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Tuesday, 22 April 2008 - Strasbourg OJ edition

China's policy and its effects on Africa (debate)

  Gay Mitchell, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – Mr President, China began to trade and change in the 1980s, and it has lifted 400 million of its own people out of poverty, as Ms Gomes’s excellent report mentions. What other part of the world in that period of time has lifted 400 million people out of poverty? We have to be realistic about this. This is one of the issues we need to discuss here tonight.

Many other parts of the world have experienced the heat of the Chinese dragon. The economic upturns in many Latin American and African countries are largely down to the economic rise of China. China’s activities, whether in investment, trade or aid in Africa, have grown at a mesmerising rate over the last number of years. The figures speak for themselves. The value of Chinese trade with Africa increased from USD 2 billion in 1999 to almost USD 40 billion in 2005. As the Commissioner has said, China is now Africa’s third most important trading partner.

China’s engagement with Africa is opening up many opportunities. However, it is necessary that we pass a critical eye over its development impacts. The development potential and the conditions for development are two sides of the same coin. Without one it is not possible to achieve the other. It is true that the potential for development abounds in many Africa countries, but corrupt African governments have for decades shown a disregard for their populations, denying them the possibility to develop. It is the African political authorities that will decide whether China’s involvement is to be seen as a benefit or a curse for the ordinary African person.

Congo is a prime example of where great a development potential lies. The output per head there is USD 714 a year. The Congolese people have suffered greatly. China has entered into a deal with Congo to build eight hospitals, thousands of kilometres of roads and rail stations, and in return they will get much-needed minerals for China. But if this can be made to work, it cannot just be a win-win situation. It can be a win-win-win situation, because it can advance the cause of the Millennium Development Goals. Can we in Europe work with China to try to perfect what is happening, to try to improve the situation rather than simply to decry what China does or the shortcomings that China has? If we can work together with China and Africa to improve good governance, then I think we can deliver aid and trade and improvement.

I believe that the Commissioner was right: if we want to get China to listen to us, then megaphone diplomacy will not work. A big part of the Chinese make-up is that they cannot lose face. Diplomacy – quiet diplomacy – has a better chance of achieving what we want to achieve. I think that Europe should work with China to encourage best practice in what could be the first real opportunity to do something for Africa after years of talking about it and doing nothing. If China put us under pressure to compete to deliver the Millennium Development Goals, all the better. We need that competition; we need that pressure.

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