China and the West are heavily competing about access to Africa, if we may believe many media reports. But that is a gross simplifications of what is really going on, says author Howard French, China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africain the Mail&Guardian.
The widely covered United States-Africa Leaders Summit earlier this month led to talk of the US awakening to the “threat” of China’s advance into Africa, and how Washington will have to play catch-up, with the $33-billion headline investment figure announced by President Barack Obama being compared with the figures linked to Beijing in recent years.
This perception is a “gross oversimplification”, says Howard French, the author of China’s Second Continent, an eye-opening book that details how a million Chinese migrants are building a new empire in Africa.
The idea that China’s big recent successes – which have led to the “Look East” policy that is a favourite of African leaders – have come at the expense of the West are largely untrue, French says in an interview with Chinaherald.net, citing the way in which the global economy is segmented and increasingly specialised.
“The goods that China is selling are generally not mainstays of Western commerce any more,” says French.
“I would also say that China has large, inherent competitive advantages in infrastructure and public works, because of the scale of infrastructure building in China, and because of the low cost of capital there, and that much of the business it is winning in Africa in this sector isn’t so much being taken away from anyone as it is being allocated rationally.”