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Galamsey Saga: China’s gifts or soft power grips on Ghana?

By Bernard Asubonteng

China is a major world power. The Asian nation is fast-rising  global powerhouse which is almost within a striking distance of a “superpower” status similar to the United States. Today if any country is posing a real threat or challenge to U.S. in terms of economic, military, global diplomacy, or simply geopolitical influence, it is not Russia, not North Korea, not Iran…but China. In fact, any student of advanced U.S. foreign policy will point out that the country the U.S. is keeping an eagle eye on is China. China is now a big deal in the international affairs.

In short, it’s fast catching up with the United States’ global dominance—not only in Asia, South America, but also in Africa and beyond. Behind the scenes, China’s exponential global power is giving US security/intelligence community constant nightmares, because U.S as unipolar power doesn’t want a strong rival, but China appears to be filling in the rivalry void left opened by the former Soviet.

The foregoing development is worth knowing because having a clear knowledge of the context within which these world powers behave in pursue of their various strategic national interests abroad calls for understanding.  Like U.S., Russia, Britain, France, or Germany, China also has grand strategy for pursuing its overall national interests to grow its economy and improve upon the wellbeing of its people. Many countries in Africa don’t have clear-cut strategies in light of their national interests that is why the continent is always used as a pawn in the chess game of the major world powers.

China knows what it wants from other nations it is dealing with in the international arena. One of its national strategies is that, unlike U.S. or Russia,  as a rising power  China does not have ready appetite for involving in direct armed conflict or engaging in external military adventures unless self-defending its homeland. It does not necessarily mean under the radar China doesn’t provide military advice or aids for some groups or countries involved in armed conflicts around the globe. In fact, this behavior is the usual playbook all rising powers used and China is only playing part.

Sure, at this point in its evolution China, to some extent, may not be using its military or hard power to coerce relatively less powerful  countries  to do what it wants them to do in relation to its national interests.  However, the top guns in Beijing have one potent strategy it has been using to its national advantage—and that is deploying its “soft power.”

Power is multifaceted. It has varied interpretations. At its basic level, human power, for instance, means one’s potential to influence someone or group of people in order to get whatever the power wielder wants. People in possession of power can influence their target group or followers’ behaviors in several ways among which is the usage of enticements of gifts, grants, financial aids, food, or could also be a plain bribery.

Besides, powerful  or rich nations use power of attraction; which means because of their material wealth or technological advancement, the less developed states like Ghana may want to emulate the ways of life, some values, or may want to have the same things the rich nations want. The foregoing  is what “soft power” means in interstate relations. Thus using every tools or means available except probably military (hard) power, rich nations such as China can try to influence the relatively poor countries through gifts, loans, technical advice, and the like.

To that extent, it is why some of us is not surprised when the news flashed that Chinese Embassy in Ghana has made “generous donations” of some items comprising computers, printers, and a check for 10,000 cedis to the Attorney General  Office (see: GNA, June 6, 2017). Certainly, the Chinese officials in Accra will come up with some altruistic rationalizations for their “donations.” But down deep in her conscience, Ms. Sun Baohong, the Chinese Ambassador knows exactly why she made those so-called “donations” to the Attorney General’s office at the time when many of her Chinese compatriots are facing criminal charges regarding illegal mining or galamsey in Ghana.

All thoughtful Ghanaians will probably question the propriety or the ethical implications of the donations/gifts since the Attorney General office is responsible for appointing prosecutorial team in court in the event of the Chinese nationals found guilty of any crime. It is an interesting coincidence, but we ought to know that the Chinese ambassador’s behavior is a classic case of a powerful state applying “soft power” strategy to get an outcome it so wants in an indirect way.

Ever thought about how a foreigner from a rich nation can be so disdainfully bold and disrespectful toward the laws of his or her poor host nation to the point of engaging in illegal mining business and yet appears to get away with those unlawful activities for this long? I was in Ghana in May last month when the so-called Chinese galamsey kingpin popularly known as Aisha Huang was arrested in Kumasi. Reliable accounts have it that Ms. En Huang’s arrest wasn’t her first time; in fact, she had been previously arrested and I learned it did not amount to anything in terms of prosecution.

The question is why so many Chinese involved in plundering Ghanaian natural resources via illegal mining while the local authorities seem helpless or unconcerned? The most likely explanation is that like many powerful or rich nations, China has been exploiting relatively weak countries like Ghana by using  “soft power” capabilities to get what it wants. The powerful states study the weakness of other nations and their leaders.

With the strong support of its embassies around the world, especially in the poor nations, China will use its exploding global power to “softly”  twist the arms of some of the influential leaders as well as ordinary people in those host countries to accomplish its strategic national goals. Remember, China desperately needs cheap raw materials to feed its vast mass-produced manufacturing industries; and, it sees galamsey as one of the cheapest sources of industrial materials.

Hence the Chinese officials in Ghana will do anything or look the other way, even if one of their nationals—Aisha Huang—trade sex for galamsey to get as much gold as possible at the expense of Ghanaian laws and fragile environments. The Chinese “soft power” of  donations, loans, aids, grants, technical advice, and the “gift” of En (Aisha) Huang, is fueling  galamsey  in Ghana!

Author is a US-based writer. Email your comments to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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