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China-Africa ties focus of talk

POSTED: February 16, 2013 12:24 a.m.

Experts have called China’s investment in Africa everything from capitalism to colonization.

But University of North Georgia professor Sungshin Kim said it’s best not to mold the nation to fit one idea.

“It’s difficult to pin down,” Kim said. “I think we could actually get out of these boxes to understand really what’s going on now.”

Despite her lecture falling on Valentine’s Day, Kim was speaking to a crowded room Thursday during the fifth of eight lectures in the Great Decisions series. She called the event an “intellectual date” for the lovers’ holiday.

The annual series, which is free to attend, is organized by the Foreign Policy Association as a way for communities to come together to discuss current, international issues.

Joanne Costa has attended all five lectures this year at the University Center | GA 400, saying “we really enjoy them.”

“They’ve been well presented,” said Costa, who works at the university. “It’s a great community outreach. I think it’s something that’s unique that they can present that cannot be done by other people and it’s a great way to get information and learn about the world around us.”

The series has followed several topics, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and threat assessment.

Thursday’s discussion was over China’s presence in Africa — particularly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Africa, which Kim called “treasure houses of resources,” as well as Zambia, which she referred to as the “prime destination of Chinese capital in southern Africa.”

China has invested about $43.7 billion in Africa, as compared to $28.1 billion from the U.S. and $34 billion from Australia. More than $10 billion has been invested by China in Zambia alone.

While China is contributing to African aid to the tune of about $2.5 billion, the U.S. pitches in about $8 billion.

As a result of such international interest in the continent, Kim said, Africa has become globalized. And with the infrastructure China has put in place there, including Zambia, the largest copper producer on the continent, has made the area healthier.

There are some downsides, she noted, including difficult working conditions and wages so low there’s not enough money to provide workers a healthy diet. As a result, there are many strikes in mines. But Chinese-run farms and mines, much like productivity in its own country, are efficient.

“We should not be really surprised by hearing about how the Chinese are exploiting their own Chinese laborers in Africa because these labor exploitations are at the core of China’s development at home over the last three decades at least,” Kim said.

China’s interest in Africa also includes the Congo, specifically for coltan, known as tantalite, a metal used to make screens bright for tablets, laptops, cell phones and other devices.

Kim said China is not the only nation with investments in Africa. It’s a competition, with investors including South Korea, Japan and the U.S. Likewise, Africa is not the only place in which China is investing.


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