Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Chinese in Malawi

The Chinese government is very active in Malawi. They have built
Malawi's new parliament building. They are building a five star hotel
and a new technical university amongst many other smaller projects.
The Chinese people are also busy moving in. Lilongwe, Blantyre, and
even Mzuzu are full of small and some rather large Chinese-owned shops
selling Chinese-made goods. The new "scramble for Africa" is alive and
well in Malawi to the consternation of the more established European
expat community and even many local Malawians themselves. On the other
hand the Malawian government seems to be allowing this flood of
Chinese immigrants in return for continued Chinese government
assistance with various building and development plans.
Concern over the rise of China is not isolated to Africa of course but
the relative vulnerability, or percieved vulnerability, of many
African countries does seem to heighten the issue.
On the one hand I sympathize with these concerns. As an
environmentalist I am well aware of China's lack of due regard for
environmental issues in their own country and am skeptical whether
African nations will be able to, or even feel the need to, persuade
China to behave more sensitively in Africa.
Furthermore as a still developing state China is very concerned with
the economic well-being of many of its own still desperately poor
people and so is arguably more motivated to exploit Africa's
resources, at whatever cost to Africa, than well-off Western powers
might have been over the past half-century.
Finally China is an authoritarian state largely uninterested in
promoting democracy in its dealings with authoritarian African
On the other hand I am concerned with the West's concern over China's
rising power in Africa for severals reasons.
First and most generally I, as a member of the Malawian expat
community, dislike the knee-jerk tendency that I have noticed in many
African expat communities to deride..... To be cont.

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