Ethiopia, China – Chinese Investment in Ethiopia – by Eleni Birhane. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
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In the past couple of decades China’s involvement in the economic development projects around the world has skyrocketed. Within this course of time, China has invested billions of dollars in developed and developing countries alike. From trade deals to infrastructural development, China has become the number one foreign economic partner to many countries in the world, replacing, in some cases, the United States.
When it comes to partnerships, what sets China apart from the United States or other Western countries is its policy of not interfering in local political or economic affairs. When China makes deals with countries, it does not usually have preconditions attached to it (with the exception of its push for countries not to recognize Taiwan as an independent country). For example, when there are changes in government, China does not support one competitor over the other. It simply deals with whomever is in power. this policy of noninterference is in contrast to Western countries, which have historically used their influence to give or keep power with those they favor. Their non-intrusive stance, coupled with the fact that Chinese products are usually cheaper, make China an attractive source of aid and cooperation for these countries.
African countries and Ethiopia specifically, have not been an exception to this rising Chinese influence. From trains and buildings to roads and highways, China has become a major player in the development of Ethiopia’s infrastructure and economy. Ethiopia owes more than $12 billion in loans to China, not only for the construction of its cities, but also for its import and export needs. The Exim Bank of China lends money to organizations like the Ethiopian Airlines for things such as aircraft purchases from the United States.
China’s involvement in foreign countries may not be political, but it’s leaving literal footprints where it goes. In a 2018 report by the CNN, claims were made that Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, is starting to look like a Chinese city. While the physical appearance of the city is a far cry from having Chinese aesthetics (not a lot looks overtly “Chinese” however one may choose to define that), the tremendous influence of China in the country cannot be denied. Chinese architects, machines, products and even workers have swarmed the city. Even traditional items originating from Ethiopia such as the jebena, a coffee making apparatus, are being imported from China for cheaper prices. The quality of these imported products, however, is considered to be lower. “Anything you want, China can make. Just give them a sample and say how much you are willing to pay. They have the means to make the best, just depends on what you can afford” (Ethiopian local).
When looked at closely however, China’s apparent lack of preconditions now does not guarantee that its motives are purely what they seem. The loans that countries such as Ethiopia have accumulated and the dependence of these countries on China is increasing at an alarming rate. Last week President Xi Jinping of China invited the leaders of more than 50 African countries to a summit in China and made promises to give out more than $60 billion in aid and loans over the next couple of years, strengthening its ties with African nations. So far, China has been magnanimous in its dealings, extending grace periods for loans and proclaiming its intentions are simply to help these countries. Nonetheless, geopolitical history between the powerful and relatively powerless teaches us to be vigilant. China’s plans concerning the modern Silk Road and its recent show of power with Russia as they stage one of the biggest military exercises in history should be noted. Power is rarely dormant for long.
Eleni Birhane serves as a senior editor for The North Star Reports
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