No one actually or seriously expects that the valuable framework of the China-Africa comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership could be totally inoculated from side distractions. This is especially true as there remains pockets of vested interests that wish Africa remains a poor, conflict-ridden beggar and the sole global theater where Western NGOs, pop stars, and assorted celebrities showcase their large hearts and humanitarian concerns.
A South American diplomat once told me how he had opted to abruptly end his diplomatic career instead of serving in Africa, but once in Africa, did his best to stay in the post beyond the allotted duration.
According to him, the rumor he had previously heard is that people bath in the open streets and light skin humans are a delicacy for the locals. The strength of fallacious prejudice, according to him, was so strong that his spouse chose to divorce him rather than follow him to Africa.
Even no less a personality than the U.S President Donald Trump recently was reported to have allegedly said that Nigerians who come to the United States are unlikely to return to their thatched-roofed huts.
The sheer fabrications, fallacies and myths that have been woven around China-Africa relations squarely fall into the long-held antecedents of how every African, or related stories about Africa, is viewed.
Recently, someone posted a video claiming outlandishly that China has established 14 police stations in South Africa. A close and even casual scrutiny revealed that it was a lie.
In addition, a recent rumor blew across Nigeria that drugs made of human remains in China have flooded the Nigerian market. It took the intervention of the head of the Nigerian drug agency to dispel the nonsense as totally false.
Before then, another rumor that rubber plastics, packaged as rice from China, has been smuggled into the Nigeria market, spread like African bush-fire before it was discovered as another hoax, designed to poison Nigerians positive view of the relationship with China, which the British Broadcasting Corp. put at over 60 percent.
However, some anti-Chinese sentiments are mistaken or totally misplaced. An example is an incident in December 2010, when some football fans chanting “Chinese go home!” apparently angered at some of the decisions of a Japanese referee in a match between their team and Italian Inter-Milan. The Japanese referee was mistaken for a Chinese. In this instance, a spontaneous mob reaction cannot pass as orchestrated or premeditated anti-Chinese prejudice, because had the mob perceived the offending referee as Canadian or Russian, it would have instantly stirred up anti-Canadian or Russian sentiments.
Despite the broad range of cooperation between China and Africa, encompassing mutual fascinations of each other’s culture and a growing trend of people-to-people relations, exemplified in marriages and even cross cultural name swaps, there are a few but isolated instances of abuses and slurs. A Chinese who recently called a Kenya man “monkey” was put on trial in a Kenyan court and on conviction, was deported.
Such isolated incidents are far from the trend of solidarity and mutual empathies of both peoples that drives the engagement of China and Africa.
Some Chinese companies have been caught on the wrong side of the law in their host African countries for being less scrupulous in observing local laws and customs. But the majority of Chinese companies in Africa, apart from being major employers of local labor, are active in discharging their corporate social responsibilities to their local communities and are also avid taxpayers to their host governments
As the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping said that if one opens a window for fresh air, a few insects might fly in too, but it will not be wise to shut the window because of some few undesirables.
The window of China-Africa cooperation has advanced considerably in providing mutual benefits to both sides and the prospects for the future is even bigger and brighter.
The only rational course of action in addressing whatever challenges that may arise in China-Africa cooperation is to deepen the cooperation and seize the opportunities it presents.
Individual acts of misdemeanor or even corporate misconduct may arise from time to time. However the general principle and strategic framework of China-Africa cooperation rests on Africa’s open arms of international partnership and the time-tested Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, which form an important basis of China’s foreign policy. The five principles are mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence.
Even as malicious prejudices rear their heads to taint China-Africa relations built from the common trenches of anti-colonial struggles and consolidated by a common aspiration for improved quality of lives for their respective peoples, the dogged fortitude of the people and their respective leaderships give a solid guarantee that China-Africa cooperation belongs to the future.