After the withdrawal of colonial powers from Africa in the 1960s and the following regain of independency on the continent, former colonial countries were left with a completely dysfunctional infrastructure. For decades, these countries have struggled with development simply because they lack the financial resources necessary for the establishment of a sustainable economy. In 2013, newly promoted Chinese president Xi Jinping announced a new globe spanning project, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The aim of this initiative is to support the infrastructural advancement of developing countries along a global economic network. Africa was to become an essential pivot for the emerging new trade routes, and in this context, African countries and China have negotiated agreements whereby China would provide loans for infrastructure development projects, which would then be constructed by Chinese corporations. An opportunity for the entire continent to close its development gap. However, Western countries were quick to voice criticism regarding the entire operation, accusing China of attempting to push countries into a debt trap by offering strict and unusual loan conditions, in order to subsequently demand the built infrastructure as a collateral in case of default.
Table of Contents
2 CHINA’S INFLUENCE IN AFRICA
2.1 China as an infrastructural donor in Africa
2.2 The African Economy
3 SCEPTICISM AND ALLEGATIONS ABOUT CHINA’S FUNDING
3.1 How China lends
3.2 Debt Problem in Africa
3.3 Debt for natural resources and Corruption
4 WHY AFRICA IS WORKING WITH CHINA
4.1 Western Alternatives
4.2 Colonies in Africa
5 THE QUESTION OF COLONIALISM
5.1 Definitions of Colonialism
5.2 Is China a Colonial Power?
After the withdrawal of colonial powers from Africa in the 1960s and the following regain of independency on the continent, former colonial countries were left with a completely dysfunctional infrastructure. For decades, these countries have struggled with development simply because they lack the financial resources necessary for the establishment of a sustainable economy. In 2013, newly promoted Chinese president Xi Jinping announced a new globe spanning project, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The aim of this initiative is to support the infrastructural advancement of developing countries along a global economic network. Africa was to become an essential pivot for the emerging new trade routes, and in this context, African countries and China have negotiated agreements whereby China would provide loans for infrastructure development projects, which would then be constructed by Chinese corporations. An opportunity for the entire continent to close its development gap.
However, Western countries were quick to voice criticism regarding the entire operation, accusing China of attempting to push countries into a debt trap by offering strict and unusual loan conditions, in order to subsequently demand the built infrastructure as a collateral in case of default.
Based on these allegations, this paper is going to focus on the question, whether the infrastructural developments in Africa through China and especially the loans given in this context, deliberately force the recipient countries into a state of dependency as part of a new form of colonialism conducted by China.
The first chapter of the paper will focus on describing how China is involved in infrastructure development in Africa, followed by a closer look at the African economy. In the second chapter, the allegations made against China will be discussed and evaluated. After that, the characteristics of Chinese loans will be examined in more detail. Chapter three of the paper will look at the role of the West in Africa and elaborate on why Africa engages with China. In Chapter four, the concept of colonialism will be defined and then China's methods in Africa will be discussed under this definition.
The primary literature used here is the book "Belt and Road Initiative: Alternate Development Path for Africa" by Thokozani Simelane and Lavheselani Rodney Managa and the article by Margaret Moore entitled "Justice and Colonialism" from the publication "Philosophy Compass, vol. 11".
2 China’s influence in Africa
2.1 China as an infrastructural donor in Africa
In 1955, leaders from 29 African and Asian nations met at the Bandung Conference (Indonesia) in the hopes of working together in the wake of western colonialism. This international solidarity resulted in the Tazara-Railway, which opened in 1975. It provided the landlocked country of Zambia with 1860km of railway linking it to Tanzania and therefore making it possible to export its natural resources to the global markets without crossing white minority ruled territories. Since the funding needed for the project was not provided by western countries or the World Bank, which considered it not to be economically viable, China was willing to pledge support towards the African nations. In July of 1970, the Chinese government agreed to give Zambia and Tanzania an interest free loan totalling nearly 150 million USD and offered to provide expertise and required infrastructure for the construction of the railway.1
Since then, the capital stock of Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa has increased from 210 million USD in 2005 to 311 billion USD in 20212 and China has risen to be the world’s largest single creditor country nearly tripling loans given to lower- and middle-income countries.3
These tremendous investments are part of China's “Belt and Road initiative” (BRI), which aims to establish a global economic network by leveraging the construction of infrastructure in developing countries. It comprises an economic belt spanning from China to Central Asia and Europe, as well as a maritime Silk Road extending from China's coast to Southeast Asia and East Africa. In this context, China has embarked on large-scale projects in an estimated 35 African countries and has made significant contributions to their infrastructure, including ports, railways and power plants. Examples for these projects range from the construction of the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway in Kenya at a cost of 3.3 billion USD to a 200 million USD loan for the expansion of the Ugandan Entebbe International Airport.
2.2 The African Economy
The African continent has enormous potential; however, its economy is very much concentrated in the primary sector and, therefore, in the production of raw materials. The development towards a tertiary service sector has not been accomplished yet, which is largely because of Africa’s history of western colonialism.
From the 1950s into the 1970s, African Nations gained independence from their European colonisers. That meant that funds from US- or European-led institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or the World Bank, for the construction of infrastructure across the continent were cut off, leaving countries with an extremely challenging socio-economic situation.
Ever since, Africa has been confronted with the issues of insufficient press freedom, rapid increase of restrictive laws, entrenchment of heads of state abusing tenure limits, weak regional human rights instruments and the overall perils of conducting business in Africa.4 Apart from issues of governance, the continent does not simply lack sufficient infrastructure capable of providing an environment conducive to the mobility both of people and goods, but also shows major deficiencies in basic infrastructure, such as telecommunications or power supply, compared to other developing countries. For instance, only 30% of the African population have access to electricity, whereas in other regions of the world between 70%-90% of people have access.5
In the context of this major development gap, the countries of the African Union (AU) pursue their joint vision towards an economically sustainable and politically stable future, dubbed the “Agenda 2063”. It outlines the practical objectives, milestones, targets and measures of the AU, while ensuring that Africa maintains its focus on set objectives and is entirely dedicated to achieving them in the context of a rapidly developing world.
Ever since China ramped up its FDI in Africa's infrastructure in past the decades, thus funding the vision of Agenda 2063 in the wake of the BRI, Africa's economy has emerged as one of the fastest growing worldwide. This trend is further supported by the World Economic Forum's data on Africa over the last 15 years, demonstrating that Africa has undergone a remarkable economic turnaround, growing 2%- 3% faster than the global GDP.6 7 Combined with the world's largest youth demographic and Africa's labour force of 450 million people in 20217, the working-age population is projected to have doubled to 1 billion by the year of 2040, exceeding both India and China and therefore making it one of the most important economic regions in the world.8
3 Scepticism and Allegations about China’s Funding
Considering the prospects for a promising economic development in Africa, it becomes quite apparent why China is not only committed towards a strategic partnership in the framework of the BRI, but also intends to take part in and contribute to the African economy in general.
However, it is these motivations, and the methods employed, that raised concerns amongst Western critics. A prevalent depiction of the Chinese practices is the so-called “debt-trap diplomacy”, a term that gained popularity because of its usage in official state documents during the Trump administration. It implies that a country lends to a poorer country while deliberately overwhelming it with unsustainable debt, forcing it to surrender strategic assets or to gain increased political leverage. Despite not being proven, these accusations are raised towards China, given the growing number of African countries that owe seemingly insurmountable amounts of debt to China. The CLA database estimates that between 2000 and 2020, Chinese lenders have signed a total of 1,188 loan commitments worth 160 billion USD with African governments and their state-owned enterprises.9 Several of the receiving countries now owe debts that make up a substantial portion of their GDP, thus hampering their ability to repay their obligations to China. For instance, the nation of Djibouti on the east coast of Africa holds a debt of 1.5 billion USD to China, while its GDP in 2020 equalled to 3.3 billion USD.10
However, it is a 200 million USD contract signed between China's Export-Import Bank (Exim Bank) and the Ugandan government in relation to the expansion of Entebbe International Airport that sparked international controversy and the debate of dept trap diplomacy.
In 2021, local media has claimed the airport would need to be handed over to China as a collateral for pending repayments. Upon further investigation of the agreement, it was revealed that it was not a source of collateral and even as the allegations of a potential seizure by China arose, these claims were denied by both the Ugandan government and China.11 However, the fact that it has gotten to this point raises the question of whether Chinese loans are truly what they claim to be.
3.1 How China lends
The Chinese economy is state-driven, and so is the country's lending. Unlike capital outflows from other countries, most of which are driven by the private sector, Chinese loans source from the government and various state-owned entities. A report which examined over 100 Chinese loans revealed the following findings:12
a. China's state-owned entities are blending standard commercial and official lending terms and introduce novel conditions in order to maximise commercial leverage over the sovereign borrower and ensure repayment priority over other creditors.
b. Several contracts with Chinese lenders contain novel terms, and many adjust standard commercial terms in ways that can go beyond maximising commercial advantage. Such clauses can reinforce the lender's influence over the debtor's economic and foreign policies.
Before these findings can be evaluated, it is first necessary to determine which types of loans in general occur. Despite a multitude of various loans with differing terms and conditions, it is possible to roughly categorise them into 3 main types. There are zerointerest loans, which are commonly provided as aid; concessional loans, offering low interest rates and are often intended for large-scale infrastructure projects; and most frequently, commercial loans bearing high interest rates, equivalent to what one would receive from a typical private bank.13
Furthermore, the report emphasises on four key aspects of Chinese loans that differentiate them from Western institutions.14 First, Chinese contracts often contain unusual confidentiality clauses that prohibit the lender from disclosing clauses or even the existence of debts. It is a major accusation levelled towards Chinese banks that they intend to veil the emergence of substantial debts through these clauses, thus preventing western institutions from obtaining a clear perception regarding the debt management of the borrowing countries. Conversely, multilateral lenders, such as the World Bank or the IMF, are obliged to publish their activities and be transparent, since their shareholders are countries. However, the principle of confidentiality is widely recognised in international loan agreements, as well as the practice of not disclosing detailed information about the terms of the loan. With of commercial loans, banks are often obligated to maintain confidentiality towards their clients, which explains the Chinese banks' clauses, but does not justify them.
Although the Chinese loans resemble a type of commercial loan with its high interest, the banks are not private banks but state-owned entities and thus the argument is simple: “If you have nothing to cover up, then don't hide it". The fact that China intends to contractually refrain from disclosing any information regarding the conditions of loan agreements does not necessarily prove that they intentionally create debt, but it most certainly does not do them any favours in this regard.
Second, in a significant proportion of the loans examined by the report, cross-default clauses were found. It is stated that they can be triggered by "actions ranging from expropriation to actions defined by the sovereign debtor as averse to the interests of a PRC entity". This contradicts the aforementioned aspiration of China’s banks to function as commercial lenders. Further reinforcing this is that all loans examined, in the event of default, involve a breakdown of all diplomatic relations between the lender and the borrower, allowing the lender to demand immediate repayment. Thus, one can genuinely not refer to China's banks as operating privately, as these conditions clearly exert political influence on the borrowing country. If a borrowing country is obliged not to act against the interests of China, for example, it must not regard Taiwan as independent. Moreover, this is the true case, considering that the only country in Africa which recognises Taiwan is Eswatini15 and it also happens to be one amongst the very few countries which do not hold any loans or projects from Chinese institutions.16 This is a huge encroachment on the sovereignty of states and argues in favour of China's goal being to increase its political influence in Africa.
It has become quite evident that there are certain issues with how China finances projects. This involves a lack of transparency and conditions that can have a political influence on lending countries. However, it is not sufficient to say that China is pursuing a large-scale scheme to ensnare developing countries.
3.2 Debt Problem in Africa
In both Kenya and Nigeria, debts towards China are mounting. These include Kenya’s 3.6 billion USD railway-project from Mombasa to Nairobi, which reportedly lost 200 million USD in three years of operation17 and a 1.3 billion USD loan from the China Exim Bank, to fund Nigeria’s largest infrastructure project, a 157km segment of the Lagos-Kano railway.18 In this context, there are many members of the national assembly, particularly those from the main opposition party, who criticise governments for a perceived lack of transparency regarding the management of Chinese loans. Furthermore, they are concerned that China might be able to seize the countries' assets in the event of a default by the governments. However, when at closer examination of Nigeria’s and Kenya’s total public debt, it does not appear that China is in a position to use the debt it’s owed as leverage.
In Kenya, Chinese loans account for about 10% of the country’s 70 billion USD total debt. It is even less acute in Nigeria where the Chinese debts make up 3%-4%.19 Clearly, there is a narrative in this case claiming that there is a risk of China being able to exert control over these countries, but the evidence says otherwise, since no country with a share of less than 10% of the national debt can hold leverage over another country to such a great extent. In fact, only a small number of African countries have a substantial stock of debt owed to China. Considering as well that Angola handles one third of the entire continent's total debt to China, the question arises whether Africa actually has a Chinese debt issue.20
3.3 Debt for natural resources and Corruption
The West not only has concerns regarding the conditions of the Chinese loan agreements, but a particularly controversial type of borrowing has reinforced Western anxieties about Chinese influence in Africa.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a method of borrowing based on future natural resource revenues has led to certain projects falling victim to corruption. The country has a powerful mining industry. It is Africa's leading producer of copper21 and, by distance, the world's largest producer of cobalt.22 Cobalt is a major component in the manufacture of rechargeable batteries, which are utilised in electric vehicles. However, the benefits that the country should derive from holding a monopoly position in a market for an important resource, and the resulting revenues for the government and the public, have remained rather marginal so far.
In 2008, China and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) negotiated a deal under which China would construct 3 billion USD worth of infrastructure and a 3.2 billion USD copper and cobalt project. The revenues generated through the project would be tax free and used to repay both investments.23 The world's largest producer of Cobalt is the Swiss-based company Glencore, but since the deal, China has increasingly grown to dominate the mining industry in Congo. In less than a decade, Chinese companies have taken over half of Congo's cobalt production and about 70% of its copper production, according to Congo's main business lobby. With the help of these mines, China has been able to establish itself in a dominant position for the future development of the industry.
However, one of Africa's greatest data leaks has revealed documents indicating that money from Chinese entities in relation to this multi-billion-dollar project flowed to family members of the former Congolese President Joseph Kabila.24 If we now apply the Congolese example to other countries, we see that Chinese companies operate with a significant lack of transparency. Once they find a willing partner in a country's government, as they did with Joseph Kabila, China gains extensive political influence that transforms relations between both countries. In fact, there is a Chinese man by the name of Du Wei who has been involved in this scandal and who, as a PhD student at the University of Wuhan, wrote in a paper that China's government is using commercial bribery and corruption to obtain major infrastructure projects in developing countries.25 Ultimately, this proves that China is willing to pursue an economical advantage even under unethical conditions.
However, it is not the commercial leverage that is paramount for China. The most important factor for China is having an impact among the African elites which it achieves through projects such as in Congo. Africa, more than any other region in the world, tends to vote as a block in major international organisations. It tends to express itself as a group and this political symbolism is becoming increasingly more important to China, much more than the resources. The political support, which China can receive from Africa, is very important in today’s geopolitical environment.
4 Why Africa is working with China
4.1 Western Alternatives
Considering everything that has been stated, the question arises why Africa is engaging with China, despite the criticism expressed against China, that it only aims to strengthen its political and economic influence. After all, Western nations also started to provide alternative programmes that offer opportunities for financing development projects as well. The European Union’s “Global Gateway” aims to supply 300 billion USD globally between 2020 and 202726 and the US’ “Build Back Better World (B3W)” also aims to address the infrastructure needed in developing countries.26 27 They seek to establish partnerships that are based on democratic values, which countries have to meet if they aspire to join these programmes. This may prevent Western countries from lending to certain nations that do not meet these standards, which is perhaps not all that bad. That way, only those projects are being financed that will eventually be of benefit to the population. However, the majority of African countries do not meet these criteria and therefore see no alternative solution besides China.
Furthermore, critics of the US- and European-led projects argue that they are specifically targeted at Chinese influence and not at engaging with African countries as business partners. This is compounded by a lack of specific information about the programmes resulting from the fact that there was no consultation between African nations and the West leading up to the Global Gateway.28 In stark contrast, China not only demonstrates that they are willing to provide considerably more funding but also maintains proactive relations within the framework of the projects, e.g., through the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation.29
It should also be mentioned that the overall perception of the Chinese from an African perspective appears to be more favourable than towards Western nations. A survey measuring public attitudes in Africa has revealed that a majority of respondents perceive China's economic and political influence as more favourable than that of Western countries.30 This is partly because China conveys the message that they used to be in the same position as Africa and now want to offer their expertise to help others overcome it. In fact, in 1978, Deng Xiaoping, the former head of state of China, made an agreement with Japan's Prime Minister Tanaka. Japan would provide China with a loan for infrastructural development, which would be repaid with natural resources and coal exports, since China had insufficient capital, but a fast-growing population and economy.31
In addition, Africa is a key partner of the BRI and its own vision, Agenda 2063, synergises perfectly with China's initiative. Even if this does not confirm China's positive intentions, it certainly casts China in a more favourable light.
4.2 Colonies in Africa
A further argument in favour of Africa' s partnership with China is the shared history of anti-colonial struggle. It is obvious that African nations will be quite sceptical concerning their former colonial rulers, especially considering that Western colonialism in Africa has never really ended.
In the aftermath of the World War, France was forced to grant independence to almost all of its colonies. However, the French leadership decided to uphold its empire in West and Central Africa. As soon as an African country obtained its independence, it was required to sign a so-called "cooperation agreement" with France, which defined the nature of future relations between the two countries. In return for French foreign aid, the African countries had to grant France rights over natural resources, allow France to maintain troops on their territory indefinitely, and link the currencies of these countries to the French currency.32
France stated that these countries existed within the so-called “French Community.” However, the policy would come to be known more widely as “Frangafrique”, which was about having the former colonies in a position that was maximally advantageous to French interests.
In hindsight, of these still maintained colonial structures, the aid provided by Western countries, such as France, which contributes to the EU's Greater Gateway, appears to be duplicitous. After all, these are the same countries which previously exploited the continent and in some cases are still continuing to do so.
5 The Question of Colonialism
5.1 Definitions of Colonialism
To determine whether the relationship between African countries and China shows colonial structures, it is necessary to find a clear definition of the concept of colonialism and its core features.
Frequently, the terms of colonialism and imperialism are equated. In this context, imperialism is a collective term for various forms of dominance practised by an imperialist authority. However, a distinction needs to be drawn, since not all kinds of colonialism share the same characteristics. Thus, four forms of colonialism can be defined.33
Arguably, one of the earliest forms of an Empire is the Land-Empire. An imperial power that conquers territory beyond its natural borders, subordinates people in a system of political governance, and exploits resources for the benefit of its own system. The Roman Empire, which was perhaps the most successful empire of all time, provides an example of this. Conquering a country first, followed by the exploitation of resources and the taxation of wealth for the empire as a whole, leading up to the maintaining of an established arsenal or military capacity, as well as expanding some aspects of culture that facilitate imperial control (e.g., the building of roads).
The second form is the Settler Colonialism, which occurred in the Americas during the 16th century and in Australia and New Zealand during the 19th century. The colonial power does not directly extend its power over another country, but establishes colonies and settlements of its own citizens who then reside there permanently with the aim of propagating their culture, language and political values within the new country. Hence, three parties are formed: the colonial power, the settlers, and the indigenous people.
The third form is the Indirect Mercantilist Imperialism. It was practised by the British East India Company, a joint-stock company which was granted monopoly rights by the British government to engage in commercial relations with India. Initially established for the purpose of trade, the British East India Company gradually attained extensive jurisdictional control over most of the Indian sub-continent.
This eventually resulted in the fourth form of colonialism, the Direct Rule Salt-Water Imperialism. The imperial authority directly rules over the colony, which it is geographically separated from (in terms of international law, by "salt water"). The paradigm case is the relationship between Britain and India in the period from 1859 to 1947.
Every one of these types of colonialism contains very different political structures, which makes it fairly difficult to identify a core idea or phenomenon in colonialism in the same way that there is in other “isms” such as “capitalism” or “socialism” or “liberalism”. It is probably a mistake to think that we should in every case be able to specify the necessary and jointly sufficient conditions that must be satisfied for a particular arrangement to count as “colonial”34
5.2 Is China a Colonial Power?
Based on the formulated definitions of the various forms of colonialism, it can be examined whether China's activities in Africa can be considered in this regard.
The very first form was the Land-Empire, which can be quickly disproven in China's case. Up to now, China has not attempted to conquer African lands by military intervention, nor will it attempt to do so in the future.
The second form that has been elaborated is the Settler Colonialism, which in this context is debatable. Ronald J. Horvath in his article “A Definition of Colonialism” differentiates between the terms of Imperialism and Colonialism. He states that “the important difference appears to be the presence or absence of significant numbers of permanent settlers in the colony from the colonising power.”35 Thereby the domination of Latin America, North America, Australia and New Zealand by European powers which involved a large number of settlers is referred to as being Colonialism, whereas most of Africa and Asia, on the other hand, where or are still imperialised, dominated but not settled. The reason this is relevant for China's case in Africa is because the approach Chinese companies follow in the construction and administration of the projects. A further significant point of criticism towards China is that they themselves provide a large proportion of the workers for the installation of the infrastructure projects and do not employ regional workers. In 2015, the number of Chinese workers in Africa reached its peak of nearly 250.000 spread across thousands of Chinese- owned entities.36 This raised concerns about whether there will be any sustainable development in the labour market in the regions of the projects, given that if a large percentage of the workforce is Chinese, the projects being established will continue to be dependent on these workers in the future. However, it has to be noted that there are indeed numerous companies that hire local workers, although in the majority of cases the upper positions in management and administration are held by Chinese workers. In addition, African employees are frequently compensated according to regional standards, whereas the managing staff receives salaries in line with Chinese standards. Not only does this involve allegations of African labour exploitation, but the migration of Chinese workers who occupy local positions shows structures of Settler Imperialism. However, China's main objective in this context is presumably not to spread its culture and values, but to emphasise the economic aspects of the relationship between them and Africa. Yet one indicator suggesting that China may also have cultural interests is that media and educational exchange turns out to be quite onesided, with China, for instance, establishing international radio stations in African capitals which serve propaganda-like purposes.37
The third form of colonialism, Indirect Mercantilist Imperialism, might play a more appropriate role in this regard. The allegation about debt trap diplomacy via preferential lending policies might lead to China gaining indirect commercial influence over Africa. The example of Sri Lanka is most appropriate. After Sri Lanka became unable to repay its debt towards China, the governments of both nations reached an agreement allowing China to take claim to 70% of a port for 99 years in exchange for writing off 1.1 billion USD of debt.38 That recalls memories of the British colonial rule in China, which in 1989 also took stake over Hong Kong for a 99-year period.39 Even if no debt trap could be proven in the case of Sri Lanka or Uganda, the worry is that China could gain increasingly more control across the African continent by defaults of countries. Although it is frequently the governments of those countries themselves that are responsible for the loss through corruption or unsustainable debt management, it can be assumed that China is certainly aware of the fact that the countries in question are unable to administer the funds that they have been lent.
Thus, we can assume, as with the Land-Empire, that China is not striving for the fourth form of colonialism, the Direct Rule Imperialism, but instead prefers indirect means of influence. However, it is rather questionable whether these can be associated with the forms of colonialism which have occurred in history. As far as China is concerned, we should not expect to encounter a suitable historical example, but focus on the effects that China's influence has made in Africa.
Considering everything that has been stated so far, is China a new colonial power?
It has become evident that China's involvement in Africa has a significant impact on the economy and politics of the affected countries. Moreover, it has become apparent that the criticism directed towards China often lacks substantial evidence and often follows a narrative that is driven by the Western anxieties of a shift in the geopolitical environment in favour of China. However, despite the accusations against China seeming exaggerated at times, they are not entirely unjustified. Even if there is no proof of the deliberate generation of debt traps in certain countries, China has ultimately obtained extensive influence through its investment in some countries. This influence has been exerted through the use of controversial loan agreements, which on one hand include unusual confidentiality clauses and on the other hand impose conditions that are tied to specific political agendas.
China has also established itself a dominant position in markets that are dependent on natural resources by forming strategic partnerships with African governments. It has also become clear that China values keeping the African elites on its side, which will eventually provide an advantage within international politics and decision-making.
Hence, from a Western perspective, China's Belt and Road Initiative may appear like a scheme to conquer the world economy and assert global dominance. The most accurate allegation that can be levelled at China in this context is that it constitutes Neo-Colonialism.
Neo-Colonialism takes the form of economic imperialism, globalisation, cultural imperialism and conditional aid to influence or control a developing country instead of the earlier colonial methods of direct military control or indirect political control.40 Where it differs from standard globalisation and development aid is the dependency or financial obligation that is created for the developing countries.
In this regard, China could be considered as a neo-colonial power, but whether this is actually the case will depend on China's true intentions. After all, it must be considered that any aid provided to a developing country will, to some extent, be influential. Similarly, perhaps Europe's Global Gateway Initiative or even the Marshall Plan also sought to gain influence through development aid in the context of geopolitical relations. However, whether the financial obligation of developing countries towards China is a far-reaching scheme or simply the result of high-risk investments in infrastructure that is important for sustainable development but which cannot generate a short-term profit leaves the question of debt trap diplomacy unanswered.
What remains to be recognised is that Africa has come a long way, both economically and culturally. There are major deficiencies concerning infrastructure, which cannot be overcome independently by Africa. Whether China's Belt and Road Initiative is intended to create global leverage or to genuinely provide sustainable development aid is secondary for Africa, since besides its negative headlines, the Initiative has had an overall beneficial impact on the continent and its rapidly growing economy by creating alternative possibilities for development.
The thing about geopolitics is that everybody seeks to obtain an advantage in some way or another, and that applies to China as well as to the Western countries and every other nation in the world. Despite the controversy surrounding China's methods in terms of lack of transparency and unusual lending conditions, China has proven to be willing to take risks that western countries have constantly avoided.41
Historically, the term of colonialism has been corelated closely to dominance and exploitation, which oppressed not only the people of the colonised country, but greatly hampered their economy in a manner which led to no development. Consequently, China should not simply be dismissed as a neo-colonial power, because unlike other contemporary forms of neo-colonialism, such as the aforementioned Frangafrique, China also provides a benefit for the "colonised" countries.
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