By Li Xujiang
Last November, China promised African countries US$3 billion in
preferential loans and US$2 billion in preferential buyer's
credits. During the African Development Bank meeting in Shanghai in
June, China unveiled a US$20 billion package of loans to
These deals have received criticism from G8 members, saying
their large size could put new debt burdens on African countries
and even lead to another debt crisis, and that the loans could
undermine Western countries' debt relief attempts. China's
increasing trade ties with Africa are also accused of undermining
the West's efforts to promote good government and resolve
"It is unreasonable for the West, the IMF, the World Bank or any
other international organization to oppose China's loans to
Africa," Professor Li Baoping, an expert on Africa studies in
Peking University, said.
China is not the biggest lender to Africa. And it has never put
extra terms on loans or put pressure on the paying of debts. Most
of the loans to Africa have been canceled.
For example, China canceled about US$1.4 billion debts to 31
underdeveloped African countries. That would not add to their debt
Besides, China's loans and other aid to Africa mainly go on the
construction of infrastructure, farms, factories, as well as
stadiums, conference centers, hospitals and schools.
These constructions are useful for strengthening the
self-developing capability of African countries, Li said.
In fact, the economy in Africa has improved a great deal over
Statistics show that Africa has been developing continuously for
more than a decade with average annual growth being 5 percent over
the past three years. The IMF estimates Africa's growth is edging
toward 6 percent, its highest in 30 years, and China's increasing
trade and investment help African countries to be more involved in
China is not the only country in the world that has been
providing Africa with loans and aid. So why is it singled out as
endangering Africa with debt woes?
The only difference between China's loans and those of other
countries is that China's loans have no terms attached. That makes
loans from China more attractive to African countries than those
from Western countries or the World Bank.
"We would rather take loans from those who don't set conditions.
In the past few years, this has often meant China," Jeremy
Goldkorn, a reporter from South Africa in China, said.
The loans to Africa from some Western countries and
international organizations have strict conditions and have been
proven unsuccessful in most countries. Years of aid from the West
not only failed to prompt economic growth but propped up corruption
and inefficient governments.
China is becoming closer to Africa than the Western countries
are, and that worries them.
"The Western countries think China has spoiled their efforts to
impose the so-called good government in African countries by taking
away from the West its advantageous position in Africa," Li
What some Western countries do to punish countries that, in
their opinion, have problems with "democracy", "good governance"
can only harm local people without solving the problems, Li
"We must also see that since the independence of these African
countries they are improving, politically. We cannot judge these
countries which have only a little more than 40 years of history by
the West's standards," Li said.
China's aid to and cooperation with African countries are built
on respect, respect for their internal affairs and
self-development. That's also why China is favored by African
"Among African countries' ruling elites, there is a great deal
of enthusiasm for China's involvement in Africa because many people
see China as a development partner that is not tainted by a history
of colonialism, a partner that does not 'talk down' to African
countries," Goldkorn said.
The criticism over China's aid to Africa comes at a time when
China and Africa are enjoying a rapidly growing cooperative
partnership and the economic ties between the two sides are getting
Since the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in 2000,
trade and investment exchanges between the two sides have increased
enormously. China's trade with Africa totaled US$40 billion in
2005, up 35 percent on 2004. It is estimated the figure will
surpass US$50 billion this year and will double by 2010.
The author is a graduate student at Beijing Foreign Studies
(China Daily via agencies August 13, 2007)