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China saves Africa

This week's China visit to eight African countries has in turn triggered Norwegian companies' negative reactions.

[China in Africa] China's President Hu Jintao is now being welcomed by Africans who are fed up with the colonialist and racist mentality that has characterized Europeans in 500 years. But will Norwegian viewers listen to what Africans mean? No, not even in 2007. "Big Wolf in Africa," was the title of Erik Selmer's Tuesday commentary in Dagsavisen: "The Chinese are doing as Western countries have done since imperialism's infancy, they take care of their own interests."

Equality is drawn between today's normal African-Chinese trade relations and the prehistory of Europe – including Norway -: the slave trade, occupation and economic looting.

"Afrikaturenour unrest West" was the title of Aftenposten on Wednesday. Media professor Helge Rønning's political views: "What China does is nothing but pure, raw business and has nothing to do with assistance."

Not only is this patronizing paternalism. The claims are counter-factual. During the Liberia visit, Hu paid 100 millions of debt, in addition to providing assistance. China has treated 170 millions of patients in Africa. And Hu is, arguably, the first non-African head of state to visit newly elected Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson.

Erik Solheim rightly criticizes the campaign against non-European countries' efforts for Africa. The fact is that sub-Saharan Africa is doing better now than in decades. China can take its share of the credit. It can not Norwegian cheat

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Dag Herbjørnsrud
Former editor of MODERN TIMES. Now head of the Center for Global and Comparative History of Ideas.

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