Yao Ming protecting elephants, sister cities, Angola’s elections and more news on “China and Africa”

Yao Ming and the Elephants
I don’t know much about the roles Chinese celebrities play in Chinese politics, but I think it may be significant both for China and Africa that Yao Ming has decided to take up an environmental cause. Working with San Francisco-based WildAid, he is part of a campaign to educate Chinese consumers about the costs of the ivory trade (CS Monitor, FP).

China wants more Sister Cities in Africa
Vice Premier Li Keqiang, as part of the first Forum on China-Africa Local Government Cooperation, announced this new policy objective in Nairobi. On the one hand, he mentioned in his remarks that this would be good for the cities to learn from each other (about common difficulties like pollution and traffic). But on the other hand, he also seemed to signal a business opportunity: “if Shanghai and Nairobi were sister cities we could really make major progress in city construction” (Xinhua).

Angola’s elections and China
This is election week in Angola (the legislative elections, which also determine the presidency, take place August 31st). There is no denying that China has played an important role in Angola’s post-civil war reconstruction over the last decade. But while many Angolans may be happy with the positive roles China plays in the country and its economy, there have been attacks as well. First, not all of China’s business ventures there have been a success. Consider the recent debate about a major residential development project which has high vacancy rates (Global Voices). Indeed, for all the cheap cell phones, new roads, and infrastructure that is helping transform the country, there is also a growing set of concerns about misconceived construction ventures and shoddy construction. Second, there have been continuing concerns about Chinese immigration. A very high profile crackdown on “Chinese gangsters” took place this week (Business Insider). Many of their victims, apparently, were Chinese living in Angola, or who they brought to Angola as prostitutes. Indeed, the story in People’s Daily Online suggested the primary purpose was to protect Chinese nationals abroad. I haven’t seen any explicit connections between this story and the election, but I can imagine that some in the opposition are considering it.

I don’t think that “China” will play an explicit role in determining this election’s outcome. Many other factors determine the concerns of the opposition: continuing poverty, the legacies of the civil war, problems with the government’s record on civil and political rights. But it is clear that continued economic success is what has enabled the current government to stay in power and that China has played a major role in that success.

Other News On “China and Africa”
As we continue to get mixed data about the state of China’s economy and prospects for future growth, many are wondering what kinds of impacts this might have on economic growth in Africa. This is the question in Barbara Njau’s piece at African Arguments.

Deborah Brautigam identifies recent research by Yoon Jung Park on African attitudes towards Chinese immigrants (it varies across countries, is the argument).