China – a Blessing Or Africa’s Curse?, an article published by Uganda’s Sunday Monitor, catalogues a range of labour and other abuses for which Chinese companies, both state and privately owned, have been responsible. Examples range from the recent incident at a Chinese owned mine in Zambia, during which 13 miners were injured, to the China Henan Group (Chico) requiring workers in Mozambique to wear a badge with the word escravo (slave) written on it, in what was apparently a case if mistranslation. “Unwittingly,” the article continues, “those badges have turned prophetic of the nature of labour relations between Chinese enterprises in Africa and their employees. From Mali to Madagascar, Kenya to Zambia, workers’ restiveness abounds.”
Reporting like this is regularly written off as the whining of jealous Westerners, unhappy that China is now so influential in places once the sole preserve of former colonists. In a recent interview, Li Anshan, a professor at Peking University’s School of International Studies and head of its Centre for African Studies, said that Western criticism of China’s involvement in Africa is largely rooted in fear, fear which he said is “a consequence of deep-rooted colonialism; they [Westerners, referring in this case specifically to France] feel something that belongs to them is being taken by China.” Not so in this case. China – a Blessing Or Africa’s Curse? was written by Janet Otieno, Jonstone Ole Turana, Saudah Mayanja and Caesar Abangiraha, all of whom are correspondents for the Sunday Monitor.