Eric Olander and Cobus van Staden are the duo behind the China Africa Mission and hosts of the favored China in Africa Podcast. We’re right here to reply your most urgent, puzzling, even politically incorrect questions, about all issues associated to the Chinese language in Africa and Africans in China.

Relying on who you converse with, China’s engagement in Africa is commonly described in excessive phrases as both the best thing to happen to the continent within the post-colonial period or simply the latest foreign predator coming to pillage Africa of its sources. With China’s presence in Africa now stretching throughout nearly all 54 countries the place an estimated 1 million Chinese language immigrants now stay and lots of of billions of move in annual commerce and funding, the connection between these two areas is extraordinarily sophisticated.

So when critics wish to showcase the destructive penalties of China’s presence in Africa, there are numerous examples of labor abuses, illegal logging and wildlife buying and selling, corruption and so forth. Moreover, low-cost Chinese language imports are inserting big strain on African companies, which now must compete at a lot decrease costs. Then there are the human rights issues the place Chinese language firms have been accused of exporting gear used for torture, weapons despatched to unstable international locations or technology for repressive governments.

Zacharias Abubeker/Getty Photos

Ethiopian staff contained in the Huajian shoe manufacturing facility on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. Many Chinese language firms together with Huajian, which has made sneakers for Ivanka Trump’s line, have moved to Africa, the place labor is less expensive.

Whereas the negatives are legitimate and well-documented, they solely inform a part of the story. The constructive facet of Chinese language engagement in Africa is equally compelling. The actual fact is that whereas many individuals complain about how China’s huge infrastructure constructing increase in Africa is being constructed and financed, to not point out concerns about quality, cash from some traditional donors in the West is drying up. African governments actually shouldn’t have loads of choices in the case of financing billions of in quite dangerous infrastructure initiatives. So the hundreds of miles of new rail lines, new digital networks, hospitals and ports which are being constructed wouldn’t have occurred on wherever close to the size with out the assist of the Chinese language.

Beijing’s dedication to African infrastructure improvement is a central a part of the federal government’s “win-win development” agenda, additionally a key message in its propaganda marketing campaign that emphasizes China’s “peaceful rise” to superpower standing.

So is China a accomplice or predator? The brief reply, in accordance with quite a few main Sino-African students, is that this huge complicated relationship isn’t binary and can’t be decreased to both “good” or “unhealthy.”

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters

China’s President Xi Jinping shakes palms with Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe whereas South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma seems to be on through the Discussion board on China-Africa Cooperation in Johannesburg, Dec. four, 2015.

It’s the similar in Africa as it’s for China’s relations with different areas: “Each approaches supply oversimplified understandings of the complicated interplay among the many financial, geopolitical and safety dimensions of China’s relations with the remainder of the world,” mentioned Matt Ferchen from the Beijing-based Carnegie-Tsinghua Heart for World Coverage in a new paper on the notion gaps surrounding China’s financial and army rise.

Matt joins Eric & Cobus ― within the podcast above ― to elucidate why he thinks views in regards to the Chinese language are so polarized in Africa and elsewhere and what impression the Trump revolution in america can have on China’s engagement in Africa.

Be a part of the dialogue. Do you assume China is making a constructive contribution in Africa or do you are feeling that Beijing is solely following the abusive instance set by the continent’s former imperial powers? Share your ideas:

Twitter: @eolander | @stadenesque