Running Local

This Train of Thought Makes All Stops

Power Springs From the Muzzle of a Hoe

Posted by Bob Kohm on January 5, 2009

An interesting read in the China Digital Times about Chinese farmers “emigrating” to Africa. China has a shortage of arable land chinese_farmer_silhouette1while Africa has a shortage of food, as the story goes.

One must wonder, however, if China, which has an excess of population, isn’t actually keeping their eye on Africa’s undeveloped land, technologically backwards regimes and militaries holding that land, and mineral wealth beneath that land. As African fertility and population rates tremendously decelerate even from the levels of thirty years ago and as AIDS continues to take its toll on the 14-40 male demographic that also comprises fighting aged men, China must sense an opportunity here. They understand that India and to a lesser extent Indonesia also see that opportunity.

China plays the long, deep game. Today’s “emigrant” farmers bring with them to Africa their Yuan, their technology, their way of life and their willingness to give Africa the pusher’s dram of those commodities; the African people, in the absence of any real ground-level diplomatic efforts from the US or EU, will become addicted to that which the Chinese can supply just as they became addicted to that which the British, French, and Belgians supplied in the 19th Century. China is pursuing the soft victory in the mid-term, which may well lead to the establishment of Chinese rule in nations that harbor these Chinese colonials in the long term.

Even George W. Bush realized that Africa will be the setting for this century’s Great Game, with America finally making some small efforts to improve our lot and standing amongst the Africans. Africa has the mineral wealth that the world so dearly craves, the water and land resources that so many nations are short of, and the effective power vacuum that makes them readily accessible to the nations that dare take them. America stands at a key decision point in Africa– do we continue to prop up failed regimes as we have so often to our strategic and humanistic detriment, or do we forge new relationships and give unstintingly of our medical, technological, commercial and mining resources not for the direct betterment of America’s bottom line but for the betterment of America’s long term standing in the world. We must emulate the Chinese by providing to and for Africa without raping their resources and populations so as to provide actual leadership.

Barack Obama faces a dilemma– it is always hardest to take care of “one’s own” when in high office. Mario Cuomo was a Queens politician who made it to the top rank of America’s governors, but during his tenure in Albany Queens got screwed on almost every count– Cuomo could not send home any bacon to Queens for fear of being shown up as self serving. There are elements of American society who would similarly pillory Obama for placing what they might see as undue interest in sub-Saharan Africa by virtue of his lineage for political gain. Hopefully we can avoid stumbling over so obvious a dodge.


4 Responses to “Power Springs From the Muzzle of a Hoe”

  1. Chancellor said

    The best work being done in sub-Saharan Africa among those in “the West” is being done by NGOs – Medicins sans Frontiers and Samaritans Purse have done amazing work in many countries. There’s a host of others from France, UK, Canada, and the US, but I’m quite familiar with those two.

    IMO, Obama’s bigger problem about expanding government aid in non-arms related packages won’t come from the lineage problem, but the view that he’s continuing or expanding another “Bush program”…and that there just won’t be that much money to throw around. GWB, for all his faults, greatly increased humanitarian and training spending in Africa.

    BTW, I did get a good laugh out of the Chinese fellow complaining about corruption in Africa. If that isn’t the ultimate damning evidence of how bad corruption has overrun many countries in Africa, I just don’t know what else would be better.

  2. Bob Kohm said

    I agree that the Bush Legacy taint will make it difficult in some quarters, but I think that the overall popularity of helping Africa from the wrongminded, Noblesse Oblige attitude of the left wing of the Democratic Party will be able to overcome that; sometimes the ends do justify the means after all. I also suspect that the paucity of foreign aid money will have as an end result the diminution of funds to Asian recipients and slight increases or at least status quo payments to Latin America and Africa, which have higher strategic value right now. I think that our friend in Tashkent has taught us an object lesson in the folly of pouring money into the ‘stans. Similarly, I wouldn’t want to be waiting for my USAID package if I’m sitting in Tirana or Chisinau; Europe will be back burnered as Russia scrambles to figure out where their oil money went and Obama moves towards a temporary rapprochement with Moscow by killing the European missile defense sites.

  3. Edgewise said


    From the original Clifford Coonan article in The Independent:

    “The African people yell, ‘Mao Zedong is all right’ and they are very warm-hearted when I’m there,” says one of China’s most prominent private sector ambassadors.”

    Well… Can’t wait to see what these guys will have coming to them…

  4. Have you got a bigger one?

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