Armed with your questions, Peter Martin and David Cohen from Sinocentric speak to the Director of African Studies at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, He Wenping. Part 1 here; part 3 here.
Junni: Whilst the scale and nature of Chinese and Indian involvement in Sub-Saharan Africa remain quite different, increasing attention is being paid to competition between the two countries on the continent. Thinking specifically about issues such as the growth of Chinese/Indian soft power in Africa and competition for influence and diplomatic support, how do you see the relationship between China and India in the region evolving in the future? Also, what might developing countries in Africa be able to learn from comparisons between China and India in terms of their different approaches to economic development and political reform?
He: At the moment, I don't see harsh competition between China and India in Africa. Actually, I have seen a lot of complementary action. When I spent time in Rwanda, for example — I was based there for two months — I visited a project supported by India, a long-distance education project. Universities in India offer courses in English, so, because they share the British education system with some African countries, they feel they can study with them. And then we set up our Confucius Institute in African countries, so that's kind of complementary.
India is a democracy, and of course they are also a very heterogeneous society, so how they maintain stability for a long time, how they can balance rich and poor — I think that experience is very attractive to African countries. But I think China's experience is also unique, because we have made such economic progress in a single generation. There are now seven Special Economic Zones in Africa receiving Chinese aid. We originally planned to set up five, but then Africa countries were quite enthusiastic, so now the total number is seven.
Pete and David: What about China's political model?
He: Right now, I think the Chinese model is at least on an upward trend. Its appeal is increasing, especially after the financial crisis. They noticed that China's model can quickly mobilise all the social resources to deal with the crisis, even though the crisis is not generated within the country, so it is very efficient, the system itself, and it can maintain social stability even though so much social and economic reform has taken place in such a short time.
However, because Africa's political development path is totally different, they thought there is no way for Africa to go back to an authoritarian time, now they have already entered the period of democracy, the only thing is they want is to draw some experience. In South Africa, the ruling party are now sending their party leaders, even from the provinces, to join some courses from the Central Party School, and to visit our government at the provincial level, to exchange some ideas about how to run the government.
In the part three next week we talk to He about China's position on mediation, intervention, and Libya! Photo courtesy of the World Economic Forum.