Enter the Dragon

My friend just left earlier today on a 2 week trip to China. By coincidence, I heard some interesting news about China as I did my laundry this afternoon.

China has always been a friend to Cambodia, though admittedly that has been an occasionally fickle friendship. Since China’s rebound from their Cultural Revolution, they’ve been giving aid money and more recently investing in the Cambodia economy and infrastructure. Last year it is supposed that China gave/is giving over a billion US dollars in aid to Cambodia. This dwarfed all aid given by other countries, though there is much skepticism about “actual amounts given” since China is, uh, less than transparent about these things.

Cambodia is not the only country being courted by China for investment, though. Much investment of Africa is well underway, including within Zambia. Evidently China often brings its own workers to Zambia, which work on projects such as mines in addition to local workers. Part of the problem of Chinese workers in Africa means lower wages for Africans– a dollar a day, in some cases in Zambia. A panelist from The Independent (London newspaper) who was hosted by the BBC suggested that tensions between the Chinese and Zambians is exacerbated by miscommunication– that is, hardly any Chinese speak African languages, yet they go to work there. It was suggested that the solution to this problem was to teach Zambians Chinese– in fact, China may be doing just that.

As if the “Western World’s” affront on indigenous regional cultures wasn’t enough, China is jumping on the bandwagon. Also, if anyone still thinks China is Communist, one only need look at their outrageous capitalist exploitation of “inferior” countries. Cambodia (or, more accurately, its Prime Minister) continues to sell off natural resources and land rights to China for practically nothing (short-term gains and points scored with China), despite the fact that much of said land and resources are publicly owned and therefore it is ILLEGAL that one person in the RGC can make such decisions without democratic vote. Sounds a little bit like a dictatorship, doesn’t it?

Oh yeah, one more Africa-China thing: probably you heard that the Dalai Lama could not obtain a visa to give a peace speech on his friend Desmond Tutu’s birthday in Cape Town, South Africa. Tutu was PISSED. Listening to a sound bite of his press conference on the BBC actually scared me– it also filled me with empathetic anger. He spoke wrathfully of his government’s caving to Chinese pressure, going against everything that the new anti-apartheid government supposedly represents. Tutu described China’s oppression of Tibetans as “vicious”, and went on to denounce the ruling African National Congress’ actions as not representing him. Very powerful. You can also watch sound bites from the speech on youtube.

 

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