Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Next Empire

There's an entirely fascinating article in The Atlantic this month titled The Next Empire, and it explores China's investment in Africa. Here's the intro: All across Africa, new tracks are being laid, highways built,ports deepened, commercial contracts signed—all on an unprecedented scale, and led by China, whose appetite for commodities seems insatiable. Do China’s grand designs promise the transformation,at last, of a star-crossed continent? Or merely its exploitation?

I had no idea this was going on, but it's of particular interest to me because I've done a decent amount of reading about the colonialization of Africa in the 19th and 20th centuries. Here's more:
All across the continent, Chinese companies are signing deals that dwarf the old railroad project. The most heavily reported involve oil production; since the turn of the millennium, Chinese companies have muscled in on lucrative oil markets in places like Angola, Nigeria, Algeria, and Sudan. But oil is neither the largest nor the fastest-growing part of the story. Chinese firms are striking giant mining deals in places like Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and building what is being touted as the world’s largest iron mine in Gabon. They are prospecting for land on which to build huge agribusinesses. And to get these minerals and crops to market, they are building major new ports and thousands of miles of highway.

It's quite difficult to establish whether this is a partnership or a more sophisticated form of exploitation of Africa's resources--or both. The long-term outcome, though, will have a huge impact on the world. If you're interested in world history, or the future, this is absolutely a must-read article.

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