Looking for Chopsticks in Africa

By Bryan • china, environment • 6 Mar 2006

Africa is also a major supplier of wood products (among other things) to China.


China now trails only the US in wood consumption and with the country’s projected growth rates, China is sure to soon surpass the States to frontrunner status for consumption. According to the WWF, the flourishing construction and furnishing sectors accounted for the consumption of 90 million cubic meters of timber in 2003, or 65 percent of the total consumption rate for China — 138 million cubic meters.

…In Cameroon, 50 percent of exports of timber are illegally performed. The figure is 90 percent in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as dealers with political ties flagrantly disregard a law requiring log processing prior to export since China’s primary interest is in logs. In Equatorial Guinea it is again 90 percent with the same indifference to laws concerning maximum allowable cut and de facto concession size (largely attributable to one company and its sponsors, most of which supply China’s imports). Gabon comes in at 70 percent, while Liberia again reaches 90 percent, with a recent surge linked to the civil war.

I found the statistic that China lags only the United States in wood consumption quite startling. Given the taboo against wood frame construction, I’m led to believe that the majority of imported forest products are used to create quick cycle forest products such as paper, pulp, disposable chopsticks (I hoping that bamboo remains the chief construction materials for these evil things) and other non lumber related products. It is an amazing stat, considering that timber consumption in the United States includes lumber used in construction.

I’ve always asserted that China is moving down a path similar to the trail followed by the United States and other Western nations during the post-World War Two boom. To feed their economic furnaces, the P.R.C. is rumbling through the raw resource suppliers of the world, gobbling up companies and intervening in areas untouched, neglected or abandoned by Western nations. The most widely known sector being petroleum, with Chinese oil interests bolstering the Iranian regime and preventing action in the Darfur, Sudan genocide. The Sino Oil Barons even had enough balls to attempt acquiring North American oil projects including a massive stake in the World’s Economic Trust Fund (aka the Alberta Tar Sands). One could almost assert that we are witnessing the birth of a new Chinese economic imperialism, not so much different from the hated American model, which, as we all know *rolls eyes* can be found as the root catalyst of the worlds problems. I read an article some time ago which ventured that in 15 or 20 years, it will be the PLA in the Middle East, protecting Chinese oil interests being developed today, in Iran (if it exists) Pakistan and other Central Asia nations. I often find that China alarmists often bark that the primary threat posed by China is from a military perspective and grumble about the creation of a new ‘Cold War’, yet I suspect that economic power alone will enable the Chinese to influence future current events in ways that their military (which despite upgrades, is still and will most likely remain for awhile, qualitatively inferior to western militaries) cannot hope to.

This is not to say that the P.R.C. entrance into the world of international resource extraction is without benefit to their trading partners. The P.R.C. has, for the greater part of its history, acted as somewhat of a big brother, and more recently, and economic role for it’s developing siblings. The Chinese government provides a large number of African students full scholarships at Chinese universities, not only for Mandarin language study, but also graduate and undergraduate degree programs. Infrastructure upgrades, developmental projects and cash influxes follow the Chinese as they push deeper into the jungles and deserts of their neighbors. With many of their investments occurring in areas long written off by Western nations (Angola, for instance) their assistance can be seen as a bright beacon of economic hope for these countries which would most likely be facing continual internal rot.

However, I cannot foresee a happy future for the forests under the eye of the big red chainsaw.

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2 Responses

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