When one thinks of countries, one has different impressions. Americans, for all of the criticisms legitimately bestowed on them, are big dreamers, make the impossible happen, and are an extremely creative, business-minded people. The Russians are another strong, very hearty people who have survived much and keep on going and are also very resourceful. The Italians and Mexicans alike are known for their openness, a joie-de-vie, and have greatly contributed to and expanded the American palate. Indians and Vietnamese, while very different cultures, are known both for running small businesses usually in certain categories, as well as being the “different-but-good-neighbors” on many a street in suburban America. The Germans and Japanese alike are known, aside from World War II, for their cars, efficiency, and ability to produce very high quality products.
The Chinese are known for Chinese food and culture on a domestic level. However, when one thinks of the term “Made In China,” the popular tendency is to associate it with cheaply made junk that breaks easily, if it ever functions properly.
Unfortunately, Americans are not the only ones who are beginning to think this way.
It has been reported that China has been investing large amounts of money in Africa as a part of her geopolitical projects. It also has been noted that Chinese “investments” in Africa are of questionable success, often times resulting in large amounts of pollution, or just failed operations where money is taken from Africa and the locals are left with nothing, and even what value was taken is unsure if it even benefits people in the Chinese government, but only the “investor” and his personal salary.
According to a story from the Christian Science Monitor, China has been grabbing land and paying people off in Africa, but to no benefit, and not only that, but her investments are bearing little to no fruit, sitting empty and rotting before the eyes of the locals.
The first Abel Mukalazi knew of the land grab was when he saw workers erecting a barbed wire fence around the pasture where his family had grazed their cattle for half a century.
He went to the police. They told him that a Chinese company, Kehong Group, had secured a lease on the land, pledging to build a giant rice farm employing 25,000 people.
Three years later, Mr. Mukalazi looks out over the barbed wire at empty fields of rough grass stretching across the valley – not a blade of rice in sight – where the wetlands used to be. “They are doing nothing with that land,” he snorts. “Just messing us up.” (source)
Much has been criticized about the European colonists in Africa, yet China today has embarked on a mere shadow of an attempt to imitate the Europeans of old. However, the image that Beijing puts out of success is far from the reality which demonstrates inaction and incompetence, where investments seldom bring a return.
In the particular case described by the article, the area seized by the Chinese was visited by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who called the project “an important instrument of transforming the economy. What was forest is going to turn into a city.” President Luo Heng of Kehong Group pledged $220 million and promised the addition of 25,000 jobs as well as training in agriculture technology, crop planting, poultry operations, and livestock operations.
That was three years ago in 2016. Today, the evidence of such a huge investment in nowhere to be seen. The farm employs only one hundred Ugandan laborers who are supervised by ten Chinese employees that work in a small three-sided structure around a sparsely planted courtyard. Of the six hundred acres on a 99-year-lease from the government, only six have been planted at all.
Kehong Group said that the company is planning to grow maize on half of the six hundred acres, but has shown no evidence of progress, and the same goes with the promised poultry operations, which have still yet to see the construction of chicken houses, let alone the 100,000 chickens that were promised.
The locals are naturally furious at the Chinese, as what little work has been done has resulted in creating drainage issues so that farmers nearby cannot care for their cattle. In response, the Chinese company installed a water access basin, but built it in a way that makes it inaccessible to farmers or their animals. Complaints to the local government have fallen on deaf ears, and despite the fact that even Chinese authorities admitted that in this particular area they have stopped caring about the company’s project, it is still affecting the people and nobody has shown any care.
“More ambitious projects are generally less successful, according to Mr. Zhou. “The majority of big Chinese agricultural projects in Africa have not lived up to expectations – neither the Chinese government’s hype nor the way the Western media portrays them,” he says.
“Africa is seen as the Wild West in China,” says Dr. Maiyo. “So-called Chinese investors … bandy around these huge figures and African leaders are very happy to hear them. They acquire large tracts of land for a song and then go back to China to secure investment,” but often the money does not materialize.
It is sad and wrong what the government has been doing, but what sticks out most in this story is the incident with the chicken houses.
As one who knows a few things about chicken houses, that 100,000 chickens would be housed in them is a laughable number, since there are many, many farms on very small acreage who house far more than this.
The average chicken house holds between twenty to thirty thousand birds, and speaking from the experience of not a few farmers, it is not abnormal for a farmer to have four to eight chicken houses, and then to grow most of his own corn and still have land to spare in plots that are scarcely thirty acres large. Since chicken houses generally turn over four times a year from chick-to-market, the expenses are large but so are the profits, reaching up to $8000 per house.
A single farmer with only a few farm hands and basic equipment can easily run a chicken operation that is highly profitable and can feed many people.
Now while there are many things that help farmers- such as the chicks come pre-hatched from a major hatchery -the fact that a major Chinese company cannot run a single successful chicken operation on twenty times the land that I have seen many operations run, and given the record of Chinese companies in Africa, it tells me the future of any Chinese geopolitical dreams of empire and grandeur, which is that just like the cheap stuff they send abroad, it is only a matter of time before the empire fails and does so miserably.
Everybody has strengths and weaknesses, but the strength of the Americans, Germans, and Japanese is not just one of hard work, creativeness, or ruthlessness, but an issue of resource management and distribution. The Chinese, when given massive amounts of land, cannot make it into something successful.
Likewise, the fact that this company promised to spend over 200 million dollars and create 25,000 jobs is a joke too. Again, speaking from experience, I have personally known a farmer in his eighties who, with a team of no more than five full-time employees on average equipment, manage four chicken houses, then purchased four more houses, and kept them full with chickens and four times a year have had the trucks from the local slaughterhouse come and take the birds to their next stop before the grocery store or local restaurant. I know for a fact that the old farmer in question took out a loan to buy the four houses, totaling approximately a quarter-of-a-million dollars.
This farmer in question too is not a high-powered executive either. He is man with sun-leathered skin in a white T-Shirt with overalls who rides his tractor and whose fourteen-year-old grandson follows him on his own tractor on the way to work in his corn fields, which is the food he grows for his chickens.
When people talk about China rising, keep in mind that this is the nation who imports over one-third of all her soybeans and almost fifteen percent of her pork just from the US alone, not minding the other agricultural commodities she requires. This same country, with hundreds of millions of dollars, hundreds of acres, brand new equipment, an endless supply of workers, an unlimited supply of resources, the complete submission of the national government, and the total force of the Chinese Communist Party, gets trounced by an old man and his five employees on one-twentieth the size of land and with old equipment. Not only that, but the farmer still manages to successfully pay all his employees on time, his taxes, his business expenses, and has walked away with enough money to see to the care of all his children and even his grandchildren.
If Chinese agricultural policy can be crushed in good times by an old man, what is going to happen to her when her age-old enemy, Japan, decides that now is the time to revive the Japanese Empire and the former glory of Japan and the Emperor?
China is a strong nation, but she is a house of cards, and will fall easily with one strong breath.