Acton Commentary

China's Stealthy Globalization


One of the pervasive myths of globalization critics, and G8 protestors, is the idea that the West alone is globalizing the world. This year’s G8 summit outreach proved that China is not only the world’s greatest producer of greenhouse gases but is globalizing the world without much notice. China’s economic aggression in the Caribbean and Africa are two such examples of Asian globalization that may trump the West in years to come.

Leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations had two outreach sessions at this month’s summit with five developing countries — Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa — demonstrating that globalization is exactly that — global. This year’s outreach marks the fourth time that Chinese President Hu Jintao attended the meeting as China's economy has grown at an impressive pace of more than 10 percent for five straight quarters with a GDP topping US$2.2 trillion in 2005, according to the World Bank.

On a recent trip to Jamaica I noticed that all the signage on my full-size touring bus was written in English and Chinese. I was confused about this until I discovered that China is investing millions in the Caribbean, especially Jamaica. “Jamaica has become China's most important trade partner in the English-speaking Caribbean areas,“ Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said in 2005, adding that Jamaica’s recognition of China's market economy has helped create favorable conditions for their bilateral economic and trade cooperation.

In May, Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister He Yafei hosted five Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) Caucus ambassadors in Beijing to drive further diplomatic ties. Jamaica's Ambassador to China Wayne McCook, the coordinator of CARICOM Caucus of ambassadors, said they are ready to make substantive efforts with China to further cooperative ties with Caribbean countries.

The Chinese government reports that China-Jamaica trade volume in 2004 totaled $395.98 million, a 90.8 percent increase compared with the previous year. Chinese export volume accounted for $126.13 million, a 23.6 percent increase as compared with the previous year; and the Chinese import volume was $269.85 million, a 155.9 percent increase as compared with the previous year. China’s major imports from Jamaica are cane sugar, aluminum and bauxite with primary exports in textiles, clothing and light industrial products.

China is also exerting its influence in Africa. The United Nations reports that China-African trade volume reached $56 billion in 2006. Chinese investors are active in 48 of the 53 African countries. The African Development Bank, which met in Shanghai in May, reported that Africa’s economic growth rate reached 5.5 percent in 2006 and is expected to reach 5.9 percent and 5.7 percent in 2007 and 2008, respectively. The fast growth was mainly due to strong international demand for oil and mineral resources. Africa’s growing agriculture sector will also contribute to future Asian investment.

The examples of the Caribbean and Africa point to an important dimension of China’s economic expansion. Once a poor nation itself, China’s prosperity, through trade, is now benefiting two of the most intractably underdeveloped regions of the world. As political activists and religious leaders in North America and Europe continue to call for more government-to-government aid in a well-intentioned but ineffective attempt to address poverty, China goes about ameliorating poverty by bringing the Caribbean and Africa into the global circle of exchange.

This month Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa challenged the West to match Chinese investment in his country. Mwanawasa said Zambia welcomes Chinese investment, credit and loans despite unease in the West over the fast pace of Chinese-African investment. “Those who oppose Chinese investment ... all they need to do is to equal the help we are getting from China. We only turned to the East when you people in the West let us down,” Mwanawasa told Reuters on the sidelines of an African business forum. China has increased its planned investment to $900 million in the Zambia’s mineral-rich Copperbelt industrial hub over the next four years.

Will Chinese culture swallow African and Caribbean cultures? Why aren’t there any anti-Chinese globalization protestors? These questions seem silly because only Americans and Europeans are narrow-minded enough to believe that the world’s non-whites cannot develop economically and that the West will always be the most dominant force in the world’s economy.