Thursday, 24 February 2011

What Gaddaffi failed to learn from the CCP

Whilst I'm still concerned that the result of the Libyan revolt may yet be a prolonged civil war on the Spanish model, that fear has retreated. The reason is simple:

The thing that made the Spanish civil war particularly long and brutal was that, far from one side being a reactionary movement against an Ancien RĂ©gime, both sides, in their own way, unleashed revolution on the areas they controlled before attempting to seize the rest of the country from the other.

Gaddaffi, however, showed himself in his last speech to be incapable of this. Despite specifically citing Tiananmen as his model, Gaddafi has seemingly forgotten the rest of the story: the Tiananmen demonstrators were crushed by force, but the populace have been turned against the demonstrators and anyone else advocating human rights in China through the simple device of labelling them traitors in the pay of the western powers. A similar strategy has been successfully used in Russia.

Instead of doing this, and perhaps mobilizing anti-western and nationalistic sentiment to his support, Gaddaffi made a speech which seemed directed at gaining support form the western powers themselves by blaming Osama Bin Laden for the uprising. To say the least, leaders in Europe and America are unlikely to be swayed by such rhetoric.

Probably much more blood will be shed before this is all over, but unless Gaddafi has some as yet unknown trick up his sleeve (WMDs?) it looks like he is finished.

On a side note, it should not be forgotten that Libya has been through a frosty patch in its relations with Beijing in recent years following an interview in which Mussa Kussa, Libyan foreign minister and pro-Gaddafi hardliner, said that:

"When we look at the reality on the ground we find that there is something akin to a Chinese invasion of the African continent. This is something that brings to mind the effects that colonialism had on the African continent [in the past]. […] Therefore we advise our Chinese friends not to follow in this direction i.e. [sic] bringing thousands of Chinese workers to Africa under the pretext of employment, for at the same time Africa is suffering from unemployment." He went on saying that China's programs of training and employing thousands of Africans is welcomed "but this welcome does not mean [accepting] the Chinese coming to settle in Africa."

Whilst by all reports this has not stopped thousands of Chinese workers going to Libya to work in the same oil companies that employs tens of thousands of other foreigners, the Chinese government will certainly not have forgotten this snub.

[Picture: The young Colonel Gaddafi meets the father of Arab nationalism, President Gamal Abdal Nasser of Egypt, 1969]


Anonymous said...

Okay, the Libyan foreign minister keeps bad company, but his analysis of this new form of sino economic colonialism ( with PRC health and safety standards, guanzi business ethics, etc) is spot on.

They have virtually taken over the Zambian economy.


Gilman Grundy said...

@KT - To be honest I've never bought into the whole idea that a country can be "colonised" by someone investing in it. You home country, Australia, was colonised by mine, but the fact that a lot of Australian mines are owned by a part-British company (Rio Tinto), a lot of the Australian railways were built with British investment, and many British work and live in Australia, doesn't mean that Australia is still a colony or semi-colony of the UK. It just means that we maintain certain mutually beneficial arrangements.

I think Chinese investment in Africa is, on the whole, good for Africans. It brings them employment, grows their economies.

justrecently said...

I share KT's skepticism. Natural resources, too, are limited, and the sooner best use is made of them, the better. Chinese relations with states are usually strictly between the "elites", and what this spells in Africa has been quite obvious.

Namibia, I believe, is a state neither too immune to being corrupted, nor completely without critical faculties of its own, and therefore possibly becoming a case study. Don't want to leave the impression that I'm mongering my own blog everywhere, but this searchword in general, and this post in particular may be useful.

Anonymous said...

And just to note what one African interviewed simply said.
~China may be after X-African-nation's raw materials/minerals, but the things they are building - roads and infrastructure - will stay.
Africans can and will use it even if the Chinese plan/purpose was to use those roads to 'exploit'/'secure' their resources as intent. They are not just throwing money into their face - and to who-knows-where those money end up.

But this does not mean Africans and their leaders should not be careful strive to secure good deals for themselves. Of course to me the Chinese have their own interest first like other nations.

justrecently said...

but the things they are building - roads and infrastructure - will stay
Only if the Africans are involved in building them. That's frequently not the case, and to some degree, it may be so because, as Chinese investors say, Africans act and work too slowly.
Either way, securing their national interests hasn't been a classical strength of African governments in the past, although there were some exceptions.
What Africans should indeed do is to play Chinese, Indian, Western etc. bids off against each other, and then make the best choice.

But as I said in my previous comment - personal relationships are playing a big role in China's activities in Africa, and that's officials-to-officials (kids) relations.

Gilman Grundy said...

@JR - Reminds me of the situation here in Silesia, where, at least according to the locals, the old German roads stay in place with little maintenance, but the much more recently built Polish roads need constant repairs.