Chinese ‘investment’ retrogressive

IN her work, Winner Take All: China’s Race for Resources and What it Means for Us, renowned economist Dambisa Moyo describes China as Africa and other emerging markets’ most workable trading partner.

Report by Freedom Mazwi

She further elaborates China is the dominant force in the resource rush and that wherever it goes it has been welcome and often leaves a good impression.

While I agree with Moyo China is the dominant force in the resource rush, I find it extremely difficult to understand her claims that it is friendly and liked.

In tackling this issue, let us zero in on Zimbabwe. It is now three years since China made some major investments in the country’s diamond sector in Marange. Government was forced to enter into a partnership largely because it did not have the required capital to engage in mineral extraction on a large-scale.

Informed by history and the so-called “Look East” policy, Zimbabwe, then a pariah state, found China the best investment partner. However, up to now Zimbabwe is yet to reap benefits from these investments in terms of infrastructural development and revenues to the national fiscus.

Instead of seeing a significant improvement in the livelihood of people as a result of the gains from the diamond industry and social investments, as well as diversification of the economy, nothing has really changed.

The situation is not any different as workers employed in the diamond sector are some of the lowest paid in the mining industry. This anomaly defies logic and contradicts Moyo’s claims that China is a good investor on the continent when it is failing to help boost economic growth, improve employees’ working conditions and salaries.

What is happening in Marange clearly illustrates this point. There has been no development in the area, workers are exploited and dismissed if they complain, showing the Chinese are slave drivers. Most of the Chinese are cruel employers who demand excessive work from the workforces without bothering to improve their working conditions and remunerations.

The Chinese really like cheap labour.

Besides, deals involving the Chinese lack transparency and accountability. Take the Anjin Investments (Pvt) Ltd deal, for instance, it is shrouded in secrecy as to who is actually partnering the Chinese from the Zimbabwean side. And exactly what is the profile and background of the Chinese company involved. Who is actually behind this deal?

Minister of Finance Tendai Biti has been complaining for a very long time that he is not receiving adequate remittances from diamond companies. He cited Anjin as the main culprit. China’s opaque business dealings with dictatorships reveal that it is not interested in the development of the country and communities where it operates from, hence it pays little regard to business ethics, transparency and accountability.

While the Chinese played an important role in the decolonisation process on the African continent, and Zimbabwe in particular, I’m afraid its involvement in the country now is retrogressive as it is only concerned with extraction, not development. While failing to promote development in Africa, China has however successfully helped to prop up repressive regimes which are mortgaging their resources to it.

President Robert Mugabe is on record as condemning any form of imperialist domination and has never missed an opportunity at world gatherings to attack the West for allegedly trying to recolonise Zimbabwe. He has run his oft-bloody election campaigns under the banner “Zimbabwe will never be a colony again”, but has never said anything about Chinese economic invasion of Africa which is proving to be similar and in some instances worse than Western models.

While Mugabe is busy shouting at the West, the Chinese are taking over, extracting and shipping out raw materials, buying companies, building shopping malls and retail shops where workers are being subjected to cheap labour practices and are grabbing assets.

Chinese nationals are now acting in an imperialist fashion by buying communal lands belonging to a number of individuals.

The purchase of farms and communal lands has affected the capacities of affected rural families to engage in farming activities as we draw to the 2012/2013 agricultural season. This arrogant behaviour on the part of the Chinese calls upon their local embassy to make a swift intervention and stop this naked invasion of communities and preserve the cordial relations between the two countries. Government must also stop this intrusion and keep the Chinese in check.

Going forward, the Chinese should start working with the people of Zimbabwe and not just a few individuals for national development. They should go beyond working with a single political grouping or clique as the political environment now points to a changing political order.
This is the reality the Chinese have to wake up to and face because their activities are proving to be retrogressive.
Mazwi is a social, economic and justice activist based in Bulawayo.
E-mail fmazwi@gmail.com

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