Angola: Chinese violence and murders, protest or criminality?

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The spate of violence against Chinese nationals in Angola is fast becoming an issue of concern. A sense of neocolonialism amongst some Angolans is breeding xenophobia that borders on racism. Are these attacks on Chinese businesses and business personnel’s based on resistance to a perceived gradual-Chinese-take-over, or is it is based on unnecessary fear, misplaced perceptions, and share criminality?

In September businessman Xu Tonggou was murdered trying to resist a robbery. On that same day, six armed men robbed the offices of a construction company, beating workers with batons and threatening them with AK-47s. In October, robbers reportedly poured boiling water on three Chinese workers in Angola’s capital city of Luanda. Many more attacks have gone unreported, says Xu Ning, the head of the Chinese Business Council (CBC).

What used to be something that happened perhaps once a month has become a daily occurrence.

“These are just the tip of the iceberg. Things have got worse in the last few months. Just last night someone I was due to have dinner with did not turn up because he had been robbed. Chinese people here are afraid, they are afraid. They don’t know who’s a criminal,” Xu Ning was quoted as saying.

China has given Angola more than $5bn in oil-backed loans to build infrastructure. There are tens of thousands of Chinese workers in Angola, involved in reconstruction projects after the country’s 27-year-long civil war; including stadiums for the 2010 African Cup of Nations.

Eddie Zhang, head of Shanghai Urban Construction Group, the company building the new 50,000-capacity football stadium in Luanda, told reporters that he has heard of a growing number of attacks and that they weren’t just normal robberies but planned. “This is bad for business between Angola and China,” he said.

However, Superintendent Jorge Bengue of Luanda’s Police Command police has denied that there is a campaign of violence against Chinese nationals in the city. But the Chinese embassy in Angola has advised its nationals not to go out alone at night.

Despite the attacks against Chinese growth across African countries including Angola, China insist that their policy is, as its officials coined it in 2003, that of a peaceful rise. The Asian nation insists that its policy in Africa is not detrimental. According to the China Daily, “Economic and trade cooperation with Africa covers much more than just oil and raw materials supplies, said analysts.

Some analysts and observers say the strategic partnership features cooperation in areas such as telecom, food processing, tourism and infrastructure, paving the way for Africa to become a processor of commodities and a competitive supplier of goods and services to Asian countries.

Western companies, criticized about their depletion of Africa’s riches, are also trying to stop China from squeezing Africa’s resources out. Angolans and western corporations want China to uphold the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative signed in January 2007, which calls for greater openness and accountability in the extraction of natural resources such as oil, gas, minerals and timber. Human rights groups and the international community have asked China to support the human rights of those in the oil-rich regions which China is exploiting.

Rwandan president, Mr. Paul Kagame had said huge Chinese investment in African companies and infrastructure is helping Africa develop. Annual trade between China and Africa is now worth more than $100bn. “The Chinese bring what Africa needs: investment and money for governments and companies. China is investing in infrastructure and building roads,” he told business newspaper Handelsblatt, adding that European and American involvement has not brought Africa forward.

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