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China's President Xi Jinping, left, and Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo, right, review the honor guard of Chinese People's Liberation Army during the welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018. (Nicolas Asfouri/Pool Photo via AP)

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The Chinese are in Algeria and Libya tapping into their oil deposits. China currently has military alliances with 6 African states, 4 of which are major oil suppliers: Sudan, Algeria, Nigeria and Egypt.
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Written by Kwame Dwomoh Agyemang - I have been following various discussions on Africa's rising 'partnership' with the Chinese and the $60bn dollar brouhaha. All but the leader of Swaziland were in Beijing last weekend at the invitation of President Xi Jinping. King Mswati's Swaziland is the only country of the lot who still has relations with Taiwan, a country China sees as a renegade Province after Kuomintang Fighters managed to fight their way through independence in 1949.

All through the days of Chairman Mao to Deng Xiaoping, a greater part of China was still very much agrarian. Post the late 80's the closed Chinese Politburo 'surged' to expand their tentacles and get the recognition Tokyo derived from the Pacific and beyond. Enter Comrade Jiang Zemin. He together with his successor Hu Jingtao put in very solid plans to institutionalize the tentacles off the Chinese into several parts of the world with a policy of non-interference in a country's affairs. Essentially whereas the West would condemn dictators and institute all kinds of measures in accessing funds, the Chinese trade with everyone with very little or no limits. Africa was always on their agenda with her vast resources from Morocco to South Africa.

Over $3bn has been injected into all kinds of industries in Morocco. The Chinese are in Algeria and Libya tapping into their oil deposits. China currently has military alliances with 6 African states, 4 of which are major oil suppliers: Sudan, Algeria, Nigeria and Egypt. They have built a huge port In Djibouti to serve their interests in the Suez Canal and are virtually in every facet of life in Ethiopia and South Sudan, especially in the construction sector. In West Africa, Uranium deposits has attracted them to Niger, Chad and Mali whilst construction is a massive appeal. Along the West African Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Cote D'Ivoire and Cameroon have benefited significantly from Chinese loans and construction products.

In Central Africa, they are building a new capital in Equatorial Guinea between Mongomo and Bata called Djibloho, constructed virtually all the major new stadia used for CAN 2012/15/17 @ Ebebiyin, Mongomo, Libreville,(Gabon Included). They are also involved heavily in the new Free Zones of Gabon and Congo and also heavily involved in roads and other infrastructure in DR Congo.

In East Africa, they supported the Kenyans to build a $3bn railway line from Nairobi to Mombasa which would ultimately connect with links in Rwanda and Burundi. Turkey and China are battling it out for jobs in that sector in Tanzania as well.

In South Africa, they have been involved in the construction of so called Friendship stadiums in Ndola (Levy Mwanawasa Stadium), Angola, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and contribute hugely in concessionary loans to almost all of SADC but Swaziland. Even South Africa, per its association with BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) have also significantly invested.

From Education(scholarships), through Finance(Huge loans) and construction, the Chinese have set out a grand plan to tap into the huge natural reserves on the continent with handouts which are gracefully being accepted by our governments without a critical look and the medium and long term effects on our economies. The Chinese would do anything to get a deal over the line. I have seen their ways of doing things all over the continent and beyond. They are masters of negotiation and smart at closing deals. Most African leaders are happy to perpetuate themselves in power by letting their undeveloped and uneducated few more than appreciate a developmental project or two.

In recent times, they have moved into Central America where the vulnerable economies like Belize, Nicaragua, Panama, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras desperately need massive financial injection to support their economies. The geographic characteristics of this narrow isthmus separating the Pacific and Atlantic oceans have already sparked interest from Chinese firms in constructing alternate transit routes to the Panama Canal, as with Nicaragua’s $40 billion interoceanic canal project. China offered Costa Rica a $130 million aid package and purchased $300 million in Costa Rican bonds. In Panama, meanwhile, aside from being the second most important user of the Panama Canal, China is also the largest supplier of goods to the free-trade zone of Colón. By providing both of these Central American states with public works and economic incentives, Beijing obtained political recognition from Costa Rica in May 2007 and from Panama in June 2017.

In South America, Trade between Argentina and China reached US$13.8 billion last year, and China is also funding a number of major Argentinian infrastructure projects, including two nuclear plants and a US$2.5 billion upgrade of a cargo rail network.In December 2004 and again more recently in August last year, President Hugo Chávez paid an official visit to Beijing, where he and President Hu signed several agreements on economic and commercial co-operation. Bilateral trade between the two countries rose from US$150 million worth in 2003 to US$1.2 billion in 2004 and US$2.14 billion in 2005. China’s Vice President, Zeng Qinghong, visited Caracas in January 2005, attesting Beijing’s interest in Venezuela. In Argentina, during President Hu’s visit in 2004, he promised to invest US$20 billion over ten years, of which a quarter would go into the oil industry. Energía Argentina and a Sino-Angolan company (China Sonangol International) are jointly engaged in offshore exploration in waters off Argentina.

In Chile, in June 2005, the Chinese company Minmetals Corporation joined forces with Codelco (Corporación Nacional del Cobre) 18 to secure annual deliveries of 55,000 tons of copper for 15 years. China may also take a share in developing the Gaby copper mine with its expected yearly production (from 2008 onwards) of 150,000 tons.

China’s presence has upset the economic and geostrategic balance in the region. These massive investments have provoked a real debate21 across Latin America, where governments fear their countries may be confined to the role of providing agricultural and mineral raw materials. The figures speak volumes: three quarters of Argentina’s exports to China consist of agricultural products. China is the main customer for soya beans, buying 45% of the total exported; Thailand comes next with 13% and Spain with 7%. And when it comes to Brazil’s exports to China, 37% consist of agricultural products. The dependence of the Latin American countries is undeniable. China is the destination for 70% of the iron ore, 47% of the lead and 37% of the copper exported by Peru, 33% of the pewter exported by Bolivia and 16% of the copper leaving Chile. Far from allowing development, trade with China tends over the long term to weaken the Latin American economies.

It is also worth noting that recriminations against Chinese investors and their management methods are rising sharply all over the world with particular concerns expressed in several African countries although governments are quick to 'kill' such dissent.

Africa is seen by Chinese businessmen as over 1 billion potential customers in a fast-growing market. Perhaps more importantly, African societies are far from market saturation, like their Western counterparts. Thus, in Africa, China finds not only an ample supply of potential new customers but far less competition from other nations. China is Africa's first trading partner since it surpassed the United States in 2009. Tells a thing, isn't it?

The Chinese may be doling money all over and pushing the West into an economic warfare at some point. African leaders have to be smart and get the very best deals from ones already concluded with Beijing. The Chinese are not supid. They are very smart people. Look for the nearest Chinese restaurant anywhere in the world and you would understand what I am talking about.

Thank you.

The writer is Kwame Dwomoh Agyemang, an Adjunct Communications Lecturer at Pentecost University College and GH Media School.

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