The news went unnoticed in the West, but was highly visible in Chinese news. Nine Chinese nationals were killed in an attack by militia in Central Africa at a gold mine where they worked.. The victims are employees of the Chinese company Gold Coast Group, which manages the extraction of a gold mine 25 km from the city of Bambari. streetPresident Xi Jinping intervened, calling for “severe punishment for the guiltyHe called for ensuring the safety of his comrades in the Central African Republic. The mayor of Bambari accused a rebel militia group calling itself the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) of the massacre. It is a formation born before the 2020 presidential elections to oppose President Faustin-Archange Touadera.
Armed groups regularly attack the civilian population in the Central African Republic, A country that has rarely known stability since its independence in 1960. But it is not at all common for the victims to be Chinese. The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the capital, Bangui, issued an appeal to all Chinese to avoid traveling outside the capital itself. In Beijing, the State Department designated the entirety of Central Africa as a “red zone” to indicate maximum danger. It is a tragic story and at the same time an allegory. far China’s presence across Africa is being strengthened – as well as in other regions of the global Great South – the Chinese labor force present in these regions is increasing proportionately. This workforce can become the target of terrorist attacks, as has happened in the past to former colonial powers or perceived imperialism: from European countries to the United States. It is equally expected that China, which is developing a “global footprint” through its actions, will have to provide itself with an adequate military presence to protect its interests, starting with the lives and safety of its citizens.
This theme was indicated by one of the most successful Chinese films, the action movie Wolf Warrior 2, which is a sequel to the first part of the Wolf Warrior saga. The setting in Africa for Wolf Warrior 2 (a film directed, produced, and interpreted by Wu Jing in 2017), and the plot involving Chinese hostage-taking, is no coincidence. The economic penetration of Chinese companies into the Black Continent is known; Besides the fact that they often bring Chinese labor to construction sites and factories. The same is true of military expansion: after purchasing part of the port of Djibouti, the Beijing government has doubled down on naval missions off the Horn of Africa. What is not known, at least among us Westerners, is the fact that the kidnapping of Chinese hostages in Africa actually happened (I wrote about it in my book Stopping Beijing). And they ended in some cases tragically. Sudan at the beginning of the third millennium has come to supply i40% of all foreign oil extraction by the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC). This public company built pipelines, roads and a refinery on the outskirts of Khartoum. Xi Jinping’s predecessor, Hu Jintao, called this refinery in Sudan “the pearl of the African continent.”
Such a cumbersome industrial presence has caused various armed Sudanese militias to target the Chinese on several occasions.. During the civil war that led to the secession of South Sudan, rebel leader John Garang described Chinese oil technicians as “legitimate targets”. They end up all over Africa. In 2007, nine Chinese oil technicians from the multinational corporation Sinopec were killed by rebels in Ethiopia’s Ogaden region, and others were taken hostage and then released for payment. In Chad, hundreds of Chinese employees of CNPC and Huawei were evacuated (in this case by French forces) in 2008. Three years later, China had to organize the largest rescue and resettlement of its citizens by land, sea and air: 36 thousand rescued Libya. In 2011, it was the first time that the Chinese navy crossed the Suez Canal and reached the Mediterranean Sea. The Libyan operation sets a precedent for organizing another evacuation, in 2015, this time from war-torn Yemen. In November of the same year, ten Chinese people were cornered by an Islamist militia in an international hotel belonging to the Radisson hotel chain in Bamako, Mali; When the government forces arrived, three Chinese were killed in the final shootout. In 2016, two Chinese soldiers who participated in South Sudan as a peacekeeper on a peace mission under the UN flag were killed in a gun battle with the separatist army. Investigations into this fatal incident revealed that the rebels’ weapons were made in China. The Beijing government responded angrily: “We need to focus our attention on who fired the shots, not on weapons production.”
It is a contradiction that affects all great powers and today China is no exception: it competes with Russia for the primacy of arms sales in Africa. The increasing participation of the Chinese military in UN peacekeeping operations also adds to the “goals”. Just as Warrior Wolf 2 evokes, People’s Republic battles with relentless gear. Although its global expansion along the New Silk Roads had beneficial aspects, it was bound to appear to some as a neo-imperial and colonial power on the same level as America, France and England. If it is not going to abandon its citizens to the mercy of attacks, executions, and kidnappings with ransom demands, China must prepare itself for a more visible, intrusive military presence in places far from its borders. It is already happening, and we will increasingly see its manifestations, including in the Mediterranean. It is a well-known mechanism in the stages of the rise of new imperial powers: business and armies go hand in hand in extending influence abroad, and the beneficiaries of the new military missions will not accept the “defensive” justification.
Part of the Chinese people claim this armed expansion. In some of the tragedies of killings or kidnappings in Africa, the Beijing government has been criticized on Chinese social media for not responding with appropriate means. The disappointment was strong, when the Chinese victims of attacks in distant lands were not saved by military raids in the style of the wolf warrior. To us Westerners, Xi Jinping may seem like a militarist. For some of its people, this is not enough. There is a domestic audience that wants a more well-armed China, to fulfill the double promise made by the film Warrior wolf 2: The motherland will never abandon overseas Chinese. Actor, director and writer Wu Jing explains the film’s success as follows: «In the past, many of our films were about the Opium Wars, or how other countries attacked China. The Chinese have long dreamed of the day when this nation will be able to protect its people and contribute to world peace.”. If the two missions contradict each other, there is no doubt that the first will prevail.
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