China in Africa: What the Policy of Nonintervention Adds to the Western Development Dilemma

Chinese vs. Western Development Model in Africa
PRAXIS: The Fletcher Journal of Human Security published in 2012 an article titled “China in Africa: What the Policy of Nonintervention Adds to the Western Development Dilemma.” The author is Madison Condon, a joint J.D./MALD candidate between Harvard Law School and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

The article makes the point that Chinese loans and investments are typically made in exchange for securing access to natural resources. Based on its principles of nonintervention and respect for sovereignty, “China gives this money with little or no strings attached.”

The author argues that the Chinese model is a legitimate challenger to Western aid.

While the article contains some annoying imprecision as it intermingles investment, loans and aid, it does offer a useful juxtaposition of the so-called Washington and Beijing Consensus models.

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China in Africa: What the Policy of Nonintervention Adds to the Western Development Dilemma

By Madison Condon

Abstract
Chinese investment activity in Africa has skyrocketed in recent years, outpacing
every other nation except South Africa. China finances more infrastructure
projects in Africa than the World Bank and provides billions of dollars in lowinterest loans to the continent’s emerging economies. These loans and investments
are typically made in exchange for securing access to natural resources. Based on
its principles of nonintervention and respect for sovereignty, China gives this money
with little or no strings attached. The West, which typically conditions its loans on
initiatives like democracy promotion and corruption reduction, has labeled China a
“rogue donor,” whose actions will be damaging to Africa in the long run. However,
Western aid approaches like conditionality have largely been development failures.
The Chinese model, with no colonial past or explicit political agenda, is a legitimate
challenger to the Western aid status-quo. China is merely the largest and first leader
of a growing cohort of developing countries interested in Africa’s commodities. These
new investors have the option to adopt wholly China’s unconditioned approach or a
more responsible engagement strategy. What all players are beginning to realize is
that ultimately Africans themselves must decide what form they want this increased
investment attention to take.

Introduction
The differences between Chinese and Western development approaches in Africa
mirror long-held theoretical debates in the human rights community. The usefulness or ethics of conditionality, poverty and rights in tension, the trade-off between respect
for sovereignty and principles of human rights—these are all topics that China’s
aid and investment in Africa bring to the surface in the development debate. China provides large cheap loans and grants to African governments in exchange for securing
access to natural resources. Based on its principles of nonintervention and respect for
sovereignty, China gives this money with few or no strings attached. The West, which
typically conditions its loans on initiatives like democracy promotion and corruption
reduction, has labeled China a “rogue donor,” whose actions will be damaging to Africa
in the long run. However, Western aid approaches like conditionality have largely been
development failures. China’s activity must also be viewed as the frontrunner in a much
wider search for energy security and natural resources on the part of many emerging
economies across Asia and the world. What all these players are beginning to realize is
that ultimately Africans themselves are in charge of deciding what form they want this
increased investment attention to take. As Chinese roads and factories begin to dot the
continent in increasing numbers, it is a mistake for the West to ignore what Africa finds appealing in this new South-South approach.

Chinese Aid and Investment Policy in Africa
China’s official policy statement on its trade and aid relationship with African nations states that as a first principle, China “respects African countries’ choice in political system and development path suited to their own national conditions, does not interfere in internal affairs of African countries, and supports them in their just struggles for safeguarding their independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Mutual economic benefit is the main priority of Chinese involvement in Africa, even if
this means ignoring corruption and human rights abuses resulting from the cash flows.
China believes that its successful ‘growth at any cost’ strategy at home can be applied
in Africa, and is not shy about it. “Common sense about human rights and sovereignty
is only one of the common values shared by China and Africa,” says a professor of African Studies in Beijing, continuing, “There is no doubt that China’s success in Africa has partly benefited from it, and those common values have laid solid foundations for further promoting bilateral relations in future.”

Chinese development programs are centered on infrastructure, production, and
university scholarships, rather than programs and social projects implemented by
foreign aid workers.

Whereas the United States Agency for International Development has a close relationship with the Department of State, America’s foreign policy center, most of China’s aid is doled out by the Ministry of Commerce and the China Export Import Bank (Exim Bank), whose central mandate is to strengthen China’s economy.

Its aid approach is closely tied to two national objectives. The first is to secure
commodities such as oil and rare earths for consumption in China. The second is to
support China’s own export-led domestic growth by creating new African markets.

China does not have an official distinction between what is considered foreign …

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China in Africa – What the Policy of Nonintervention Adds to the Western Development Dilemma