China's Ethical Quandary in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Mounting Costs of Opportunism
Bumgarner, Thomas Scott
Taylor, Scott D.
CHINA'S ETHICAL QUANDARY IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA: THE MOUNTING COSTS OF OPPORTUNISMABSTRACTChina's quest for raw materials to fuel its growing economy has ushered in an unprecedented push to secure reliable sources of key commodities. In furthering this objective, China's economic, diplomatic, and cultural relations with Sub-Saharan Africa remain shrouded in contradictions. While some observers see Beijing's actions as the work of an altruistic partner eager to help shoulder the burden of underwriting infrastructural improvements long ignored by the West, others view China as little more than a calculating opportunist.As part of the thesis, three themes specifically addressed include, 1) identifying the factors that influence China's relative ease at gaining economic and political footholds in some countries while being rebuffed in others, 2) analyzing the legal and ethical consequences of China's African overtures, and 3) assessing the impact (both short and long-term) of expanding Sino-African relationships and are the intended benefits (as perceived by each party) being outweighed by the costs.While the subject of China's escalating role in Africa has received considerable attention in recent years, recent literature has heavily focused on the economic aspects of the relationships while giving scant attention to other important considerations such as the ethical dimension. This study begins with an analysis of the contemporary economic environment surrounding Sino-African trade, continues with an assessment of the past and present political climate, then (employing ethical models representing the realist, utilitarian, and Kantian traditions) assesses China's actions against these three approaches. Lastly, the resulting short and long-term impacts of the evolving relationships are analyzed followed by some conclusions.For all the gains being mutually realized by both China and Sub-Saharan Africa over the short-run, a number of mounting problems threaten to unravel these developing relationships in left unchecked. China's selective adherence to local laws, its undermining of reforms aimed at improving good governance practices, and its opportunistic pursuit of an agenda increasingly perceived by many as self-serving (while going to considerable lengths to convince Africa otherwise) combine to potentially undermine the very relationships that have become some vital to each party.
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