Newsletter 7/November 2021

CONTENTS: Posts: Beijing reports boom in foreign trade / Konflikte um das Südchinesische Meer // News: Courting the Bride Africa / Under Observation by the Regional Rival / Kämpfe entlang der Seidenstraßen / Webinar: China and the World // Besprechungen: Patrick Bond, China’s Role in Africa’s Development / Zeitschrift Wissenschaft und Frieden: Chinas Welt? – Konflikte und Kooperation.

Blog posts

Beijing reports boom in foreign trade

China’s authorities report soaring foreign trade figures, despite of the on-going Corona pandemic. A further shift towards the BRI countries is emerging, a trend that plays into the narrative of the ‘Dual Circulation Strategy’ announced this summer. This “new development model” intends, on the one hand, to further enhance the internal economy, while ‘external circulation’ refers to further integration into the global economy through foreign trade and investments. More

‘Mare nostrum’ in Südostasien

Die Konflikte um das Südchinesische Meer

Auch wenn Chinas Ansprüche auf große Teile der südostasiatischen Gewässer historisch und rechtlich auf wackligen Füßen stehen verschärft die US-amerikanische Politik die nationalistische Haltung Beijings und trägt dazu bei, die Konfrontation und die Militarisierung hochzuschaukeln. Insbesondere die kleineren Länder, die stets versucht haben, die Region aus Großmachtkonflikten herauszuhalten, werden gezwungen, sich für eine Seite zu entscheiden. Damit wird ein Forum für eine regionale Beilegung der Konflikte geschwächt. Mehr


Quote of the Month:

When Chinese leader Xi Jinping announced the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), he promised to “promote common development and prosperity so as to bring benefits to our people.” But nearly eight years later, the “people” that have benefited most from the BRI are predominantly men. But if Beijing wants true development to occur, it must recognize and begin closing the BRI’s gender divide.

Hope Marshall, The Gender Gap in China’s Belt and Road. CSIS Reconnecting Asia, August 12, 2021

Courting the Bride Africa

Just weeks before the 8th Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which provides an organising mechanism for Chinese foreign policy towards Africa, kicked off in Dakar, Senegal, on 29-30 November, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken visited Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal on his first official trip to Africa. The timing and his appeal for the ‘preservation of democracy in politically and ethnically fractured societies’ clearly signals that this tour was intended to be part of the ‚systemic competition’ in Africa with Beijing. The present scramble for Africa is being intensified again after there was practically no effort to woo African countries to the US side during the presidency of Donald Trump, who infamously termed African countries s*&!-holes. Part of these efforts is the announcement on November 9, 2021, the US would provide $40 trillion in infrastructure investment that developing countries will need by 2035 and present the first projects to counter China’s Belt & Road in January 2022.

Note: An assessment of the results of the Forum will be posted in early December on

Under Observation by the Regional Rival

The China Chronicles is a weekly web series published by the Indian Observer Research Foundation ORF that explores the rise of China as a global player along multiple axes: political, diplomatic, economic, social, and cultural. It aims to provoke a wider and more nuanced debate in India on the implications of a rising China as it implicates Asia and the wider world.

Kämpfe entlang der Seidenstraßen

Normalerweise würde ein Streik in einer Freihandelszone in Nordserbien keine Wellen bis ins Europa-Parlament schlagen. Doch die Umstände sind schon recht ungewöhnlich: Mitte November machten Proteste vietnamesischer Arbeiter auf der Baustelle für eine Fabrik des chinesischen Autoreifenstellers Linglong Tyre durch ein chinesisches Subunternehmen auf ihre katastrophalen Arbeits- und Lebensbedingungen aufmerksam, Medien sprechen von „sklavenähnlichen“ Verhältnissen. Chinas wichtigster Verbündeter in Osteuropa liefert damit denkbar schlechte Schlagzeilen für die Belt&Road-Ambitionen. Immer zahlreicher werden inzwischen Berichte, wie chinesische Unternehmen internationale Arbeitsstandards nicht nur in Ländern wie Serbien mit autoritärer Regierung und laxen Regulierungssystemen, sondern beispielsweise auch in den USA oder in der beschaulichen Ostalb in Baden-Württemberg unterlaufen und die ‚günstigen Standortbedingungen’ ausnutzen, mit denen Investoren um jeden Preis angelockt werden sollen.

Hinweis: Der Blog des Forum Arbeitswelten berichtet regelmäßig über Kämpfe und über Arbeits- und Lebensbedingungen in Betrieben chinesischer Unternehmen in China und im Ausland.

Belt&Road at the Webinar ‚China and the world’

The Belt &Road Initiative will be one of the six topics in the webinar ‚China and the world’ on December 8, 2021. The six week free introductory webinar series is organised among others by Transnational Institute (TNI), Asia Europe People’s Forum (AEPF), Gong Chao and Critical China Scholars. The first episodes on life in China, on the economic and on the  political system and on social movements can already be viewed on YouTube.


Patrick Bond: China’s Role in Africa’s Development

Opinions about China’s role in Africa are quite controversial: they range from applauding the development of infrastructure as a prerequisite for trade, investment and integration of the continent, whose transport and economic structure are still colonial in many respects, to complaining about exploitation and neo-colonial self-interest.

Patrick Bond is an expert on China’s engagement in Southern Africa in particular. In his contribution, he argues from the position also taken in the book co-edited with Ana Garcia in 2015 ‘BRICS. An Anti-Capitalist Critique’: China – like the other four members of the bloc of emerging economies, BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa) – is essentially ‘sub-imperialist’, “collaborating actively with imperialist expansion, assuming in this expansion the position of a key nation.”

Bond examines China’s role in SADC, the Southern African Development Community, which comprises 14 countries, from Tanzania in the North to South Africa, from Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the West to Mozambique and Mauritius in the East. Most of them are members of the Belt&Road Initiative (BRI), but non-members like Mauritius and the DRC also have close economic ties with China.

A key message is that China’s role is often to exacerbate Africa’s many problems and oppressions, “but not always”. “It is vital to distinguish between functions that may assist the region in autonomous, sovereign self-development, on the one hand, and those that have negative implications for the region’s relationship to the world economy on the other.” Thus, not only South Africa, but many African countries whose exports to China consist mainly of commodities such as coal, cobalt, gold or iron ore, have been hit hard by the decline in Chinese imports over the past decade.

After looking back at how China went from being a socialist country to a ‘sub-imperialist’ power since the late 1970s and classifying Belt&Road as an attempt to find a way out of the crisis of overcapacity and over-indebtedness of many state-owned enterprises, Bond concludes, that “the Chinese state is compelled to reconfigure Chinese capitalism on a much larger spatial dimension so as to sustain the capital accumulation and expansion” – and partially at the expense of countries in the Global South. Among other things, Bond points to direct interventions by the Chinese government in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Angola in the past decade when it disliked policy decisions.

He illustrates this by detailing China’s controversial role in a number of South African mega-projects, most if not all of which he claims are a logical consequence of the corporate/parastatal “mineral-energy complex” that combines political corruption, abusive distribution of economic benefits, social dislocation and ecological damage.

+ The port expansion in Durban (already the largest port in sub-Saharan Africa), which is strongly opposed and regularly protested by the main social movement in the region, the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, because of massive pollution and displacement,

+ the blatant corruption in the purchase by the State Transport Authority of several hundred locomotives destined for the export of 18 billion tonnes of coal from Limpopo Province as part of a $50 billion rail modernisation project,

+ a Special Economic Zone ( SEZ) in Nelson Mandela Bay (formerly Port Elizabeth) with significant tax benefits, representing the largest single Chinese investment in manufacturing in South Africa. The Beijing Automobile Industrial Corporation (BAIC) plant is co-financed by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) of the South African state,

+ a $10 billion Chinese-funded metals processing plant in what is potentially one of South Africa’s largest special economic zones in the proposed Musina-Mukhado economic corridor.

+ and the world’s largest coal-fired power plant under construction (Kusile).

Patrick Bond also reminds us, however, that in contrast to the recent, often negative aspects of China’s socio-economic and environmental activities, as well as to its geopolitical power in Africa, many people in Southern Africa also know adifferent face of China, not only that of the exploitative state and private companies now active in the region.

For example, more than 55 years ago, China’s first premier Zhou Enlai formulated ‘Eight Principles’ for China’s interrelations with Africa. In part, some echo today’s official BRI narrative, such as mutual benefit, no conditionality and no contribution to over-indebtedness, and effective assistance to recipient countries in economic development. In others, differences with the contemporary situation are evident: cooperation, says Zhou Enlai, should not create dependence on China, help the recipient country with projects that require little capital and have a quick return, ensure that the technology provided can be learned and mastered by locals, and put Chinese and local workers, experts and technicians on an equal footing.

Bond hopes for a return to such solidarity: “To be sure, China’s role in Africa has often been honourable, and there are many reasons to admire and offer return solidarity to those forces which have consistently sought liberatory allies in Africa.”

Translated with (free version)

Patrick Bond, China’s role in amplifying Southern Africa’s extreme uneven development. pdf: CADTM, 30 June 2021

Hinweis: Chinas Welt? Konflikte und Kooperation

Trotz des wieder aufgenommenen Gesprächsfadens zwischen der US-Regierung und der Regierung in Beijing bleibt der Konflikt in der indopazifischen Region brisant. Einen guten Überblick über die vielfältigen Aspekte dieser Konfrontation bietet die aktuelle Ausgabe der Zeitschrift Wissenschaft und Frieden.  Behandelt wird unter anderem die „Konstruktion Chinas als Bedrohung“, das militärische Profil Chinas und der Umgang der EU mit dem fernöstlichen Konkurrenten.

Wissenschaft und Frieden 4/2021: Chinas Welt? – Konflikt und Kooperation. November 2021

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