China’s relationship with various African countries has become the latest focus of public scrutiny. The question of the China’s presence in Africa has gone beyond just economics and trade, but there are questions and objections over the social and cultural space that China seems to be entering. Why are some African governments giving the Chinese so much space in the various institutions? In Port Elizabeth, South Africa, the 13th centre of the new Chinese Community and Police Co-operation Centre, was recently opened. The 3rd term opening of the Chinese language training programme was also recently celebrated.
While the British have the British Council to promote English and their culture, the French have the Alliance Francais, the Germans have Goethe Institut and now the Chinese have started opening centres all over the continent, not much can be pinpointed as to what African countries are doing to promote their cultures and languages.
The Provincial Commissioner, Lieutenant General Liziwe Ntshinga in her address said, “My confidence is also derived from the long term economic relations our country has with the Republic of China. With the strengthened and deepened relationship between South Africa and China, the (South African Police Service) SAPS has benefited by finding its role in order to further the existing relationship within the police and the Chinese community. On the other hand, this relationship has also found its expression in the educational programs involving our police members. I congratulate the Chinese community for the noble initiative established in the Province and Clusters in Port Elizabeth. I celebrate with you, the opening of the New Chinese Community and Police Cooperation Centre as well as the 3rd opening of the Chinese Language Training Centre.”
The Councillor (Police) of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Pretoria, YU Yuan included in his speech that the Chinese community will be model citizens for abiding to the laws of this country. They have pledged to support the police members and encouraged the police and the Chinese people to work together to build safer communities.
China’s curious presence in Zambia
While the Chinese have been welcomed in many parts of the continent, including Zambia where the state owned newspaper Times of Zambia ran a story in Mandarin, a lot has not been put into perspective. Where does Africa stand to benefit from all the relationships culturally? Can South Africa open a South African centre in China? In December last year, Zambia’s police welcomed new Chinese reservists. According to the Zambian Observer, “The People’s Republic of China requested that a Chinese police force be formed in Zambia to protect its assets, including ZESCO, and to help with tax collections. We have now been reliably informed that half of the property taxes we pay when selling our houses are paid to the Chinese government.”
In Djibouti, China has built a military base. According to the East Asia Forum, the presence of the Chinese Navy was to protect the Chinese interests in Africa. The forum stated: “By 2017 the amount of crude oil exported by ship to China from Africa and the Middle East had grown to 5.25 million barrels per day (62 per cent of China’s total crude oil imports) — up from 2.88 million barrels per day in 2008. China’s capital exports to Africa are on the rise as well. China’s stock of overseas direct investment in Africa more than doubled between 2011 and 2015 from US$16 billion to US$35 billion. China also extended loans totalling US$63 billion to African nations for power, transport and other projects over the same period.”
With Africa as a focus point for many foreign countries, how does Africa protect its interests and that of its people? This is the major question all Africans and their governments must answer.