Here’s a surprisingly blunt interview with Zhong Jianhua, China’s Special Representative on African Affairs. He is speaking to the Africa Research Institute in London. He’s responding to criticism from the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria It’s not earth shattering but it’s worth a read.
Either he is very good or China has access to some sophisticated advice on how to communicate. (It may be the latter: China’s UK ambassador is very good in public and, when I met him for lunch last year, in a small group). Here are a few examples of Mr Zhong’s striking quotes
• “When I need data, I have to go to different ministries and departments to extract it myself. If you want data, you must be prepared for a fight, and the figures I am given are not always correct. Often people have different ways of calculating things. The government’s statistical capacity is that of a developing country. At the BRICS summit in Durban, in March, our president mentioned that China has provided US$50bn of investment to Africa. It may just be an estimate. It cannot be 100% accurate.”
• “I administered a flawed project when I was the ambassador in South Africa. We helped to establish a training centre for farming fresh water fish. But we failed to investigate properly whether people in South Africa actually eat fresh water fish. In general, they are smaller than sea fish and notorious for their small bones. It became clear that there was not as big a market for these fish as there is in China.”
• “When referring to the Chinese government, you must be clear about which government – provincial, local or central – and which activity. You cannot generalise and say ‘this is China in Africa’, any more than you can say ‘China is good’ or ‘China is bad’. China is neither bad nor good. China is a combination of these things.”