What Xi Jinping's visit to Tanzania means

Mr Xi
Xi Jinping, the new Chinese President, is expected to jet into Dar es Salaam on Sunday on a visit that has great significance for Sino-Tanzania relations.

Tanzania will be the second country--after Russia--that the Chinese president visits next week, only days after he officially assumed the presidency, signifying how much the Chinese value relations with Tanzania.

Tanzanian leaders will want to ride on the back of the visit to chart a new direction in the friendship that ensures that both countries benefit equally from the relationship, according to local international relations and political science experts who spoke with The Citizen this week.

Tanzania is rich in minerals, timber and natural gas and there are indications that oil could be discovered in the near future--all of which China would need for its industries.

Tanzania could, in turn, benefit from development finance that is crucial in building infrastructure and agro-processing industries, especially in view of the fact that Chinese aid tends to have lesser conditionalities than that from the West.

Mr Xi’s visit to Tanzania and two other African nations has been described as “a trip of friendship and inheritance” that is expected to broaden cooperation and map out future prospects, according to Chinese analysts. But the Kikwete government has been advised to push harder if it is to accrue more benefits for Tanzania.

“Since the China-Africa Cooperation Forum was founded in 2000, the content of cooperation between China and Africa is increasingly expanding,” the state-owned Xinhua news agency said in a report yesterday.

Mr Xi’s visit to Tanzania, South Africa and the Congo Republic is expected to accelerate his country’s cooperation with Africa and push forward implementation of the agreements between China and African nations.”

But Dr Benson Bana, head of the department of Political Science and Public Administration at the University of Dar es Salaam, said: “Our President should find a way of telling his counterpart what Tanzanians want from China. They should invest more in this country, rather than making us a ready market for their products.”

China’s industries need raw materials and markets and this is what the new leader must strive to provide, analysts say, but not at the expense of Tanzania--which needs those products, but not when quality is not guaranteed.
Moreover, they should help Tanzania construct its own industries to produce finished goods,” according to Dr Bana.

The former director of the Tanzania-Mozambique Centre for Foreign Relations, Professor Abdallah Safari, also wants Tanzania to state its case clearly because whatever China is looking for will have been crafted in its own interests.
“These are key issues to crosscheck: They (Chinese) are looking for resources to feed their industries, which Tanzania can provide,” Prof Safari noted. “But what does Tanzania get in return?”

While China has helped Tanzania develop its infrastructure and offered more technical support than any other foreign nation, the general feeling is that there is room for more. “The new Chinese leadership could be looking for ways to revitalise the old friendship,” says the professor. “It is only that they should be restricted from hawking here. They should invest in other areas.”

Dr Bana wants directives that will lead to the Chinese initiating projects such as large scale agriculture and industries.

Mr Bashiru Ally, also of the University of Dar es Salaam, is calling for a new approach to Sino-Tanzania relations, given that they are currently based on resources. “It is a one-way relationship.” says Mr Ally, “That means giving more while receiving less, All they are doing is define their intentions towards our resources.The ideal situation would be for the relationship to change to an equal profits one.”

Mr Ally spoke of an economic shift of power which is now moving from the Atlantic Ocean side to Indian Ocean side, adding: “The countries on this side include China, which gives that country a hard time finding where it can get raw materials and also a standby market for its products.”

The 1,800-kilometre Tazara railway, built in the 1970s, is the greatest monument yet to Tanzania-China relations.

The project was made possible by the fact that the ideologies of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and China’s revolutionary leader, Chairman Mao Zedong, dovetailed. One of the factors that made the rail line urgent was that newly-independent Zambia had a hard time transporting exports and imports via the Indian Ocean through Zimbabwe, which was still under colonial rule.
Source: The Citizen, www.thecitizen.co.tz, reported by Alex Bitekeye in Dar es Salaam
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