development we stumbled across the most amazing model for success. It is from our brothers and sisters to the east. Once upon a time Uganda was referred to as the Pearl of the African continent. Certainly some of the luster was spoiled through events of the recent past. But the people can not be kept down. We found a rare Pearl of great worth in the field of transformative rural development training. So marvelous we had to share.

From the grass roots up The Uganda Rural Development and Training Programme (URDT) is an indigenous civil society organization located in the Kibaale District in Uganda.

Please note the geography. This program is far from Uganda's capitol. URDT is located in the small town of Kagadi in the Kibaale District, about 180 miles northwest of Kampala. From the beginning in 1987, the founders were not looking for the easy thing, but rather as they say, "the toughest challenges" They settled on he Kibaale District would be ideal because it offered a combination of the toughest development challenges:

High infant mortality, high maternal morbidity, low literacy levels and rampant poverty. The three counties in the Kibaale District were so-called "lost counties" that had suffered a century of neglect because of disputes over land titles and governance. The district was multi-ethnic, with more than ten tribes making up the population of 416,000. The district was very rural, with poor roads, no electricity or phones. There were no NGOs, except for churches.
For twenty years they have experimented in "visionary" rural development methodology, building its rural development program in a demand-driven way, working collaboratively with communities to determine their needs and priorities.

URDT's mission is to facilitate self-generated development in rural communities. URDT delivers on this mission by combining development projects with education and training so that skills and knowledge remain resident with people as they organically change the quality of their lives.

Follow this link for more on the URDT:

We could use this in Liberia. EarlyBird endorses the URDT model for rural training and development.


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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Bit by Bit it Will Fit - ArcelorMittal / Rio Tinto

The other proverbial Shoe has dropped (See the Article that follows) and it is natural fit! They may be talking eastern Canada, but we are hearing eastern Guinea. The Canada program to expand mining and processing facilities in Labrador West and transportation capacity on the railway linking the mine with the port of Sept- Iles, Quebec will be a great trial run for Guinea-Liberia operations.

When (if) the Simandou project merges with the Liberia Operation across the border it will mean only one thing.... You will no longer have to travel to Guinea. It will come to you piece by piece, by rail through your back yard.

We may observe the full dress rehearsal in Canada but how about a little transparency now?


ArcelorMittal Says Rio Tinto's IOC Unit Would Be `Natural Fit'
By Dale Crofts
July 2 (Bloomberg) -- ArcelorMittal, the world's largest steelmaker, said it would be interested in acquiring Rio Tinto Group's Iron Ore Co. of Canada unit because the business fits with its operations in eastern Canada.

``If that kind of opportunity arose, I'm sure we'd take a look at it,'' Lou Schorsch, head of Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal's flat-rolled business in the Americas, said yesterday in an interview in Chicago. ``That would kind of be a natural fit. We share a lot of infrastructure.''
ArcelorMittal is buying iron-ore plants in Canada and Liberia to counter the market power of BHP Billiton Ltd., Rio Tinto and Cia. Vale do Rio Doce. The three companies control about 80 percent of the world's seaborne iron ore and are raising prices to records. London-based Rio Tinto has said it plans to sell as much as $10 billion of assets this year.

Iron Ore Co. of Canada, also known as IOC, is ``a good operation and not on our short list of possible disposals,'' Rio spokesman Nick Cobban said today.

ArcelorMittal said in September it would buy the more than two-thirds of the Wabush Mines iron-ore venture in Canada that it doesn't already own from U.S. Steel Corp. and Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. for about $67 million. U.S. Steel and Cleveland-Cliffs ended talks to sell the stake in March, and ArcelorMittal has asked the Ontario Superior Court to force the transaction. ArcelorMittal is

``very confident'' it will complete the purchase, Schorsch said.

Wabush produces iron-ore concentrate in Newfoundland and Labrador and has port facilities on the St. Lawrence River's north shore, close to the operations of ArcelorMittal's QCM unit.
``Part of why we are interested in Wabush is because QCM is more or less right down the road,'' Schorsch said. ``Also right down the road is IOC that Rio Tinto owns.''

Rio holds a 59 percent stake in Iron Ore Co. and operates the business. Rio is spending about $475 million to expand mining and processing facilities in Labrador West and transportation capacity on the railway linking the mine with the port of Sept- Iles, Quebec.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dale Crofts in Chicago at
Last Updated: July 2, 2008 09:54 EDT



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