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China, Africa, Myanmar and Lanka

Tuesday 18th March 2014 An analyst has commented after reviewing the Peoples epu!lic of "hinas recent economic and political incursions into the continent of Africa that #Africa is "hinas honey pot$ %here else would "hina find political leaders so easy to !uy&'( "hina has over the last 10 years carried out a sustained political and investment push into Africa$ )isits have !een made at the highest political level to several leading African countries* loans+ grants and investments have !een made in logistics and natural resources* and thousands of "hinese citi,ens have migrated to wor-+ to carry on !usiness and trade in African countries$ There has also !een+ at the same time+ large num!ers of Africans visiting "hina on "hinese .overnment scholarships to study+ as well African traders visiting "hina to resource products to e/port to Africa$ 0ne of the 1ustifications for developing the har!our at 2am!antota on 3an-as southern coast was that 804 of the raw materials+ crude oil+ petroleum products and natural gas that "hina imports from Africa and the .ulf countries passes 5ondra 2ead+ 3an-as southern6most point+ the much6discussed 7outhern 0ceans Maritime 7il- oute+ in huge !ul- carrying ships$ %hether they will call over at 2am!antota 2ar!our to refuel+ re6victual+ rest and recreation+ etc$ or use Mattala 8nternational Airport for crew changes+ is of course another matter altogether$ 8t certainly has not happened yet$ 5ou!ts have !een raised whether the 2am!antota 2ar!our can accommodate those humongous !ul- carriers$ 5efence analysts say that the 2am!antota 2ar!our and Mattala airfield would !e vital to locate !attleship groups and fighter aircraft+ if "hina at any time feels that this 7outhern sea lifeline is 1eopardised or under threat from+ say

97 Aircraft "arrier :attle .roups !ased in 5iego .arcia or 8ndian warships !ased in the Andaman 8slands$ )ital lin-s in ;7tring of Pearls strategy 7ecurity analysts have identified 2am!antota 2ar!our and Mattala airfield as vital lin-s in the ;7tring of Pearls strategy !y "hina to develop strategic har!ours and airfield to locate warships and fighter aircraft+ to dominate the 8ndian 0cean+ in Pa-istan+ Maldives+ 7ri 3an-a+ :angladesh and Myanmar$ 0ne wag wondered aloud whether the Malaysian Airlines plane which vanished could have landed at Mattala& "hinese foreign aid has got a !ad reputation in 7ri 3an-a after the ;always !rea-down <orochcholai "oal Power Plant$ There is much hallelu1ah6ing a!out an =TA with "hina$ Analysts are concerned that unless the <egative 3ist is comprehensive to cover all 3an-as import su!stitution industries+ this could !e the death -nell for them$ 8n a radio tal- show recently+ when the news that 3an-a could not find a hangman was !roadcast+ one listener had te/ted in> ;%hy not outsource to "hina' African accusations against "hina To return to Africa+ accusations against "hina flow thic- and fast$ "hinese foremen in factories+ farms and mines overwor- and a!use their African wor-men$ "hinese immigrants are guilty of poaching elephants for ivory and -illing other protected animals$ 8n .hana especially+ the "hinese are accused of illegal gold mining$ "hinese merchants undercut local traders as they flood the mar-et with cheap "hinese goods$ Meanwhile in "hina+ it is estimated that up to 200+000 Africans live in the southern "hinese city of .uang,hou alone$ 7ome "hinese call it the ;"hocolate "ity$ They are in .uang,hou to !uy cheap manufactured goods to e/port to their countries in Africa$ %ithin Africa itself the "hinese .overnment is supporting ?? "onfucius 8nstitutes teaching Mandarin and @astern culture at leading African universities$ There are estimated to !e around 12+000 Africans studying in "hina funded !y the .overnment of "hina$ =rom 201? to 201A "hina plans to !ring ?0+000 Africans on short6term professional training programs to "hina and around 18+000 African students to "hinas universities$ All "hinese6funded construction pro1ects in Africa are !eing !uilt !y "hinese wor-ers+ li-e in 3an-a+ where there are estimated to !e thousands of "hinese construction wor-ers$

<igerias "entral :an- .overnor recently commented that #Africa must sha-e off its romantic view of "hina and accept :ei1ing as a competitor as much as a partner+ capa!le of the same e/ploitative practices as the old @uropean colonial powers$( .overnor 3amido 7anusi reflects the thin-ing of a growing num!er of senior African !ureaucrats who fear that Africas emerging industries are !eing drowned in a sea of cheap industrial products from "hina$ 2e further said> #Africa is opening itself up to a new form of imperialism+ "hina ta-es from us primary goods and sells us manufactured ones$ This was also the essence of colonialism$( 7anusi goes on> #"hina is no longer ;a fellow underdeveloped economy* "hina is the second largest economy in the world+ an economic giant capa!le of the same forms of e/ploitation as the %est$ "hina is a ma1or contri!utor to the de6industrialisation of Africa and thus African underdevelopment$( 7anusi says that Africa must respond to "hinese predatory trade practices such as currency manipulation and su!sidies+ which give "hinese e/ports an advantage$ 2e comments> #The days of the <on Aligned Movement that united emerging nations after colonialism are long gone$ Africa must realise that "hina B li-e the 97+ ussia+ :ritain and :ra,il and the rest B is in Africa not for African interests !ut its own$( :etween Africas 7ahara desert Cin the <orthD and the Ealahari 5esert Cin the 7outhD lie many of the raw materials desired !y "hina6!ased industries$ F04 of "hinese imports from Africa are minerals$ ?04 of Africas imports from "hina are machinery and electrical goods+ te/tiles+ chemicals and plastics and ru!!er$ "hina is Africas top !usiness partner+ with trade e/ceeding 97G 1HH !illion$ 8n .hana+ a crac-down on "hinese gold miners !y .hanaian authorities and local villages hostility has led to the arrest and deportations of "hinese citi,ens$ .overnor 7anusi has since !een sac-ed !y President .oodluc- Ionathan+ for going pu!lic on millions of dollars stolen through <igerian illegal crude oil sales+ which never reached the <igerian Treasury$ May!e .overnor 7anusis independence and outspo-enness !rought ;!ad luc- to President .oodluc- Ionathan of <igeria'& .overnor 7anusi has vowed to challenge the legality of his removal in the interest of defending the independence of <igerias "entral :an-$ "hina and Myanmar

Africans+ "hinese and 3an-ans can draw valua!le lessons from the interaction in the recent past !etween "hina and Myanmar$ As long as :urma or Myanmar as it is now -nown was under as military dictatorship+ the dominant neigh!our was the Peoples epu!lic of "hina$ :oth countries share a long+ lawless !order$ The day6to6day management of relations with <aypyidaw+ Myanmars new capital city+ was delegated !y :ei1ing to the provincial government+ in the neigh!ouring province of Junan and the military command located there$ "hina has insisted that all flights !etween Myanmar and "hina are reKuired to transit Eunming+ the capital of Junan Province+ notwithstanding the fact that there are direct flights from Myanmars Jangon Cformerly angoon+ the earlier capitalD to other international airports in 7eoul+ 7ingapore+ :ang-o-+ 2ong Eong and 2o "hi Mihn "ity$ "hina claimed the first call on e/ploitation of Myanmars natural resources+ which also created resentment$ )illages where the natural resources were located opposed the presence of "hinese managers and wor-ers$ The Peoples 3i!eration Army was highly6influential in "hinese investment in Myanmar and deeply6involved in !usiness ventures and enterprises$ There is a word in international relations which descri!es this phenomenon B =inland6 isation+ how the former 977 dominated =inland and other small neigh!ours$ Today some analysts tal- of :hutan6isation+ how 8ndia dominates :hutan and lords it over smaller 7outh Asian neigh!ours$ 2owever+ when Myanmars military dictators !egan to open and li!eralise their governance and the economy+ !y negotiating with oppositionist Aung 7an 7uu Eyi+ whom they had earlier placed under house arrest and refused to recognise an election which was won resoundingly !y her party+ the ruling generals found the overwhelming influence of "hina stifling$ 0ver time+ Myanmar+ which was a virtual isolated client state of the Peoples epu!lic of "hina+ has today+ opened up its doors and is the target of investors from all over the world$ The domination of Myanmars economy !y its powerful neigh!our "hina was much resented+ during the time of the military dictatorship$ :ut the :urmese generals had no choice$ The %estern world turned its !ac- on Myanmar after the military refused to accept the popular mandate given !y the voters to Aung 7an 7uu Eyi at the last free and fair election held in the country and imposed economic sanctions+ which were crippling$ 0nly neigh!ours with strategic interests li-e "hina+ and to a lesser e/tent 8ndia+ still maintained economic relations with Myanmar$ A7@A< maintained a strategic influence allowing Myanmar mem!ership$ :ut after .eneral Thein 7ein too- over as President and held out a hand of reconciliation to

Aung 7an 7uu Eyi+ the %est reversed its policies and reduced economic sanctions and allowed its entrepreneurs to loo- into investments in Myanmar and access its resources$ The resentment !uilt up over the years against "hinese domination among :urmese military men+ officials and even ordinary villagers+ who were at the !utt end of "hinese arrogance+ e/ploded$ There were pu!lic protests at sites where "hinese investors+ either government+ para statals or the P3A + e/ploited :urmese natural resources+ to which the military government too- a very laid!ac- attitude+ "hina got the message$ The Kuestion !eing as-ed in :ei1ings foreign policy esta!lishment is ;2ow did we lose Myanmar' "hinese dominance At one time "hina was a dominant force in the world$ 8n the 7ung era CFH06112HD+ "hinese had a massive !out of technological innovation+ gun powder+ mova!le type and sternpost were all discovered$ This resulted in a huge surge of economic activity in the 10th to the 1?th centuries$ The discovery and adoption of a variety of rice which permitted two crops a year from well6irrigated land led to massive surpluses !eing produced$ 0n the industrial side+ one scholar estimates within a few years of the !attle of 2astings in @ngland C10HHD+ "hina was producing as much iron ore as the whole of @urope centuries later$ %hen the 8talian adventurer Marco Polo was in "hina at the end of the 1?th century B ;a sort of !lac- stone B coal+ was !eing !urnt for providing heat$ "hinese sailors in 7ung dynasty times already used the magnetic compass$ <aval e/peditions were using huge sea going 7ampans to reach the Persian .ulf+ Aden and @ast Africa in the 1Ath century$ Admiral "heng 2o arrived in .alle in 1410 with a fleet and -idnapped the local ruler and his family and left !ehind a plaKue in "hinese+ Ara!ic+ Tamil and Persian commemorating his visit$ 8t is now in the .alle Maritime Museum$ .avin Men,ies+ in his !oo- ;1421 B the Jear the "hinese discovered the %orld+ says that there is evidence that Admiral "hengs fleet sailed %est from .alle to "alicut and on across the 8ndian 0cean to Malindi on Africas @ast coast and 7ofala near Madagascar and even rounded the "ape$ This was the height of ancient "hinese oceanic power$ Thereafter "hina turned inwards B the limitations of the "onfucian ethos+ the over confidence and arrogance !uttressed !y great resources and remoteness+ made it difficult for "hina to learn from outside$ 8n the early 1Ath century the Ming dynasty !y imperial decree for!ade "hinese ships to sail !eyond coastal waters$ "hinese shipyards lost the technological capacity to

!uild the !ig ocean going 7ampans$ Admiral "heng 2os ground !rea-ing voyages were forgotten$ This vacuum was filled !y @uropean e/plorers who heralded the @uropean colonisation of Asia+ in search of spices$ They were competing with Ara! traders who held the monopoly up to then$ 0n the 8ndian su! continent also there was no large naval power+ compared with the "holas or @ast Asias 7ri )i1aya empires of earlier times$ =rom around 1A00 to the time of the 7econd %orld %ar+ @uropeans dominated the sea lanes of Asia$ =or the ne/t few decades+ the 9nited 7tates of America and the 977 divided the world into spheres of influence$ Iapan+ secure under 97 protection dominated world trade+ the @ast Asian miracle and the crash soon followed$ After the !rea-up of the 7oviet 9nion+ the 9nited 7tates dominated+ until "hina has now emerged$ "hinas rise as an economic powerhouse After the "hinas economy was li!eralised+ allowing private !usiness+ agriculture and animal hus!andry+ and foreign investors were allowed to come into the coastal areas ad1oining 2ong Eong and open up factories for la!our intensive manufacture+ e/ploiting "hinas vast pool of cheap la!our$ "hinas rise as an economic powerhouse was preordained from the day 5eng 2siao Ping unshac-led the economy in 1FLF$ 8ndigenous "hinese capitalism+ re6manifested itself+ last seen+ in the pre6revolutionary days+ in 7hanghai and 2ong Eong+ private !usinesses+ affluent consumers+ humming e/port factories+ stoc- mar-ets which are the darling of investors and "hinese !ureaucrats and officials in !usiness suits+ female consumers in the latest %estern fashions+ a change from Maos tunic$ The "hina price is something no other nation !ased manufacturer can match+ as the 7hanghai and .uang,hou %orld Trade =airs show$ This is slowly changing* la!our shortages due to the now a!andoned ;one child policy "hina+ costs are increasing$ "hina has a!andoned+ 5engs advice ;"hina should adopt a low profile and never ta-e the lead for a much more aggressive international posture$ As "hinas foreign reserves and terms of trade improved and the need to secure raw material and mar-ets a!road+ "hina went further afield to 7ri 3an-a+ the Maldives and even %est Asia+ Africa+ which was a -ey source of raw materials for "hinas industry$ Apprehensions over Asian imperialists There always have !een apprehensions over Asian imperialists$ %ay !ac- in 1F4L+ "eylon+ e/pressed concerns over domination of Asia generally and south Asia specifically+ !y 8ndia and "hina$ The issue was raised at the Asian elations conference held at <ew 5elhi in March6April 1F4L$ The "eylonese delegation e/pressed concerns that small countries in Asia might !e

faced with aggression+ not necessarily political+ !ut economic and demographic+ !y their !ig !rothers li-e "hina and 8ndia$ "eylon was at the time was having a running !attle with 8ndia over the nationality of the 8ndian plantation wor-ers and traders living in the island$ Although "hina had made assurances that "hinese immigrant communities would never see- political power in other Asian states they were resident in+ the su!seKuent history of Malaysia+ 7ingapore+ Philippines+ 8ndonesia and Thailand+ present a contrary story$ The :urmese delegation spo-e of apprehensions of :rown or Jellow e/ploitation replacing %hite colonial e/ploitation$ 8n ancient times there have !een contacts B the earliest recorded mission from "hina to 3an-a too- place during the time of the 2an dynastys @mperor Ping C16H "@D$ :etween the first and 10th centuries+ 3an-as -ings+ it is recorded+ sent at least 10 missions to the Middle Eingdom$ 8n the fifth century the :uddhist scholar =a 2sien visited the Maha )ihara in Anuradhapura$ Archaeological evidence at Anuradhapura+ Polonnaruwa and especially Japahuwa has turned up "hinese artefacts such as ceramic ware and coins !elonging to the 7ung dynasty$ "hinese seagoing 7ampans would have !erthed at .o-anna+ the modern Trincomalee+ and traders would have gone cross country to Anuradhapura to trade with traders from the %est+ Iews+ Moors and @uropeans+ who also came to Anuradhapura overland after their vessels doc-ed at Manthai+ the modern Mannar$ The 7outh %est and <orth @ast monsoon winds would have propelled these vessels$ 5ependence on monsoon wind power+ meant that the traders would have !een compelled to stay in 3an-a during the inter monsoon period+ their prolonged presence would have a su!stantial impact$ Anuradhapura had a separate area for traders+ designated !y royal edict and special ta/es were levied on foreign traders+ at the ports of Manthai+ .o-anna+ and Magampura and in the capital city Anuradhapura$ The pair of guardian lions at the !ottom of the ascent of the stairs to Japahuwa !ears a stri-ing resem!lance to ancient "hinese sculptured lions$ %hatever the ancient history+ how can one discount the u!!er ice Pact+ the :M8"2+ the assistance provided in the war against the 3TT@+ ships+ aircraft+ weapons and armaments+ <0 8<"0s store at :oosa in .alle of TAHs and ammunition+ which were supplied on a paya!le6when6a!le !asis+ the <elum Po-una "entre for the Performing Arts at the former "M" grounds in "olom!o+ highway construction+ 2am!antota 2ar!our+ Mattala Airport+ <orochcholai+ loans+ eKuipment and grants for Maga <aguma+ the =TA in the offing+ support at the 9<"2 at .eneva'

"hinese footprint in 3an-a Today "hina has a huge footprint in 3an-a$ "hinese construction wor-ers have !een issued wor- visas to underta-e construction pro1ects in 3an-a$ =inancing+ in the nature of grants+ concessionary and commercial loans from "hinese 7tate !an-s are flooding the country$ The "hinese construction wor-ers are generally getting a !ad press in 3an-a$ eports of protected animals li-e pangolins+ tortoises and mon-eys+ considered delicacies in "hina+ !eing -illed for consumption+ lac- of adeKuate safety standards+ "hinese wor-er !eing -illed in construction site accidents$+ etc$ turn pu!lic opinion to negative$ 2ow such !ehaviour in Myanmar and Africa led to alienation is a good case study for !oth 3an-a and "hinese policyma-ers$ "hina+ !y its close colla!oration with the military dictators+ !uilt resentment among the :urmese people$ 8n Africa too+ the people are !eginning to see the downside of "hinese investment$ 0verwhelming economic influence+ if not handled sensitively+ can have negative conseKuences$ :uying up leaders is one thing+ support from the ordinary man is something else altogether& =or "hina to !e a positive force in its inevita!le world dominant role+ the sooner these lessons are learnt+ in a peaceful and constructive environment+ the !etter for us all$ "hina is well on its way to dominate the world+ as it did !efore the @uropean powers colonised huge parts of Asia+ Africa and 3atin America and fought the 0pium %ar to force "hina to open up its mar-ets$ :ut Africans and 3an-ans have to realise that "hina has to learn and internalise some hard lessons+ especially from their Myanmar e/perience+ !efore this can happen without conflict$ CThe writer is a lawyer+ who has over ?0 years of e/perience as a "@0 in !oth 7tate and private sectors$ 2e retired from the office of 7ecretary+ Ministry of =inance and currently is the Managing 5irector of the 7ri 3an-a :usiness 5evelopment "entre$D