China’s “Harmony Policy” and Investment Expansion in Africa


Chines Policy and Its Changes

China is a country in East Asia, which has been both superpower and scheming of colonists throughout history. For years this country has been following the “wall” teaching, which means that China has pursued a policy within the Great Wall of China. It has minimized exports and imports. The purpose of all these was to be independent, without relations with neighboring countries. China, however, realized that this policy is not advisable. The analysis is aimed at studying the transformation of China’s policy, as a result of which it has begun to develop relations not only with neighboring countries, but also with remote Africa.

Thanks to the right policy by GDP per capita China occupies the second place in the world. The tremendous amount of cheap labor and the largest population make the country so-called “world factory”. Due to their cheapness, Chinese goods are attracting global markets, creating an impression of global economic expansion. Today many countries seek to cooperate with China which once again proves China’s possible transformation into a regional superpower that will be able to become more influential in global politics. Such forecast is reinforced by China’s economic growth which obviously demonstrate the power of the People’s Republic of China (hereinafter PRC). It is not hard to imagine what results will be in ten years if the development proceeds at the same pace. In this regard, it is important to identify the factors contributing to such rapid development in the country, a country which just a few years ago in many issues was back from leading countries. China has entered the 21st century as a potential superpower, with the communist regime, while the socialist camp had already collapsed. In our opinion, everything is hidden in Chinese mindset and outlook on which the Confucianism had a strong impact.

The Ideological Bases of Chinese Politics

We’ll briefly present the relationship between Confucianism and the PRC’s foreign policy, and in particular, its African orientation. The founder of Confucianism is Confucius who did not leave written works. Later his thoughts were written down by his disciples in the book “Lun Yu.” Confucius was expressing clearly by focusing on achieving social and political harmony, which, in his opinion, would lead to state prosperity. And what is harmony for ordinary people, if not social equality or at least faith?

Just this and a few other preconditions of Confucianism later created a good basis for spreading ideas of Communism, which calls for equality and excludes religious beliefs. Here you can see one of the affirming causes of Communism. In addition, the desire for harmony has always helped the Chinese to fight and achieve goals, even in a chaotic situation. Similar attitudes were also expressed with neighbors. For China, the concept of the current borders (there were only cultural borders) did not exist, which led politician Lucian Pye to assume that “China is civilization, which only pretends to be a state.” China’s relations with European countries have also developed harmoniously. At one time Chinese emperors wrote about Europeans as follows: “We accept them with the principle “who has come with modesty we will be generous to him.” In the 21st century the concept of harmony is again actualized in China’s policy. The reason is that the current Chinese government, striving for stability, is based on the ideas of Confucianism, which makes it possible to resemble stability and harmony. At one time, Mao Zedong, citing Marxism, stated that development was possible in the event of conflict and resistance. The current government, remaining faithful to the Marxist principles, pulled out in the foreground Confucian ideas declaring that harmony in society is necessary for development. As evidence that the confrontation and the resulting harmony have found their application in China’s politics and become a kind of guiding relationship with neighboring countries, it can be argued that in 2009, more precisely, on October 1, at the 60th anniversary of the PRC were the slogans of the following content: “Let us build a harmonious socialistic society and support social equality and justice.” In addition, around the world there is an increase in Confucius institutions.

But the harmony is not permanent, and instead of it the war is revealed. This is the main paradox of Chinese politics: even in war, China seeks harmony. Such conclusion can be reached, referring to the Sun Tzu’s “Composition about Military Art” book, in which the author urges to avoid the acts of war and seek to win by political and psychological methods leaving the war chaos for extreme, desperate situations. That is to say, social harmony is put forward here.

China and Africa

In general, the role of Confucianism in the domestic policy of China is understandable, which implies harmony in all domestic affairs, prosperity of society and country. But how does the Chinese policy held in Africa contributes to the implementation and maintenance of harmony in China? What is the reason for China’s interest in Africa in recent years? To answer this question it is necessary to observe the countries with which China is closely cooperating. According to the economic magazine “Bricks”, the main part of China’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Africa is relatively centered in few countries. In 2003-2007, 70 percent of foreign investments accounted for Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Algeria and Zambia. Now most of the investments are directed to these countries. In recent years, Guinea, Ghana, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia have joined them. Thus, in 2010 about 580 Chinese companies were registered in Ethiopia. Some of these new FDI enters through China’s free economic and trade zones. China cooperates with its African partners in order to open 7 own trade zones: binary in Zambia and Nigeria, and one in Mauritius, Egypt and Ethiopia. This list of countries gives some answers to the question of why China needs Africa. Nigeria is a wealthy country with oil reserves. In 2007, Nigeria ranked 8th place in the world with the exports of oil. The Nigerian quota is 2,244 million barrels a day in the OPEC. South Africa is the most developed part of the continent known for its diamond, gold and other precious mineral reserves. It seems that Sudan is an insignificant country with a bad reputation, but the main source of income inside the country is oil. Sudan has started exporting oil since 1999. When discussing China and Sudan relations, it is important to observe China’s position on the genocide in Darfur. It did not take advantage of its economic power to stop cruel treatment in Darfur and in any way hindered the approval of sanctions presented in Sudan, which, ultimately, is linked to economic interests. Finally China’s fifth ally is Zambia. It’s a country, the population of which is in extremely poor condition. Despite this, Zambia is rich in natural resources such as copper, cobalt, zinc, lead, lead, coal, emerald, gold, silver, uranium, hydropower and other resources.

PRC requirements

Considering China’s allies in Africa from the point of view of economic cooperation, one can conclude that China aspires to Africa’s rich resources. This interest can be explained by several factors. First of all, China’s economic growth rate is important. For example, oil consumption has increased over 40 years, starting at the beginning of the 1960s, more than 25 times. In China there is no resource base, which gradually makes it more dependent on imports. Taking into account the ongoing economic growth, Chinese experts predict that China’s oil consumption will reach annually 710 million tons by 2025.

Interestingly, the same oil and gas can be imported from neighboring Russia and Kazakhstan. However, the government realizes that if it starts importing a very important component of the developing economy from Russia or its ally Kazakhstan, then sooner or later, the economic dependence will turn into a political one, which cannot be said of Africa which does not have such an effect. First of all these countries are far from China and then they have resources, but not political power to be able to influence China. The second aspect is the cheapness of African raw materials. And finally the third aspect, that is the US resistance. In this regard, it will not be unnecessary to observe the US activity in Africa. In 2013, US President Barack Obama visited three African countries, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania, and announced his political plans: he hold a summit of leaders in this area. In the economic sphere, the United States’ annual trade balance with the continent is about $ 85 billion compared to China’s $ 200 billion. In the same year B. Obama has launched the “Food for Africa” program, which aims to enable the African population south of Sahara to use electricity for five years. Thus it becomes clear that the United States strengthens its position in Africa, which China tries to counteract. If China weakens its influence in Africa, it can cause some economic difficulties, which in its turn may lead to increased poverty in some parts of the population.

Chinese State Support System

Referring to Confucius, who said that disharmony emerges when people are poor, one can understand how weakening the impact on Africa will lead to the decline of “harmony policy.” In case of development of such actions, China will have to import resources from neighboring countries, particularly from Russia or Kazakhstan, or which is even more complicated from Latin America. However, this is a separate subject of research. All this proves that the continent of Africa plays an important role for China, from which it is derived the desire to keep the letter under its influence. One of the ways to achieve that goal is state support. In general, the state support program can be implemented in nine ways: providing medical care, organization of trainings and approval of scholarships, humanitarian aid, voluntary activity, providing assistance in the form of debt, support for the country’s budget, aid in the form of imports of finished projects in the area of infrastructure and industry, charity and technical assistance. The history of humanitarian aid has begun since 1950, when there were no official institutions that would oversee the process. Only 10 years later, China established the first state body called “International Economic Relations Office”. It was providing technical assistance and importing ready-made projects to Africa. In 1971, China’s leaders declared that all provinces and major self-governing bodies should create technical and economic cooperative institutions. That is to say, 50-60 years ago, when the political map of the world did not have the existing borders, there was already a socialist camp. China had calculated its policy of several years, the results of which emerged in the future. For implementing the above mentioned projects China State Council is responsible. It affirms the annual budget for international assistance and allocates funds between the Foreign Affairs, Trade, Finance Ministries and Eximbank (Export-Import Bank). Each of these institutions in its size is “engaged” in Africa. Thus, China not only creates political and economic relations with the African continent, but also improves its image and strengthens its international positions.

The Attitude of The World and Africans to China’s Policy in Africa

China’s activity in Africa did not leave indifferent Russia, the West and Africans. Let us first look at the position of Russia. Close relations with Africa have been created already during the years of the USSR, more precisely in the 50s of the 20th century. At that time, there was an active cooperation with many African countries that had just gained independence. Today Russia seeks to restore relations created by the USSR and takes steps in that direction, which is proved by the visit of Russian president D. A. Medvedev to Egypt, Nigeria, Angola and Namibia in June 2009. During the visit to Africa, the Russian President voiced Russia’s strategic orientation towards Africa. Thus, speaking on 25 June 2009 in Windhoek, Namibia, he said: “We are not jealous of our partners in Africa, but at the same time we want to develop our interests here and Russian companies. It is natural from point of view of any state.” D. A. Medvedev noticed that: “Works with our African partners was necessary to start sooner, especially if relations with many have not been broken down and have been developed for decades and become friendly.” During the visits significant interstate and interdepartmental documents and agreements on Russian and African companies were signed. Among them are remarkable the agreement of encouragement and mutual protection of capital investments with all three countries, the terminable program of economic, scientific and technical and commercial cooperation for 2009-2013 and with Angola, documents on the creation of a joint venture between the OJSC “Gazprom” and the Nigerian Oil Corporation and the creation of an “AngoSat” Angolan National Space Communication and Broadcasting System. V. V. Putin is also not indifferent to Africa. On Africa’s Day, May 25, 2015, he declared that Russia is ready to develop bilateral and multilateral political and economic relations with African countries. One can conclude that Russia also joins the race to spread its influence in the African continent. And since there is a conflict of interest, Russia is not indifferent towards China’s African policy.
West’s attitude to China’s policy is a bit different. There are two main approaches. The supporters of the first approach consider this policy to be wrong because it has emerged from China’s egoistic goals, and destroys Africa’s fragile and extreme unstable political system, interfering the economy and political order. In contrast, the supporters of the second approach believe that it is a great virtue, an altruistic step taken by China which with its investments helps the African economy survive and become more competitive. The presented approaches are contradictory in their essence, which does not allow to speak about being right or wrong. Naturally, China does not allocate so much money from its altruism. The state interests are in the first place, which are always above the highest. But it’s also wrong to consider it as an evil one definitely. In our opinion, Chinese politics is the “golden average” of the West’s two approaches.
It is not less important the attitude of the Africans to this question. Let us present some of the common Africans’ testimonies about it. An Andrew from Nairobi said in an interview with the Voice of Russia in London that China is a gift of destiny. He built a high-speed freeway, thanks to which people get to the workplace in 1-2 hours, instead of being blocked for hours. In an interview with “The Economist”, a resident of another African city expressed the opposite opinion: the increase in the number of Chinese in their country and the higher status of Chinese people leads to the fact that women prefer Chinese, which can potentially cause some demographic problems. Another factor that affects the attitude towards China and Chinese is the social one. The coming Chinese are better paid in a foreign country and live more prosperous, which, naturally, causes negative emotions by locals. Some African politicians and historians state that China’s policy is the second colonization of Africa. Although these statements can be contrasted with the words of Zimbabwe president Levy Mvanavasu: “The Chinese government has brought so much development to our country and you are against it?” And this is partly true. On the one hand, China actively uses the locally-employed workforce, creating new jobs, on the other hand, does everything to spread its values in Africa.
Summarizing this, we can conclude that the subtle nuances of Chinese politics in Africa are complete and unique, as well as the country that is implementing it. But the fact is that Africa is a strategically important continent which can contribute to the economic stability of developed countries with resources that have not been used.
It can be said that at present China’s policy in Africa is being successfully implemented, which is evidenced by the rapid spread of Chinese culture, multi-billion investments in the economy and the growth of state support in Africa. Due to successful policy, the Chinese economy also benefits, which leads to the rapid development of the country. Based on the foregoing, one can assert that after a while China will be one of the main players in international politics.
In our view, the current global system makes all countries dependent on one another, and serious changes can lead to a complete collapse of the global regime. Africa also has a place in that system. It is a resource base for many countries. But these resources make Africa an extension tool, not letting the fragile system of African countries to develop. If a country begins to implement monopoly policy in Africa and eliminates all competitors, African resources will become inaccessible to a number of powerful countries. In our opinion this will lead to local wars, where developed countries have to solve issues, but with the hands of the native African population. This means that the second colonization of Africa, especially by China, today is very important in the foreign policy discourse of many countries.


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10.   See: China in Africa – What do Kenyans Think?


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Author: Raffi Tadevosyan © All rights are reserved.

Translator: Anna Zakaryan.