Who’s Afraid of the Big, Black Cat?


Opinion

By Mutoni Karasanyi, 25 September 2012

In 1961, Chinese political leader Deng Xiaoping famously stated, “It doesn’t matter whether it’s a white cat or a black cat; a cat that catches mice is a good cat.”

These words marked a pragmatic path towards development, later resulting in nearly 30 years of economic growth of over 9 per cent, and most importantly, raising 400 million people out of poverty. As economist Jeffrey Sachs put it, “China is the most successful development story in world history.”

As the American presidential race heats up, this week both candidates have boasted about their anti-China efforts, while criticizing their opponent’s record for ‘losing’ American jobs to China. As economists argue about not if, but when (whether 2020 or 2030), China will overtake the US as the world’s largest economy, politicians have, once again, manipulated Americans’ fears for their own political gain.

While many intellectual leaders, such as Thomas Friedman in his book “The World is Flat,” have encouraged Americans to focus on higher-paying, more innovative industries (finance, IT, software, etc.), the more common debate is over how to protect American farmers and factory workers from global competition. It’s ironic, therefore, that President Obama’s WTO case against China is over their protectionist policies.

Let’s be clear though. America’s growing fear of China has to do with much more than jobs, and involves maintaining their influence over the hearts and minds of people around the world. As an article in TIME magazine aptly stated, “China is not just competing with the U.S. in world markets, but offering up an entirely different economic and political system, one that at times seems better at creating growth and jobs… China is succeeding based on ideas that Americans despise.”

Nowhere has this ideological battle been more exaggerated than on the African continent, where China has already overtaken the US as Africa’s largest trading partner, with a trade volume of over $166 billion in 2011.

Western observers increasingly warn African leaders to be wary of China’s intentions and do more to capitalize on their investments. However, those on the ground have broken away from this false narrative to report on the ‘win-win’ partnerships China has forged through mutual respect and trust.

Currently, China is the largest, foreign owner of America’s debt, with over $1.3 billion (8 per cent) in US treasuries; yet, no one seems worried that China will begin influencing American politics. However, when China constructed a building for Rwanda’s foreign ministry in 2009, President Kagame was questioned about China’s influence by Fareed Zakaria; to which he replied, “If they have control over our foreign policy, it will be our failure… We should be free to transact business that is in the interests of Rwanda and those we transact business with. And it doesn’t matter where they come from!”

Indeed, whether in US dollars or in Chinese renminbi, an investment towards development is a good investment. When China builds shoe factories in Ethiopia, no one cries about ‘losing’ Chinese jobs, because they help make Chinese firms more competitive, just as Chinese factories have enabled American companies for decades. Thus, rather than illuminating China’s political intentions, the western pessimism towards China-Africa relations has only reflected its own political perspective. It all reminds me of another quote, this time by Marcus Aurelius, “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”

 

 

Source: The New Times

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s