Chinese Tuesday

It's Tuesday and time for news on China

Preeti Aroon writes at Foreign Policy about Chinese becoming the language of choice for Sudanese students. It's one thing to provide English-language training, it's another to provide a viable and immediate use for the acquired language. (See previous post on Chinese policy in Africa)

Sudan sells around 60 percent of its oil to China, and Chinese companies, products, and restaurants have made inroads into the African country. Sudanese university students who learn Chinese can get jobs as translators and work for Chinese oil and telecommunications companies. Recently, Khartoum University had a Chinese speech competition, and a Chinese professor there said, "… nearly 100% of students who graduate from the department get jobs with Chinese companies." In a troubled country like Sudan, that prospect is a great motivator to learn the language.

More than a billion people speak Mandarin Chinese, and the Chinese government actively promotes the language as a way of extending its influence. The country has sent hundreds of teachers to Africa, and it has established "Confucius Institutes" around the globe to encourage speaking the language.

And the trend to learn Mandarin Chinese isn't limited to Sudan. In Britain, the number of university students studying Chinese more than doubled from 2002 to 2005. Other Western countries have had similar increases.

From Howard French in the International Herald Tribune, China is displacing France in Chad.

Less than a decade ago, the French claim on this region was still so strong, and Africa's importance to France's view of its own place in the world correspondingly so, that the French were paranoid about expanding American influence on the continent...

Imagine my surprise then, arriving in Ndjamena late at night on a visit from China, when I turned on my television at the French-run Sofitel Hotel to find that the program blaring from Channel 1 was a starchy variety show in Chinese, courtesy of that country's state broadcaster CCTV...

Fast forward to the present, and here in Chad what one finds is a U.S.-based oil multinational, Exxon, running the country's biggest and most lucrative business, with Chinese companies investing heavily to match or surpass it...

From oil to telecommunications, all the big new investments seem to be Chinese. And to the extent there is any construction going on, as in so much of the continent today, it is Chinese companies landing the contracts...

FranceAfrique has lessons for China, too, however: no durable interests can be secured on African soil where institutions are neglected and profit and flattery are the only considerations.

Sam duPont at Foreign Policy writes about China's silver-plated bullet. How deep is the economic shot in the arm provided by China? Not as deep as China promotes it to be.

But it seems naive to suggest, as the [Fitch] report's authors do, that China's involvement in sub-Saharan Africa will do much to "reduce poverty and promote development and the region's global integration." The success of Chinese oil firms at securing investment contracts in the region is largely attributable to the "no-strings-attached" loans they provide to the governments. Considering the weak, authoritarian nature of many of these states, it should come as no surprise that this money is rarely spent to benefit the African poor...

Some unsolicited advice to the purchasers of this Fitch report: Be wary of loaning money where mobs of angry young men are likely to arrive soon.