Sino-African Relations and the Problem of Human Rights
China’s political and economic activities in Africa are increasing at an exponential rate. Equally, they are attracting criticism, chiefly over Beijing’s no-strings-attached stance on human rights and governance. It is clear that many African states that enjoy Chinese support not only trample on civil and political rights (as per Western ideas of human rights), but also subvert their citizens’ economic and social rights (as per China’s discourse on human rights). If while adhering to the principle of non-interference, Chinese activities actually make things worse for some in Africa, then Beijing’s argument that basic socio-economic rights are more important for the poor than abstract political rights is potentially problematic. This is because there is a danger that Beijing’s engagement in Africa might be exploited by autocrats on the continent for their own, well-understood, reasons. Doing no harm, rather than a studied disinterest, needs to be part of China’s overall African policy, something that Beijing is bound to recognize. The preceding issues are the concern of this chapter.
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