Uncovering African Agency: Angola's Management of China's Credit Lines

Uncovering African Agency: Angola's Management of China's Credit Lines

Lucy Corkin

Language: English

Pages: 258

ISBN: 1409448657

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

China's engagement in Africa is generally portrayed simply as African countries being exploited for their mineral wealth by a wealthy political and economic superpower. Is this always the case? Certain African countries have been able to use China's involvement in the region to grow their economies and solicit renewed interest from previously disengaged foreign powers by using their relationship with China to bolster their political capital. In this thought provoking and original work Lucy Corkin demonstrates how Angola has been amongst the most successful of African nations in this role. The concept of 'African agency' covers a wide range of different countries with very different capabilities and experiences of engaging with China. In each individual county there are a myriad of actors all with increasingly discernible agencies. Uncovering African Agency; Angola's Management of China's Credit Lines casts a fascinating new light on China's involvement with her largest African trading partner and through this shows how different African states and the governmental actors within them are able to exploit the relationship to their best advantage.

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that some African countries may not trust China, probably because they are accustomed to the meddling and negative influence from outsiders – a result of the colonial experience.36 The more candid Chinese businessmen, especially from the private sector, mentioned that government-to-government relations work well, whereas relations between ‘ordinary people’ are comparatively difficult.37 One elaborated: The problem with Angola is that the environment is lacking; young [Chinese] people don’t like

described Angola’s relations with China in the following manner: ‘Today bilateral cooperation is excellent. We have privileged relations with China. The relations are characterised by rapid evolution, established and strengthened by the two governments.’7 These sentiments are reflected in almost exactly the same words by the Chinese Ambassador Zhang Bolun speaking before the beginning of the fourth Bilateral Commission in March 2009 (Dai 2009). As with most official diplomatic rhetoric, both

they are largely known to bring in their own equipment, materials and labour (CAITEC 2010: 7).3 In general, instances of local employment and local value addition in the 1  Another Chinese industry specialist estimated that there were ‘officially’ 30–40 Chinese private companies in operation: interview, Chinese private businessman, Luanda, 23 July 2010. 2  Interview, Chinese Ambassador, Luanda, 10 May 2010. 3  Interview, Planning and Concessions Division, Angolan National Roads Institute (INEA),

the fact that, whereas Chinese labour unions are weak and essentially an extension of the government, in African countries they can be very powerful political forces. Trade unions, generally very strong in Africa, are considered by Chinese companies to be a force that reduces the productive environment.32 This is not dissimilar from the sentiments of other employers; the difference is that Chinese companies across the board are not 30  This was corroborated by several smaller Chinese service

Luanda, 15 July 2010. 40  ‘Human resource issues’ and ‘poor local productivity and management’ were ranked 9th and 15th respectively in an index of 22 different potential threats, with only four and two respectively of the 32 Chinese contractors surveyed mentioning them. 41  This is based on a survey of 30 projects managed by the Angolan Ministry of Finance in 2007, and 55 other Chinese construction companies. Uncovering African Agency 110 with Angolans, due to the perception that the locals

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