Reporter Antoaneta Bezlova tells us about a proposal that was recently debated in China's government to send Chinese workers into Africa to grow rice.
Beijing has always denied it harbours any intentions of replicating the West’s colonial expansion in Africa. But earlier this year, delegates to the annual session of China’s parliament debated a proposal to seek employment for up to one million Chinese in various African countries.
The proposal was put forward by delegate Zhao Zhihai, a researcher with the Zhangjiakou Academy of Agricultural Sciences in China’s breadbasket province of Hebei.
Zhao, who had visited Ethiopia and Guinea to explore possibilities for agricultural cooperation in cultivating hybrid rice on the continent, told delegates that Africa’s vast land and underdeveloped agriculture could provide employment for up to one million Chinese labourers.
"In the current economic climate, with so many of our people unemployed, China can benefit from finding jobs for them and Africa can benefit from our expertise in developing any type of land and crop," Zhao told the parliament.
He suggested Beijing should draft a long-term strategy of dispatching Chinese labourers to Africa in order to solve two of China’s greatest challenges—food security and unemployment.
Zhao’s proposal may have not been endorsed at the top level, but its having been publicised by the media has provoked comments of approval in some of the popular Internet forums here.
"At last we have heard of something useful from our delegates to the parliament," wrote one netizen in a sarcastic jab at China’s National People’s Congress, often derided here as a "rubber stamp".
Another, writing in ‘tianya’ forum (www.tianya.cn), suggested that Angola, Congo and Equatorial Guinea should be developed as "outposts" of China’s overall strategy of transforming Africa into a "China-friendly backyard" and Beijing should seek to buy land and send labourers to those countries in order to relieve China’s "food and land bottlenecks".