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Volume Six Winter-Spring 2011-2012 Numbers 3-4.
THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF CHINESE CAPITAL IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA: IMPLICATIONS FOR GOVERNANCE
Department of Political Studies,
University of Cape Town
Published online: February 10, 2017
China has emerged as the largest investor in Sub-Saharan Africa. Chinese capital has funded numerous projects in various sectors of African economies, especially in the extractive industries. China has also become Africa’s largest trading partner and Beijing’s development assistance has increased significantly. Yet, while the region celebrates the discovery of a new “partner in development”, a debate has emerged about the long-term implications of Chinese investment for governance in the region. Unlike western capital which comes with intrusive human rights and governance-related conditionalities, China de-emphasizes these conditions in line with the principles of the “China-Africa Partnership” and in the process encouraging authoritarian governance. This article makes two central arguments: Beijing’s engagement with Sub-Saharan Africa is motivated more by a preservation of China’s national interest rather than a genuine desire to assist Africa, and China’s current policy of condoning bad governance is a recipe for future conflicts and ultimate retardation of development in the region. The study is informed by the realist approach which sees states as motivated largely by a desire for self-preservation and the protection of national interests in the conduct of international relations. It analyses China’s growing interest and investments in the region and demonstrates that the development of African host economies is tangential to the overriding objective of deepening Chinese influence in Africa in a post-cold war era.