China’s assistance to Africa is both “Brotherly Loyalty” and an international responsibility
Author: Zhou Fei
Source (in Chinese): http://mil.huanqiu.com/observation/2014-10/5180243.html
Based on years of conversations with friends, classmates and outspoken taxi drivers in China, it is clear that international aid is a bit of a hard sell here. In following article, the author Zhou Fei directly addresses a common criticism of international assistance: namely, if we still have so many domestic problems, why should we be sending money to far away places? In response, Zhou draws on both realist and constructivist logic: China must provide assistance due to both realist calculations of self-interest (helping others in order to help us) and the normative imperatives of brotherly loyalty and international responsibility. (In my opinion, the mixing of these weakens his argumentation). As China’s role in the world evolves, it is important to track how it presents itself not just to the outside world (here is a link to a piece by the same author on a similar subject) but to a domestic audience.
Helping ourselves by helping Africa
Over the past few months, China has urgently assisted African countries battle Ebola through a series of efforts, including shipping supplies, dispatched experts and building labs. In doing so, China has become the world’s “forerunner” in fighting the disease, winning a bunch of praise in Africa and internationally.
Domestically, some people do not quite understand China’s African assistance policies: “The Guangzhou Dengue fever is still wreaking havoc, why are we running far away to go help Africa?” While this type of thinking may seem reasonable, it in fact is incomplete. Limited Epidemics have no borders—during this round of the Ebola’s violent “terrorist attack”, any one country would have difficulty protecting itself. The appearance of those afflicted by the disease in America and Spain are a testament to this.
Africa is an old and young, vast and fertile continent. Entering the new century, Africa’s average economic growth rate was greater than 5% – second only to Asia – with a total GDP reaching 2 trillion USD, leading it to be considered “the accelerating lion.” Our relationship with the “lion” is incredibly close. According to the statistics, China has been the continents largest trading partner for the past five years running and has more than 2000 companies and one million personnel operating in Africa. In addition, Africa receives more than one million tourist visits every year and has already become China’s second biggest market for engineering contracts as well as an important destination for investment.
Given the intensive mutual exchange of personnel, “together through thick and thin” is the most appropriate way to describe China-Africa bilateral relations. If one side suffers the vicious strike of a contagious disease, the other side is immediately vulnerable to become a potential target for attack. If we sit back and watch as Africa sinks into the Ebola quagmire, without so much as lifting a finger to help, in the end we will have not only damaged China-Africa relations, we ourselves will have a hard time avoiding becoming “captives” of the virus ourselves.
Over the past few years, certain voices have incessantly argued that China is still a developing country, and as such assistance to Africa is merely “swelling one’s face by slapping it in order to look imposing”. In reality, however, Chinese-African assistance has always been mutually beneficial and never limited to unilaterally Chinese donations. Back when we were blocked from returning to the United Nations, it was our African brothers that lifted us into it. Whenever malicious and duplicitous countries wade into China’s core interest and critical issues in order to create disturbances, it is our African brothers that stand with us. When the Great Sichuan Earthquake of 2008 occurred, our African brothers, who themselves were by no means prosperous, generously donated more than sixty-four million RMB, moving us deeply. It therefore should be said that, beyond just our own hard work, an important reason we have been able to achieve our current level of development success is due to the tremendous reliability of our African friends on the international stage. The more we develop, the more precious the China-Africa friendship, and the more worthy of careful protection – as we might cherish our own eyes – the relationship becomes.
In everyday life, those who are selfish have no true friends, and the act of helping others should not necessarily relate to how full ones’ wallet. In international relations, the same reasoning is applicable. We help Africa battle Ebola this time, and at positively fulfill the international duties that stem from “brotherly loyalty”. As the expression goes, “when you turn on a light for someone, you illuminate them—but also yourself.” From now on, whenever any other country or region experiences a humanitarian crisis, we absolutely cannot stand in the background; instead we really must to strive to let “Chinese Morality” to shine brightly.