Editorial from ROAPE Volume 35 Number 115
Good Friends/Partners: ‘New’ Face of China-African Co-operation
The impetus for this special issue is the inescapable fact of China's growing presence across Africa, as part of China's wider internationalisation strategy. While the growth of Chinese influence was greeted by an explosion of media interest, involving some rather reactionary and ‘knee-jerk’ journalism declaring that China was behaving unacceptably and cynically, the past few years have seen realities on the ground as well as analysis changing.
So, the first reason for this special issue was to collect papers that would reflect this new scholarship. Our second reason was that much of the early commentary was from the US and of the political right and saw China as a direct threat to US interests, which these authors insisted were less self-serving and more respectful of ‘decent’ values. Key arguments here are that China is cynically using development aid to ‘buy’ favours from despotic leaders; termed ‘rogue aid’ by Moisés Naím, the editor in chief of the US journal Foreign Policy.
Moreover, China's blasé attitude to good governance and respect for human rights is treated by the right wing analysts as an extension of China's ‘natural’ way of conducting politics in contrast to the enlightened approach taken by US and its allied donors. These neo-conservative analyses also point out the ways China wilfully flouts labour and environmental laws and then the analysts find the relatively few examples of where Africans have angrily contested China's presence on the continent to prove the venal nature of China in Africa. While this journal and work commissioned for this issue are not here to be apologists for China, we also wanted to collect papers which contrasted to this neo-conservative analysis through a broadly critical approach to political economy.