Op-Ed Contributors

US playing different Africa game

Updated: 2011-06-18 09:08

By Li Liang (China Daily)

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was back to her "China-bashing" game during her visit to Zambia, Tanzania and Ethiopia early this month.

She alleged that China's cooperation with Africa does not measure up to international standards, and warned African countries to guard against "neocolonialism". She asserted that China's approach to governance and economic development was not a model that African nations should follow.

Her criticism doesn't hold water, because in her dictionary, international standards are nothing but "Western standards", which come with political conditions - almost all Western aid for and investment in African countries have carried such conditions.

African countries qualify for Western aid only if they meet the requirements set by the United States and other Western powers, which is Western-style "democracy" and "good governance".

The conditional assistance that the West, including the US, offers is actually interference in the domestic affairs of African countries in the guise of humanitarian aid. The West has been doing this for long, which instead of helping African countries develop economically has forced them into a debt trap and sounded the death knell of many an industry in which they were adept.

In contrast, China's cooperation with African countries is built on mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit. This is the reason why China's assistance is welcomed in Africa and why African people have developed an aversion for so-called international standards.

It is widely believed that Clinton hinted at China when she warned African countries against "neocolonialism", although she did not refer to China by name. The truth is that African countries were colonized by Western powers and they fear the return of the West's gunboat diplomacy - the most recent example of which is the NATO bombing of the sovereign state of Libya. Western powers are trying unsuccessfully to shake off their colonizers' image - camouflaging their real intentions with sweet talk.

China has made remarkable progress on the economic and social fronts. It has devised its own path of development and diplomacy, a model that does not force any country, including those in Africa, into submission. And it does not believe in advising, let alone pressuring, another country to follow its path.

It's a different matter altogether that some African countries have begun "looking East" to learn from China's experience. But that is not the same as following the "China model".

For more than three decades, Western countries have prescribed different remedies for Africa's ills but none of them have worked. To some extent, the faith some African countries seem to have in China's style of development is built upon the failure of Western remedies. China's experience has shown and China strongly believes that every country has the right to choose a model that suits their national conditions the best.

Clinton's remarks during her visit to some African countries reflect the narrow-minded view and paranoia that some Western politicians and experts have developed against China and Sino-African relations. It's high time such people updated their sense and knowledge of reality and changed their antediluvian views. Given today's fast changing world, they should reconsider their hegemonic philosophy as well.

Developed countries and emerging economies both have the right to analyze each other's Africa policy, but they should do so with an open mind. The international community can rest assured that China has no reason to seek a unified model of cooperation with African nations. China's only intention is to help African people get the chance to share the benefits of economic development through cooperation with the rest of the world.

The author is an expert in African studies.


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