With the Chinese government pumping in aid money to Africa, criticism is arising from its own citizens that the government is spending too much on the continent instead of using it for the benefit of the public.
Aiding Africans vs. aiding Chinese
China reportedly has close to 100 million people living on less than one dollar per day. As such, one would assume that the government’s priority would be the elimination of poverty in the country. However, after reports surfaced that Beijing has been sending billions of dollars in aid to Africa, Chinese citizens started questioning why the government was offering such large amounts of aid to the African continent.
The issue has been a major talking point among the Chinese public and became a hotly debated topic during the 2013 Sichuan earthquake when people suggested that the government should divert funds from their overseas program to help earthquake victims. “This year, we should not give assistance to African brothers. Instead, [the government] should donate to Sichuan,” The Guardian quotes a social media user from China.
And even earlier in 2011, China had gifted Macedonia 23 school buses, a move that irked Chinese citizens given the fact that Macedonia had a higher per capita GDP than China.
Meanwhile, the Chinese government has been running constant propaganda through its media networks on how the aid it gives to Africa helps Beijing to develop a good international image, great clout in the continent, resource security, and so on. But many Chinese citizens still feel strongly that their government should first focus on pulling its own people out of poverty.
The Chinese takeover
Chinese aid has also been termed as “risky” to Africa by several important world leaders. Ex-U.S. President Barack Obama had warned African leaders to be very careful when taking aid from the Chinese government. However, leaders from Africa have generally ignored such warnings and chosen to side with Chinese investments.
“China has helped African nations build infrastructure projects in record time — bridges, roads, schools, hospitals, dams, legislative buildings, stadiums, and airports… a contract that would take five years to discuss, negotiate, and sign with the World Bank takes three months when we have dealt with the Chinese authorities,” The Washington Post quotes a statement made by the 2008 President of Senegal Abdoulaye Wade.
Political experts say that the poverty of Africa is making its leaders accept Chinese aid even though the agreements between China and African nations largely end up favoring Beijing in the long run. A good case in point for Africa to learn from is the South American country of Ecuador.
The Chinese government had given a huge amount of aid to Ecuador since 2009, with the condition that the country had to repay the debt in oil. The result — Ecuador now has a debt of US$7 billion, which is about one-tenth of the country’s gross domestic product. If Africa does not want to be in Ecuador’s position and remain constantly indebted to the Chinese, then its leaders should start being very careful of all the aid and debt that Beijing offers.
And as far as the Chinese government is concerned, it better start taking good care of its citizens before the public gets really angry about sending the country’s money to Africa when there are still millions of poor people in China itself.