What is going happening with Corona? China’s “Carrot and Stick” against Africa

What is going happening with Corona? China’s “Carrot and Stick” against Africa

https://ironna.jp/article/14878?p=1

Yasuki Shimomura (Freelance Journalist)

 In mid-April, the media around the world reported that discrimination against Africans was spreading in Guangzhou, China, in connection with the new coronavirus.

 It all started with a video of African residents and international students asking for help, saying that they were being refused entry to restaurants and other establishments, evicted from their apartments, and forced to live on the streets because of their African descent. According to Chinese media, it was triggered by an incident in which a Nigerian injured a nurse at a local hospital and fled to escape testing for the new coronavirus.

 Guangzhou, which has been making efforts to suppress the virus, is wary that the virus brought in from abroad could trigger a second wave of outbreaks, and has been stepping up inspections of foreigners. In particular, all of the approximately 4,500 people whose were from African countries were forced to be tested, regardless of whether they had traveled outside the country or not.

 The video was sensationalized by many media outlets and spread widely via membership-based social networking sites (SNS), and became a major global issue, with African celebrities issuing statements that they were coming to the rescue. As a result, McDonald’s, which had put up a “No Africans Allowed” sign in its stores, apologized, and the Chinese government’s ambassador to the African Union (AU) posted an apology on the AU website.

 On the other hand, in Africa, discriminatory acts against oriental people were reported immediately after the first cases of the disease were reported on the African continent. Videos of Asian women being scorned by local people were posted, and cabs refused rides to Orientals. Many Orientals, including Japanese, were apparently shouted “Corona, Corona” in the streets.

 Many of the countries are currently under lockdown, so there does not seem to be much trouble, but some diplomatic missions abroad have issued warnings to be aware of prejudice against Asians.

 Some diplomatic missions abroad have issued warnings to be aware of the prejudice against Asians. The public condemnation of the persecution has stopped with the arrest of those involved. However, on the citizen level, the situation has not yet calmed down, as the website of a famous blogger living in China, who has a Congolese father and a Chinese mother, has been flooded with slanderous comments such as “Go back to Africa.

A passenger rides the subway wearing a mask in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China, February 2020.

 The first case of the new coronavirus in Africa was confirmed in Egypt on February 14. Since then, the number of infections has continued to rise, albeit more slowly than in other regions, and as of April 19, the total number of infections in all 54 countries was 21,317, with 1,080 deaths and 5,203 people recovering (there were no infections in Lesotho and Comoros).

 African countries with weak medical systems and social infrastructure reacted quickly. In late March, when the spread of the disease began to be feared, many countries closed their borders except for the transportation of goods, and restricted the movement of people by imposing lockdowns and curfews under the control of the military and police.

 On the other hand, there was a serious shortage of medical supplies, which led to calls for assistance from countries around the world. Jack Ma, founder of the Alibaba Group, China’s largest e-commerce company, responded to these calls by announcing that he would send the supplies to 54 African countries via Ethiopia.

As soon as March 22, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy announced on Twitter that 1.1 million sets of test kits, 6 million masks, and 60,000 protective suits had been delivered. 500 respirators, 200,000 protective suits, 200,000 face shields, 2,000 non-contact thermometers, 1 million sets of test kits, and 500,000 gloves were sent by Alibaba Group on April 6. On April 6, Ma reported on Twitter that Alibaba Group had sent 500,000 respirators, 200,000 protective suits, 200,000 face shields, 2,000 non-contact thermometers, 1 million sets of examination kits, and 500,000 gloves, and on April 20, he announced that a third batch would be sent.

 Ethiopia is also the home country of Tedros, the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), who has been accused by the international community, including President Trump of the United States, of mishandling the initial response to the disease by playing favorites with China,

 Ethiopia’s official name is the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, and its predecessor was the Ethiopian Empire, which lasted about 700 years from 1270. Due to political upheavals, the country changed its name to Socialist Ethiopia, then to People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, and finally to Ethiopia in 1995.

 Strictly speaking, Ethiopia was under Italian rule from 1936-41, but it is said to be the only country in Africa that has never been colonized, and the people are very proud of that.

 Relations with China began in 1970 with the establishment of diplomatic relations during the Ethiopian Empire. Although there was a period of estrangement due to the Sino-Soviet conflict, Ethiopia has continued to receive support from China in a wide range of areas, including various infrastructure such as roads, power plants, and dams in the country, and the construction of the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, the capital, with China paying the entire construction cost of about US$200 million.

 The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which began in Beijing in 2000 and is attended by the heads of state and government of African countries, also selected China as the site of its second meeting in 2003. In this way, the importance of Ethiopia in China’s African policy became clear.

 In terms of securing resources, Ethiopia’s geographical importance is also very high. Ethiopia borders seven countries: Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, Djibouti, Somalia, Eritrea, and Somaliland, which is part of Somalia but is effectively an independent state.

 Of these, only Kenya and Djibouti have relatively stable political conditions, and Ethiopia’s stability and development is essential for getting resources from landlocked Sudan and South Sudan to its ports.

 At the same time, China accounts for 17% of the country’s foreign debt, or debt to the government, and Ethiopia imports US$2.538 billion from China while exporting only US$304.5 million, resulting in an import surplus of US$2.193 billion (about ¥241.2 billion). In response to the new coronavirus, the country has also requested US$1.6 million in assistance from the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

 Recently, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warned that a second wave of locust attacks by the Saber-toothed Grasshopper, which wreaked havoc across East Africa about a month ago, is expected. About 20 million people in the affected areas are already in a serious food crisis, but experts say it could be 20 times larger than the first wave.

In addition to the stagnation of economic activity caused by the new coronavirus, with restrictions on movement between countries, a major famine could cause a major collapse of stability in the East African region, including Ethiopia.

 One of the most obvious manifestations of China’s influence in Africa is its trade volume. According to data from the UN Statistics Division, China’s imports and exports with African countries since 1992 are as follows

Imports

1992 $490 million (61.7 billion yen)

2018 $80.34 billion (8.33 trillion yen)

Exports

1992 $1.26 billion (¥158.76 billion)

2018 $104.95 billion (11.5445 trillion yen)

Calculated using 126 yen to the dollar for 1992 and 110 yen to the dollar for 2018.

 In the 26 years since 1992, the year for which data is available, imports have increased dramatically by about 164 times and exports by about 83 times. Naturally, the country is gradually switching its import settlement currency from the U.S. dollar to the renminbi.

 Japan, ahead of China, launched the first TICAD (Tokyo International Conference on African Development) with African countries in 1993. Although Japan has increased its presence in Africa, it has completely stagnated in terms of trade.

Imports

1992 857.8 billion yen

2018 991.3 billion yen (about 1.2 times)

Exports

1992 461.6 billion yen

2018: 9001 billion yen (about 1.9 times)

 The expansion of influence is not limited to the economic front.

 It is still fresh in our minds that in 2017, China established its first overseas military base in Djibouti, East Africa, where the Japan Self-Defense Forces is also based to respond to the threat of piracy off the coast of Somalia. In the background, China is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and the largest contributor of troops, with more than 2,000 personnel constantly deployed as part of U.N. peacekeeping operations (PKOs), and it has publicly stated that it will “protect peace and stability in Africa,” which is also a good cause.

Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono (second from the right in the back) addresses the “Special Meeting on Cooperation in the Western Indian Ocean” held in conjunction with the luncheon of the Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) at a hotel in Yokohama City in August 2019.

 On the other hand, China’s presence in the arms trade is also increasing. According to the U.S. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), China’s arms exports to Africa since 2008 have been the third largest after Russia and the United States, amounting to about US$3.2 billion (352 billion yen).

 On the soft side, there has been widespread rooting to gain support from military personnel. It has strengthened its influence by inviting military officers and above to its country and providing them with training opportunities for several months.

In addition to the stagnation of economic activity caused by the new coronavirus, with restrictions on movement between countries, a major famine could cause a major collapse of stability in the East African region, including Ethiopia.

 One of the most obvious manifestations of China’s influence in Africa is its trade volume. According to data from the UN Statistics Division, China’s imports and exports with African countries since 1992 are as follows

Imports

1992 $490 million (61.7 billion yen)

2018 $80.34 billion (8.33 trillion yen)

Exports

1992 $1.26 billion (¥158.76 billion)

2018 $104.95 billion (11.5445 trillion yen)

Calculated using 126 yen to the dollar for 1992 and 110 yen to the dollar for 2018.

 In the 26 years since 1992, the year for which data is available, imports have increased dramatically by about 164 times and exports by about 83 times. Naturally, the country is gradually switching its import settlement currency from the U.S. dollar to the renminbi.

 Japan, ahead of China, launched the first TICAD (Tokyo International Conference on African Development) with African countries in 1993. Although Japan has increased its presence in Africa, it has completely stagnated in terms of trade.

Imports

1992 857.8 billion yen

2018 991.3 billion yen (about 1.2 times)

Exports

1992 461.6 billion yen

2018: 9001 billion yen (about 1.9 times)

 The expansion of influence is not limited to the economic front.

 It is still fresh in our minds that in 2017, China established its first overseas military base in Djibouti, East Africa, where the Japan Self-Defense Forces is also based to respond to the threat of piracy off the coast of Somalia. In the background, China is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and the largest contributor of troops, with more than 2,000 personnel constantly deployed as part of U.N. peacekeeping operations (PKOs), and it has publicly stated that it will “protect peace and stability in Africa,” which is also a good cause.

Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono (second from the right in the back) addresses the “Special Meeting on Cooperation in the Western Indian Ocean” held in conjunction with the luncheon of the Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) at a hotel in Yokohama City in August 2019.

 On the other hand, China’s presence in the arms trade is also increasing. According to the U.S. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), China’s arms exports to Africa since 2008 have been the third largest after Russia and the United States, amounting to about US$3.2 billion (352 billion yen).

 On the soft side, there has been widespread rooting to gain support from military personnel. It has strengthened its influence by inviting military officers and above to its country and providing them with training opportunities for several months.

 As the relationship between China and Africa has deepened, the number of Chinese immigrants to Africa has continued to increase, and it is said that the number has now reached one million. With the increasing involvement of Chinese products and Chinese people in the lives of African people, I feel that the image of Chinese people has been divided into three main categories.

 The first is the “high supporters” who can enjoy various benefits, such as politicians, wealthy people, and high-ranking military personnel. Then, there is the “middle class” that benefits from “Made in China” in terms of infrastructure and daily life. And then, there is the “rebellious” group that is antagonistic towards Chinese workers because they have lost their jobs to them.

 What made me feel the change was the greetings and teasing from strangers on the street. In the 1990s, when the image of Asian people as kung-fu movies was strong, people would always say “Jackie” (Jackie Chan) to me in any country.

 From around the year 2000, the names “Nakata” and “Nakamura” were used, and in the 2010s, “Kagawa” and “Honda” were used, followed by the names of Japanese soccer players playing for big European clubs.

 However, around the mid-2000s, I started to be called “China” more often. Then, after 2010, I started to hear the word “Chino”.

 The word “chino” has a derogatory connotation towards Oriental people, including Chinese. In many cases, especially when used by adults, it carries a malicious intent.

 I have a friend who used to be a great admirer of China in the 2000s, but then lost his job to a Chinese company that was cozying up to a government official, and then turned “anti-Chinese” when the goods he ordered from mainland China did not arrive even after payment was sent. The dissatisfaction of such rebellious groups exploded all at once and was delivered to the world as the voice of Africans, which is probably the issue of discrimination against Africans this time.

 Before the outbreak of the new coronavirus, Africa’s economic growth rate was expected to exceed 4% in 2020, but it is likely to fall far short due to the closure of borders and the suspension of economic activities. Depending on the timing of the end of the crisis, stagnation may continue for several years.

 Nevertheless, Africa, with a middle age population of 19.7 years and a population that is expected to reach 2.5 billion by 2050, is a market that China can expect to grow in the future, and it will continue to be important as a stable source of resources. The key to this will be how to control anti-Chinese sentiment, starting with the reactionary class.

Children line up for food rations in Cape Town, South Africa, April 21, 2020 (AP)

 African countries are expected to be hit hard by the new coronavirus. Many of these countries are already heavily influenced by China in all areas of politics, economics, logistics, intelligence, and military affairs.

 If China provides enough support to drown out the anti-Chinese voices exposed by the recent discrimination against Africans, Africa will become China’s sole domain in the “after-corona” world. It will be interesting to see whether China’s next move toward Africa will be a carrot or a stick.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *