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The Real Story of China in Africa with Deborah Brautigam
Episode 4623rd May 2022 • Charter Cities Podcast • Kurtis Lockhart
00:00:00 01:13:58

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China’s presence in Africa is widely speculated upon (and wildly misunderstood). Joining us today to speak to the truth of the matter is Sinologist-Africanist Professor of International Development at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, Deborah Brautigam. Deborah is also the Director of the China Africa Research Initiative (CARI) and author of Will Africa Feed China? and, more famously, The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa. In this episode, she shares her nuanced perspective on the Chinese development model and aid program in Africa and how the rise of NGOs has shifted the nature of aid, in general. We discuss the role of aid as a geopolitical instrument and the differences in the ways China and the West approach the funding of infrastructure in Africa. We learn about Chinese loans versus commoditized loans, the lessons China has learned through its various endeavors, and the lessons Deborah suspects it is yet to learn. Tune in to hear more about the balance of ensuring sustainability and respecting sovereignty, what’s causing the decline in Chinese infrastructure lending, and where China’s focus has turned since the pandemic.

Key Points From This Episode:

•   Deborah Brautigam’s interest in the Chinese development model and aid program in Africa.

•   The argument of her first book, Will Africa Feed China?

•   The problems Western aid projects have faced.

•   How the rise of NGOs has shifted the nature of aid.

•   The accountability structure of China in Africa.

•   Aid as a geopolitical instrument.

•   The two primary sources of finance for infrastructure in Africa: China and the bond markets.

•   The Japanese Goa formula and its impact on Chinese aid practices today.

•   How Chinese commodity-backed aid differs from that of Western entities.

•   Zambia’s privatization of their copper mines.

•   Why commoditized loans have a bad reputation.

•   The advantage Chinese loans have over commoditized loans.

•   Competitive bidding and external supervision of Chinese infrastructure in Angola.

•   China’s reasons for supporting the developing world in the 60s and 70s: to support socialism and wrest diplomatic recognition away from Taipei and towards Beijing.

•   The lessons China took from undertaking the Tanzam railway project in the 70s.

•   Tazara Syndrome: the pride of funding projects nobody else wants to fund.

•   The art of project appraisal and how to minimize risk in demand projections.

•   China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

•   The balance between ensuring the sustainability of aid projects and respecting sovereignty.

•   How political interests undermine the ability of state-owned enterprises to be sustainable.

•   The specialization and division of labor between China and the West.

•   The Western profit model of new urban agglomerations.

•   The misguided New Yorker report on debt-trap diplomacy in Sri Lanka.

•   Reasons for the recent decline in Chinese infrastructure spending.

•   China’s plans to focus on local infrastructure.

•   Various views on China's motives amongst policymakers.

•   Deborah’s book recommendations pertaining to Chinese issues.


Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Deborah Brautigam

Deborah Brautigam on Twitter

The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa

Will Africa Feed China?

Rivers of Iron: Railroads and Chinese Power in Southeast Asia


Charter Cities Institute

Charter Cities Institute on Facebook

Charter Cities Institute on Twitter