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CHINA: Push into Africa seen as a scramble for state funds


https://www.ft.com/content/0f534aa4-4549-11e7-8519-9f94ee97d996

The evolving China-Africa relationship is not monolithic, but conducted by multiple players with different agendas. On the one hand, there are 54 African countries and, on the other, various Chinese banks, state-owned enterprises, provincial governments, private companies and individuals. “When you look at what China is doing in totality you see chaos, not coherence,” says Minxin Pei, a Chinese scholar, who rejects the idea of a grand Chinese strategy for Africa. Uwe Wissenbach, an expert on Chinese projects in Africa, also cautions against the idea of a Beijing “master plan”. The construction of the $4bn railway from Mombasa to Nairobi was Kenya’s idea rather than China’s, he says. Even though the railway may be extended to Uganda and possibly Rwanda, it is not a Beijing strategy to link east Africa. Rather, it was an opportunistic bid by state-owned China Road and Bridge Corporation for a lucrative contract, he says. The absence of a sweeping strategy does not mean there is no state influence. Chinese leaders have been active in courting African governments. In 2015, Xi Jinping, China’s president, pledged $60bn for African projects over three years despite the downturn in commodity prices. Beijing has consistently encouraged Chinese companies, many with huge surplus capacity at home, to win contracts in Africa. “When the government says: ‘This is the new frontier; it’s lucrative and people should go there,’ then people do go there,” says Mr Wissenbach. Policy directives from Beijing come with cheap finance and an implicit state guarantee should African governments default on loans. Rather than Beijing carving up the world, he suggests, what has emerged is a scramble for Chinese state funds. “In that sense, it is strategic but it’s also very opportunistic

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