Several years ago, I spent a significant amount of time in East Africa, researching the involvement of local Christian denominations in politics. While in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, I learned that China was engaged in significant infrastructure building there.
By Christopher Rhodes, UnHerd
This included a major roads project that locals referenced with a nickname that I could never quite make out: they were either calling it “the Confucian Road” or “the Confusion Road.” Both labels accurately apply to the impact of China’s growing presence in Africa, not only for the African nations, but also for China itself.
Much has been made of the influx of Chinese money and workers into Africa over the past two decades, as China has become the primary economic partner for the continent. Both the China Africa Research Initiative (CARI) at Johns Hopkins University and the consulting firm McKinsey & Company have compiled the numbers – and they’re staggering. China-Africa trade reached a high of $215 billion in 2014; $143 billion in Chinese loans have poured in to Africa between 2000 and 2017, and annual inflows of foreign direct investment have exceeded $3 billion in recent years.
McKinsey says there are around 10,000 Chinese-owned firms operating in Africa. CARI’s data shows over 227,000 Chinese workers in Africa as of 2016, though others say the number is nearer 1 million. Much of the commentary on this relationship has focused on whether this is good for Africa; cash infusion and needed infrastructure development versus the danger of long-term debt and Chinese neocolonialism. Equally important, though largely overlooked, are the impacts that this growing relationship will have on China.
The intention is to import much-needed natural resources for China’s huge economy, but this link is also causing China to import something that it has been trying to eliminate at home: religion, and particularly Evangelical Christianity.