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China in Africa: The Real Story

China in Zambia: "On-Par with Industry Averages"?

Deborah Brautigam

CIFOR -- The Center for International Forestry Research -- has just published another paper in its series on Chinese investment in Africa: George Schoneveld, Laura German, and Davison Gumbo, "The developmental implications of SinoAfrican economic and political relations: A preliminary assessment for the case of Zambia." CIFOR does great, very solid work, and this team is particularly good. I have enjoyed and profited from their studies for years. 

Highlights from the abstract:
  • contrary to popular perception, China’'s direct participation in other primary sectors, such as forestry and agriculture, is negligible.
  • Chinese investments have ...led to a rehabilitation of dilapidated mining infrastructure, while enhancing the country'’s production capacity through the construction of new processing facilities and the development of greenfield mines.
  • These investments have proven to be more stable and less subject to commodity price fluctuations than their Western counterparts.
  • Moreover, while Chinese investors are widely criticized for their poor corporate performance, on most labor-related and environmental dimensions, Chinese mines perform on-par with industry averages.

"Early evidence appears to contradict many of the long-held assumptions about Chinese economic and political participation in resource-rich countries." 

Although the CIFOR report does not cite the Human Rights Watch study of Chinese mining in Zambia, it will be interesting to compare the two. I predict that CIFOR will get little publicity for their report -- compared with HRW.

A h/t to Christian Straube.