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Hungry For Oil, China Goes To Africa, But There Are Risks And Resistance


Resource-rich African countries are pushing back to a greater extent than ever before against the Chinese companies and workers extracting those resources. From Gabon to Chad to Niger, China is heavily engaged in mining African minerals and raw materials. Sketchy African regimes appreciate China’s hands-off approach and lack of concern about local politics. But just as they once decried Western imperialistic attitudes and resource-grabbing, now African governments of every ilk are turning their ire on China.

To take one example from Adam Nossiter’s article in the New York Times, an auditor hired by the Nigerien government found “bloated costs and unfair charges” by a Chinese national oil company operating in the country. The discovery of these and other transgressions has cost Chinese companies millions of dollars and at times has halted operations.

Africa is not the only place where this seems to be happening more often. Local protests forced the suspension of construction of the Myitsone Dam in Burma and precipitated a chill in relations between the once-close Burmese and Chinese governments that continues to this day. In central Asia, the Economist reports this week, “Chinese contractors are flooding into Central Asia…[while] millions of unemployed men [are] leaving for Russia to look for jobs.” “Central Asia’s governments see China as a wealthy and willing partner,” warns a researcher at the International Crisis Group, “but on the ground little is being done to ease tensions between Chinese workers and their host communities.”

As China’s domestic resources and those in its near neighborhood get used up at a faster and faster pace, Beijing is forced to go farther abroad to get what it needs to continue the country’s development. This is an increasingly difficult thing to control, as we saw when 35,000 Chinese citizens had to be evacuated from Libya in 2011, the largest such operation ever organized by the Chinese government. It’s unlikely to get easier as time goes on.

[Oil pipeline photo courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • Loader2000

    Chinese were ruthlessly exploiting the workforce when I was in Zambia 2 years ago. A lot of the factories and building operations were run by Indians 10 years ago. Then the Chinese came in and started putting the Indians out of business by paying the workers at their African factories even less. You even had to watch yourself on some rivers because at times, the Chinese would be dynamiting, and you had no idea it was going on until the rocks next to your boat exploded and huge boulders came raining down everywhere. The only way the Chinese got away with these things was by paying bribes to the government officials in charge of approving the projects. Perhaps I am exagerating a little bit, but not much.

  • lukelea

    Maybe I’m mistaken, but if I were a Central Asian country I would be very worried about my Chinese neighbor, particularly if (and when) it turns out China’s economy is not immune to economic contractions.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Kleptocracies are the only places which will allow the Chinese to develop their resources, and once developed will demand an ever increasing ransom, until they just nationalize the business.

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