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China's increasing engagement with Africa has become a subject of great controversy. The country's commercial interests in Africa have been called a new form of colonialism by some in the West, but many Africans say that China is a better partner than Europe or the US. But what is the reality in the African nations with the longest standing links to China?
However, Sata also listed plenty of negatives: "The Chinese bring labourers to push wheelbarrows which is wrong. They do not follow the minimum wage when they are paying their people. The Chinese have no conditions of service. They don't provide protective clothing. The list is endless."
Today, China needs Zambian copper to manufacture the goods it sells to consumers around the world. Zambia needs Chinese investment to fund infrastructure projects and provide jobs.
Examples abound where Chinese companies have been caught flouting conservation laws and collaborating with criminals in the exploitation of Africa's natural assets. While western agents also do the same, the lack of a powerful environmental lobby within China that can effectively critique Beijing's actions in Africa is a real worry.
Over the past few decades China has been actively involved in African conflicts and politics. The range of their activities includes the supply of arms and training to terrorists and militia during conflicts (such as the South African Border War), active manipulation of elections (provision of signal-jamming equipment and election T-shirts to Mugabe's Zanu-PF) and supporting nefarious regimes, especially that of Mugabe's Zimbabwe.
A former US official, in charge of setting up the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria disclosed that China received more than severely deprived African nations.