Mark Thoma: Economic and political ties between Africa and China

The Economics professor from Oregon University Mark Thoma (Economist's View) presents an interesting article from Mail&Guardian Online about the political and economic ties between China and Africa.

The article outlines two interesting discourses about the China-African relationship. One which emphasises Africa's admiration of China and cosequently close relationship. China is one of the first emerging economies to take center global stage and as such represents an example to follow.

"China has emerged from the -developing south. It is the first country from the so-called marginalised developing fold to occupy centre stage in the global political economy. (...) This has, for many years, shaped China’s relations with countries in Africa and elsewhere and created a somewhat idealistic impression of the distant partner or big brother in the East that is still evident on the continent today."

The other discourse is more critical of China's relationship with Africa and sees the Red Giant as a punter who only maintains a close relationship with Africa in order to have an open tap into the continent's abundant energy ressources and thus a security that will allow the Dragon's hunger to be serviced in the future.

"They are seemingly unaware of the fact that China’s relations with Africa are merely part of a broader strategy of engagement with the developing world, focused on the search for natural resources. Reliable access to resources is essential for ongoing growth and development and is at the core of China’s national interests."

Dicourses aside the articles also reports how China and Africa are perfect partners when it comes to the exchange of services ...

"In 2004, China became the world’s second largest oil consumer (after the United States) and more than 25% of its oil is currently imported from Africa. It is estimated that by 2025 China could account for up to 40% of the world’s metal consumption."

In my opinion the article gives a new perspective on emerging economies and the relative strenght/maturity of the world's economies. Compared to Africa, China has already emerged sort to speak and as reported by the article the relationship is critised for many reasons you potentially could have ascribed to a USA/EU-African relationship. 

The article finishes on a positive note as it points out that Africa might very well learn something by China ...

"Finally, Africa can learn from China’s process of economic development and liberalisation, which has turned it into an investment magnet and one of the most competitive markets in the world. An improved investment climate in Africa will guarantee a reliable supply of resources and unlock vast potential in the labour market."

Perhaps this is true but the African problem has a lot more to it than establishing a climate for investment or put more accurately how to establish a climate for investment is the million dollar question here. I reckon that the "Chinese model" might be a bit too simplistic to put forward here as a solution. But then again, I might be over-intrepreting the article.