China, Africa and the USA: Who are the Real Colonialists?
China and Africa have strengthened relations amid growth in imperialist militarism
Author’s Note: The following talk was delivered on August 25, 2012 at a public meeting in Detroit on China-Africa relations and the role of the United States in their attempts to undermine this relationship.
Since the Chinese Revolution of 1949 much has changed throughout the world. The People’s Republic of China in sixty-three years has become an international force with the second largest economy next to the United States.
With the rise of the Communist Party of China (CPC) the historical stage was set for a fundamental break with centuries of feudalism, colonialism and domination by western and Japanese imperialism. In order for the communists to come to power in China it would take a war against internal reactionaries who were backed up by the U.S. and its allies.
When the Korean Revolution took place in 1945 and the subsequent war that resulted from the U.S. invasion of the peninsula in 1950, China would experience the greatest test to the existence of its revolution. Mao Tse-tung sent 500,000 volunteers to fight alongside the people of Korea which played an important role in the consolidation of the socialist revolution in the North which technically is still at war with the U.S. and its puppet regime in the South.
China’s revolutionary period can be generally viewed in three different phases. The seizure of state power in 1949 through the Korean War, the Great Leap Forward and the rise of tension between the CPC and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, then leading the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), could be considered the first phase.
In the second phase, we witness the Cultural Revolution starting in 1966 and extending through the period of the initial dialogue with the U.S. in 1971-72 leading up until the death of Mao in 1976. It was during this period that relations between China and the Soviet Union reached its worst level with the CPC characterizing the USSR as social imperialists.
The current phase would be the full opening with the U.S. through the establishment of diplomatic relations with Washington and the large-scale investment and economic involvement with the West. This began with Deng Xiaoping visit in 1979 under President Jimmy Carter and extending through 2012, where China has become a major player in world economics and politics.
Are we on the verge of another phase in Chinese history? In October 2012, the Communist Party of China will hold its 18th Congress. There will be a new leadership appointed for the CPC with new challenges related to growing military and economic hostility from the U.S. and the ever growing problems stemming from the world economic crisis in the capitalist states.
The African Revolution
Africa has been subjected to slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism for nearly six centuries. The slave system which was begun through the mercantilists and feudalists beginning in the mid-to-late 15th century led to tremendous profits for the rulers of Portugal and Spain.
Later Holland, Denmark, France, England, Germany, Italy and the United States became involved in the Atlantic Slave Trade, colonialism and empire building. Even with the outlawing of slavery and the advent of industrial capitalism, conditions did not improve for the majority of Africans ensnarled in the exploitative system.
Resistance to slavery and colonialism was widespread throughout Africa and the Diaspora. By World War I, African nationalist movements would erupt across the continent and the world.
The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw the rise of the Pan-African Movement with figures such as W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey, Anna Julia Cooper, Amy Ashwood Garvey, George Padmore and others. During the Great Depression when the Italian fascists and imperialists invaded and occupied Ethiopia, Africans in the West and around the world would be awakened to the need for an international struggle to overthrow colonialism, national oppression and racism.
It was during and after the period of World War II that the Pan-African Movement would gain significant strength becoming a mass force against colonialism and imperialism. This era coincided with the advent of the Chinese Revolution of 1949 and the Korean Revolution of 1945 leading into the U.S. intervention in the Peninsula.
When African states began to win national independence the relations between Africa and China grew substantially. China under Mao was a proponent of national liberation struggles in Africa and throughout the world.
Mao’s view of the burgeoning national independence movements were that they constituted firm allies of the world socialist movement. The Communist Party of China saw its role as assisting these anti-colonial
efforts and to encourage the newly-liberated states to move toward socialism and communism.
It is also important to note that during this time period the political differences between the Soviet Union and China would come to the fore. The so-called Sino-Soviet split would cloud the character of relations between China and Africa.
Those liberation movements in Africa would be faced with the task of balancing relations between the world two largest socialist states. In reference to independent African states many maintained relations with both the USSR and China.
In Ghana during the period of the rule of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, a leading Pan-Africanist and Socialist, his government had good relations with China as well as the Soviet Union. Ghana was also a co-founder of the Non-aligned Movement (NAM) along with Tito of Yugoslavia, Nasser of Egypt, Sukarno of Indonesia and Nehru of India.
In Mozambique during the war of national liberation led by FRELIMO, China supplied tremendous assistance but the struggle was also supported by the Soviet Union. In Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) was more closely allied with the Soviet Union whereas the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), which became the dominant liberation movement, received the bulk of its support from China.
In Namibia, formerly known as Southwest Africa, in the early phase of the armed struggle beginning in 1966, the cadres of the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) received their initial training in China. Nonetheless, in later years after the worsening of relations between the USSR and China, PLAN would receive more support from the Soviet Union and the Eastern European socialist states.
In South Africa, the African National Congress (ANC) during its armed struggle would receive the bulk of its support from the Soviet Union and the Eastern European states. However, in the final years of the armed struggle, the ANC would gain support from China as well.
The rival breakaway Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) formed in 1959 was more favored by China. However, as the ANC became the undisputed vanguard of the liberation movement in South Africa, the Chinese government renewed its support during the 1980s.
The Sino-Soviet split complicated African relations with China. For example, the struggle in Angola between the MPLA and the western-backed UNITA and FNLA saw China initially taking the wrong side in the conflict which led to civil war in 1975-76.
When it became obvious that UNITA was being assisted by the South African Defense Forces under apartheid and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), China eventually halted its assistance to UNITA at the end of 1975. China also maintained relations with the Mobutu regime in the-then Zaire (Congo), while the neo-colonial puppet regime supported the FNLA under Holden Roberto, a known CIA collaborator.
However, with the demise of the Eastern European socialist states and the USSR between the late 1980s and 1991, China began to re-engage the African continent more vigorously. This engagement also paralleled the unprecedented levels of economic growth in China due to the opening to the West.
The Characters of the Chinese and African Revolutions
China became a socialist state in early phase of its revolution. Africa being divided by colonialism and neo-colonialism has not been able to unite as a continent since the early days of independence struggles of the 1950s and 1960s. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana was a strong advocate of continental African unity and socialism.
Nkrumah defined Pan-Africanism as the total liberation and unification of Africa under an all-African socialist government. He along with other revolutionary leaders realized that the continent would not be able to develop and achieve the social aspirations of the workers and peasants without unification.
There were numerous states throughout the continent that launched socialist construction during the 1960s and 1970s. Ghana, Egypt, Algeria, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Benin, Mali, Congo-Brazzaville, Madagascar, Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ethiopia and Tanzania all at one point had governments and political parties committed to non-capitalist development. However, the legacy of colonialism, with its partitioned and balkanized political landscape inherited from imperialism would limit the potential for building a genuine socialist system on the continent.
These limitations would become even more obvious with the phenomena of the military coups that swept Africa during the 1960s and 1970s. Many of these coups were directed against the progressive and revolutionary states.
Nkrumah would be overthrown in a military coup on February 24, 1966. After this time period other imperialist machinations were designed to stall and subvert the quest for genuine independence and the rapid escalation of the national liberation of other territories remaining under colonialism.
Nkrumah sought to intervene in the Rhodesia question in 1965 by pressuring Britain to grant independence to Zimbabwe. This process would take another 14 years when in 1979 the British were forced to sit down at the negotiating table at Lancaster House.
The Lancaster House Agreements involving Zimbabwe reflected the dilemma of the independent African states even those which won their liberation through the barrel of the gun. As Mao said, “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun”. However, the consolidation of socialism must come through the organizational efforts of a revolutionary party.
This revolutionary party must be sufficient to address the ideological and political challenges of the period. The challenges are shaped by the material conditions and the prevailing political balance of forces internationally.
In China the need to maintain the vigilance of the revolution created the conditions for the Cultural Revolution. During this period revolutionary movements and mass rebellions were erupting throughout the world, even inside the U.S., the leading imperialist country in the world.
China would open up to the West during the latter years of Mao, and more so afterwards, the Chinese were able to develop their economy under the leadership of the CPC. In this economic development process, China looked to Africa for the supply of resources which were needed as well as trade that was necessary to enhance its economic growth.
The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC)
Since 2000 the relationship between China and independent African states has taken on a more formal character with the formation of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). It is the character of this relationship through FOCAC and other political issues that has drawn the scorn of U.S. imperialism.
The first meeting of FOCAC took place in Beijing in October 2000. Leading figures in the Chinese government including President Jiang Zemin, Premier Zhu Rongji of the State Council and Vice President Hu Jintao were participants along with representatives from 44 African states where Presidents Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo, Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, Frederick Chiluba of Zambia, Benjamin William Mkapa of Tanzania and the Secretary-General of the-then Organization of African Unity (OAU) were present.
The conference in Beijing approved the Declaration of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and the Program for China-Africa Cooperation in Economic and Social Development.
Another gathering was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in December 2003 which enjoyed the participation of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and six African presidents. The Conference approved the Addis Ababa Action Plan for 2004-2006.
The Third FOCAC Summit took place again in Beijing in 2006 that featured President Hu Jintao and 35 African state representatives. President Hu announced $5 billion in loans to Africa and there were eight measures adopted by the participants and the creation of a China-Africa Development Fund to assist investment by Beijing in Africa.
In 2009, the Fourth FOCAC Summit was held in Egypt at Sharm el-Sheikh during November 2009. The Sharm el-Sheikh declaration and plan of action was adopted and the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao attended along with
representatives from 49 African countries.
The most recent FOCAC meeting was held in Beijing in July 2012 enjoying the participation of the top Chinese leadership, six African heads of state and representation from 50 continental states. A new declaration was adopted covering 2013-2015.
China pledged to extend another $20 billion in concessional loans to various African states. The Fifth Summit represented the phenomenal growth in economic relations between the China and Africa.
In an article published by this author it states that “In 2011 trade between the continent and China reached $166.3 billion with exports from Africa to China totaling $93 billion. Products from China are gaining wider distribution in Africa and goods produced on the continent are being made available to Chinese consumers. In reference to direct investment, Chinese involvement stood at $14.7 billion by the end of 2011, a 60 percent increase over a period of just two years.” (Libya 360°)
This same article goes on to point out that “Investment projects are taking place in various sectors of the African economy including energy, mining, construction and manufacturing in addition to greater collaboration in the fields of finance, aviation, agriculture and tourism. This escalation in economic investments has involved more than 2,000 Chinese firms. In regard to project contracting, the African continent is now China’s second largest international market. The inflow of Chinese capital assistance has brought about an improvement in the infrastructural development in Africa.” (Libya 360°)
Clinton Visit Designed to Undermine Africa-China Relations
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to several African states in early August in an effort to shore up relations between Washington and the continent. Her derogatory remarks on China were clearly designed to place a negative spin on the recently held Fifth FOCAC Summit in Beijing.
Yet the U.S. is late and is in no position to lecture to China about its human rights record or other issues. The economic crisis in the U.S. and its abysmal ongoing legacy of racism and national oppression provides no example for Africa to follow.
The establishment of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) has been the cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy on the continent. AFRICOM led the military campaign to overthrow the legitimate government of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and is currently coordinating the war in Somalia to prevent the overthrow of the puppet Transitional Federal Government that is financed by Washington.
China Supports African States Politically
The African states that have been targeted by the U.S. and other imperialist states have been supported by China. The Republic of Zimbabwe and the Republic of Sudan are two examples.
Both states have been brought before the United Nations Security Council for additional sanctions and these measures have been vetoed by China. China has recently been involved in efforts to normalize relations between South and North Sudan.
Political developments in China will be watched very closely over the next several weeks in light of the upcoming 18th CPC Congress. Africa will be keen to see if any changes will impact the growing relations with the African continent.
Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of Pan-African News Wire , an international electronic press service designed to foster intelligent discussion on the affairs of African people throughout the continent and the world. The press agency was founded in January of 1998 and has published thousands of articles and dispatches in newspapers, magazines, journals, research reports, blogs and websites throughout the world. The PANW represents the only daily international news source on pan-african and global affairs. To contact him, click on this link >> Email