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The astonishing Chinese global story

Author: Cliff Colquhoun | News, Uncategorised | 0 comments | 16:23 1st June 2015

China's global engagement is astonishing; it is the key trading partner for most countries in the world with Chinese companies operating worldwide in diverse economic sectors. After the global financial crisis in 2007, China overtook the World Bank as the world's leading creditor. Between 2005 and 2012 China invested $500bn overseas with $375bn going to the developing world. While the Western world was reeling, China held up an ailing global economy which was in dire straits while investing and trading in the developing world particularly in Africa, where there is greater optimism than at any time since the wave of independence in the 1950s. This story of China's transformation from recluse to leading actor is dramatic. From being a minor player in 1978 while emerging from self-imposed isolation, China made rapid progress in normalizing diplomatic relations and as economic reforms took off, she became a major player in global manufacturing and supply chains. By the time China joined the WTO, Chinese companies were seeking resources, investment opportunities and markets worldwide as economic reforms ushered in a wave of outward migration. These were China's silent army who had a limitless capacity for self-sacrifice to set up businesses in the most unlikely places. China has been described as a neo-colonialist that only cares about securing natural resources and uses its economic power to entrench its influence around the world, but in many cases buoyant economies such as those in Africa can be traced directly to their engagement with China and China's contribution to the development of roads, railways, hospitals, bridges, airports, dams and schools will be invaluable for these countries in finding sustainable modernization. The actual number of Chinese migrants is often exaggerated; there is in fact a total of around 1m across the entire African continent. Where this has caused tensions, these have occurred in areas of small populations where even small migration can have a natural unbalancing effect. Chinese migrants across Africa work in a variety of occupations such as logging timber, farming crops, raising pigs, running restaurants and hotels, operating medical clinics or trading at local markets. Many of them are settling down in Africa for the long term and buying homes, getting married and starting families. Chinese migrants to Africa share work ethic and ambition to improve their lives and in the process, many of them are bringing affordable goods and services to communities for the first time. Those who believe in China's "peaceful rise" will see this in a positive light and in recent years China has invested heavily in new media operations to balance negative and biased global media narratives. This is an important task; China's global engagement is going to increase in coming years and its economic activities will bring its companies and people into greater contact with local populations in every corner of the world and it is vital for China that these interactions are managed and sources of tension minimized as much as possible. It is however also important in a global context that China is seen as respectful to a nations sovereignty and it must also be seen to learn and adapt to local cultures and norms. Taking Chinese practices from a Chinese environment can be problematic considering the incredibly diverse range of places where Chinese companies operate and demonstrating greater sensitivity to local cultures will go a long way to enhancing positive attitudes toward Chinese engagement.

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