China’s Africa white paper

China’s State Council has published its first white paper on Africa. It largely repeats statements already published elsewhere. Nonetheless, Part 4, “Strengthening the development of capacity building,” is noteworthy as it reflects the entry of a concept that China has previously been accused of neglecting into policy documents. “Capacity building” here is understood as “educational cooperation” and vocational training. As an example, the text mentions rattan weaving courses for Liberians displaced in the civil war — a project of Western NGOs, but now also embraced by China. Another more conventional example is the dispatching of 104 agricultural experts to 33 African countries as of 2009. Also as of 2009, 312 volunteer Chinese teachers, doctors, teachers, sports coaches, IT trainers, and humanitarian intervention personnel have been dispatched.

Part 5 of the document deals with “Helping raise living standards.” This includes “cosntructing welfare facilities,” also a new item in the list of China’s activities abroad. But again, the interpretation of the term is different from what might be expected: constructing low-cost housing, drilling wells,  building water pipes and water treatment faciltiies, and even broadcasting and communication facilities.

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