Does Africa wish to beat the Chinese?
BY: TERRY MACKENZIE-HOY
“Sometimes I muse about a school essay where the topic is: ‘Can Africa defeat the Chinese? Discuss in no less than 700 words’.
This would be my essay: The first question whether the Chinese are attacking? It’s probably not widely known that the Chinese have seldom if ever declared war on anybody unless those people first declared war on them or attacked them. The Chinese way is the way of Confucius and is a peaceful way. Thus, the only way that the Chinese can attack is economically. Here they have been very successful in supplying low-priced goods for every conceivable application. Everything from T-shirts to tractors comes with a stamp ‘Made in China’
It does not require too much thought to appreciate that if the Chinese abruptly stopped supplying all goods currently supplied to South Africa there would be a sudden economic bump as South Africa struggled for alternative sources of supply. The effect on China of losing these exports would be an insignificant ripple. Thus, in effect China currently has the ability to crush us like a bug should they wish to.
The Chinese have also tried to take over construction projects in Southern Africa. Here they have been less successful. They are very adept at getting the work (based on low prices), but unfortunately trip up very rapidly when they find that the engineering concepts of “drawing issued for construction” and “installation details as per standard specification” and so on do not actually mean what they seem to imply.
Construction drawings in South Africa are just documents that effectively say: “You can start digging, but the rest of the project will change with time.” Details which are to standard specification actually refer to the South African consultants’ interpretation of what is ‘standard’, which can vary from consultant to consultant from city to city and from town to town. The result is that the Chinese contractors quickly fall behind the programme as they find out which drawings to work to and which standards to use. This would not be too much of a problem if the Chinese contractor could just catch up using additional labour.
Such labour could come from China but, as we all know, the words of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely, the pangs of despised love, the law’s delay, the insolence of office, and the spurns that patient merit of th’ unworthy takes” are a direct reference to the South African Department of Home Affairs. Thus the labour has to be African.
The thing the Chinese (who are born to work) do not understand is that Africans can and will work hard if they wish to, but they balance this against other needs in their life and it is possible for the entire labour force on a project to stop work on a matter of principle and not start work even for good money. Sooner or later the Chinese contractor goes insane and gives up.
Turning now to Chinese businesses. There is, of course, the matter of delivery of material. If the Chinese businessperson wishes to know when goods will be delivered, a useful tool is to use a dartboard. Take the given delivery date and chose a number between one and 20 using a dart. This will be fundamentally more accurate than a given delivery date. Here, at least, the Chinese can rely on deliveries from their own homeland. But this becomes hopelessly uneconomical for common office supplies and consumables.
The South Africans overstock on everything because they know the system. The Chinese do not budget for this and things fall apart. The answer, thus, to the question “Can Africa defeat the Chinese?” is: definitely.
The question that should be asked is “Does Africa wish to beat the Chinese?”
Simply answered: Africa does not care. Africa is forever. Those that come to Africa to build empires are defeated by Africa itself. The English, French, Portuguese, Germans, Italians and Belgians have all lost the plot on the ‘Dark Continent’. The same continent where children die of measles, but where the first heart transplant was performed.”
Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter