In its dealings with Africa, China has taken its lead from centuries of European colonial exploitation there. Take all that you want, and too bad if the natives suffer for it.
China, with its rapidly urbanizing population, is the world’s biggest importer of wood products. And in its dealings with Mozambique, it is increasingly buying timber that is illegally harvested, according to a new report (pdf). The nonprofit Environmental Investigation Agency compared Mozambique’s official harvest numbers to global import numbers and calculated that 93% of Mozambique’s timber was illegally harvested in 2013, up from 76% in 2007—and most of that goes to China.
That’s perhaps no surprise; Mozambique is poor and timber is a good source of income. But the level of illegal logging and timber smuggling for the Chinese market is way beyond sustainable levels, despite claims to the contrary by Mozambican officials, according to the EIA. If the excessive focus on just a handful of commercial timber species continues, the country’s commercial stocks will be largely depleted in the next 15 years.
The illegal exports mean that Mozambique suffered losses of $146 million in potential export and exploration taxes from 2007-2013, the EIA says. That could have covered the 2014 state budget for poverty-alleviation programs more than twice over. It could, alternatively, have covered 30 years of law enforcement for Mozambique’s National Forest Program, according to the report from the EIA.
China is taking a lot of heat for its apparent neo-colonialism, but Chinese officials have generally waved such criticism aside as unfounded. But, just last week, China’s ambassador to Tanzania admitted that Chinese behavior in Africa is less than exemplary. shanghaiist.com
“Our people just cannot shake their bad habits,” Lu said, in an interview (link in Chinese) with the Chinese paper Southern Metropolis News yesterday. “Tanzania hosts ambassadors from about 70 countries, but none of them needs to constantly worry like us about consular protection issues,” Lu [Youqing] added.
Chinese citizens have been caught smuggling ivory out of Tanzania, and some are operating illegal gold mining operations throughout Africa.
They’re importing raw materials from Africa, while exporting standard Chinese business practices. Just what Africans don’t need — more corruption.