China locking down resources and locking up markets in Africa?
Editor's note: Dr. John Gong is a research fellow at the Charhar Institute and professor at the University of International Business and Economics. The article reflects the author’s opinion, and not necessarily the view of CGTN.
One of the themes in Peter Navarro’s book “Death by China” centers on Chinese investment in Africa, which the author argues is an attempt of colonization.
China, of course, exports a lot of commodities to Africa, including manufactured consumer products catering to the needs of the expanding middle class there. But contrary to Navarro’s claim of “China sharing none of the wealth and labor with local populations,” China actually brings plenty of job opportunities to Africa.
A shoe factory opened in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa by a Chinese company called Huajian Group employs a whopping 25,000 workers.
The shoes are exported to China, Europe and the United States as well as being sold locally. The plant also produces shoes for US brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Guess and interestingly, Ivanka Trump’s eponymous shoe line.
What Navarro fails to fathom is the fact that what is happening to Africa from China is essentially the same as what happened to China from the United States some 20 to 30 years ago. Back then China was a good place for low-cost manufacturing due to its cheap labor and large market.
Today, as China’s Lewis turning point has passed, meaning labor migration from rural areas to industrial production has become exhausted, companies will naturally move onto the next frontline – that is Africa.
Historically, manufacturing has moved from Europe to the US, from the US to Japan, South Korea and other Asian tigers, and then from them to China. It is now moving from China to Africa and some South and Southeast Asian countries.
In addition to being blind to this New Economic Geography theory as an economist, Navarro has an even more sinister theory about Chinese investment in Africa, which he calls the “biggest dirty little secret about China’s colonial ambitions.” He claims that “Beijing’s central planners also want to systemically export millions of Chinese citizens to the ‘satellite states’ of Africa to reduce pressures on a grossly overpopulated homeland.”
This is a serious accusation. We Chinese do have a fairly large overseas diaspora due to emigration over the years. People leave the country for various reasons. China saw large waves of migration for adventures and seeking better economic opportunities.
But accusing the Chinese government of exporting its citizens is downright ignorant. I wonder how much of the family separation policy targeting illegal immigrants arrested on the southern US border has to do with Peter Navarro?