China in Africa: Photos of the Change

These are some of the most important photographs you’ll see this week.

China is colonizing Africa, and building the continent’s 21st century infrastructure.  And here’s photos to show it and demonstrate it. Maybe not with the rapacity and violence of the European powers, maybe not with the baggage of divine right of kings and the racism of white colonialism, but it happens, nonetheless.

And there will be photographs this time.

Bill Wilhoit brought them to my attention.

And hate to say it, but it was American racism that put the Chinese in Africa so seriously.  Because we didn’t go too far out of our way to fix the continent’s problems.  “Too tough,” we said, when what our leadership, Republican and Democratic alike, really meant in a whisper, was “they’re all black” only subsitute another word for ‘black’.  Not a nice word, either.

If you want to be a great power in the world, you have to go where the money and the raw materials are.  They were in Africa, and America’s been ceding that turf for decades because of our own racial issues.  The result will be, in the long-term, a place on the short list of world-spanning former empires, along with the Mongolians and the British.

In the short-term, it means that China still intends to be the manufacturing hub of the planet, because that’s where these resources will go.  China has a labor surplus roughly equal to all the jobs in North America… they’re not going to export the capital equipment from China to Africa to make finished goods, because they need the jobs at home.

Here in America, we thought that we could export the manufacturing jobs elsewhere forever.  And it will cost us dearly.  Those jobs aren’t coming back.  Neither are the helpdesk jobs that went overseas.  Nor are the textiles jobs that left in the late 1800s.  Nor are the science jobs that have been leaving for twenty years.

We can’t put all our high school graduates to work building houses.  Or bridges.  Or cars.  Or designing the next iteration of the iPod.

What are all these kids going to do?

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  1. It’s less harmful now. But this process is only beginning.

    I assume that an imperial power with 21st century tools and infrastructure at its disposal will ultimately be much more destructive than one with only 19th century tools and infrastructure at its disposal.

  2. I see pictures of Chinese people building housing, roads, industry, infrastructure. Yes, there will be a price for this – there always is – but it is certainly less harmful to Africa than the European-American legacy. I look at those pictures and say, I’m glad somebody is doing that because we sure aren’t.

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