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China in Africa: The Real Story

Australia and China: What Can Africa Learn?

Deborah Brautigam

I"ve been in Australia since last Friday, participating in the launch of China Update 2011: Rising China, Challenges and Opportunities at Australia National University and having meetings with AUS government officials. It's fascinating how the Australians view their relationship with China, their major economic partner. As a resource-rich country, Australia has been the target of enthusiastic trade and investment interest by Chinese firms. It's been a politically contentious relationship, but Australia has by and large managed it very well (although one prominent Australian academic here called the govenment's new screening policy toward investment from 'state-owned enterprises' bumble-footed.)

Some Australians have moved up the ladder inside Chinese firms. Australian Andrew Michelmore, a former Rhodes Scholar, now the highest ranking foreigner working for China Minmetals Group, said in a July 4, 2011 interview with Businessweek:
The myth is that the [Chinese] government goes to company X and says, ‘Company X, I want you to go and buy that asset over there and pay whatever you want for it because we want it,’” said Michelmore, who won a gold medal at the 1974 World Rowing Championships. “Not at all,” he said in an interview in Hong Kong. “There is this incredible competition in China, they are businesspeople competing against each other.”:
What can Africans learn from the Australian approach to China? A lot, I imagine.

A hat tip to PKU African Studies Program.