Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Zambia’s Choice after UPND/HH election Victory: China or US?


By Mwansa Prospery Chalwe Snr

The vanquished Patriotic Front (PF) party’s campaign was partly based on depicting Hakainde Hichilema (HH) as a representative of Western interests. He was falsely accused of intending to sale the country’s resources to the West once he gains political power. This was a very a disingenuous claim by the PF. They conveniently forgot that under their watch, Zambia had borrowed heavily from China (30% of foreign debt) and the country is in fact currently beholden to China. And to his credit, HH did not bite the bait, and for the first time since 2001 or thereabouts, there was no Chinese bashing on the campaign trail by the main opposition in Zambia, as a populist strategy. This has put HH in very good position to talk to President XI Jinping in order to reset Zambia-China relationship on an even keel so as to ensure that it becomes indeed a win-win situation unlike now.

In recent years, the geopolitical and economic rivalry between the United States and China has reached fever pitch, and African political leaders have to be very careful on how they handle their relationship with the two super powers. China and Africa are soon to hold their three year cooperation conference, the Forum on China – Africa Cooperation ( FOCAC) next month, September, in Dakar Senegal. This is a MUST attend conference for HH because it provides him with an opportunity to meet all 54 African heads of state as well as to meet President Xi Jinping of China so soon after taking over power. It will be a great blunder if HH decided to skip such a conference.
In this article, I will discuss the issue of the sort of relationship that Zambia should have with the two super powers – US and China- and provide some advice to the HH administration on how to handle this very delicate and sensitive issue.

From the outset, it should be clear that the answer to the question as to which country and economic development model Zambia should choose between the Washington Consensus and the Beijing Consensus; the answer is a straight: neither of them. Zambia needs both. The two countries- China and the US – and their economic systems bring different positive aspects which are beneficial to Zambia and could facilitate its development. The two countries should not necessarily be in open conflict in Zambia as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton observed on her visit to Zambia, on a five nation tour of Africa in June 2011.

“The United States does not see these Chinese interest as inherently incompatible with our own”, Clinton said. “ We are , however, concerned that China’s foreign assistance and investment practices in Africa have not always been consistent with generally accepted international norms of transparency and good governance, and that it has not always utilized the talents of African people in pursuit its business interests.”

The researchers Larry Hanauer and Lyle Morris of Rand Corporation in the United States share the same view with Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as they stated the following in their paper: “ U.S and China goals in Africa do not necessarily conflict, and the engagement of both economic powers could be advantageous to Africa.”
In relation with the United States, the HH administration should continue and even improve the relations with them which were severely damaged by the Lungu
administration through the expulsion of the former Ambassador Daniel Foote for condemning corruption and human rights abuses. Zambia stands to continue to benefit from the massive aid that it receives from the United States of about $500million per year. Zambians will also benefit from the democracy and human rights support that the US champions and intends to improve further as per recent pronouncements by Foreign Secretary Antony Blinken. The PF administration under former President Lungu, was an emerging dictatorship without doubt. Zambians have overwhelmingly ditched authoritarianism in 1991 when they got rid of late President Kaunda’s UNIP dictatorship. And now, again they have shown PF and former President Lungu the door by rejecting their dictatorial tendencies and economic mismanagement. Zambians have long chosen multiparty democracy as their political system due to the country’s diversity. There is no question about that. The United States is, therefore, urged to lend more support to civil society in Zambia to strengthen our democracy. The U.S can help, for example, with reforms such as converting the seemingly compromised Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ), which is always perceived to be beholden to any Party in power into a truly independent body as is the case in South Africa in order to reduce election disputes.

In view of the United States’ intention of resetting its economic policy towards Africa as per its Strategic Competition Act 2021which is meant to facilitate competition with China in Africa, one hopes that U.S companies will now be attracted to Zambia and compete with Chinese Companies. The business competition between the United States and China on Zambian soil can benefit us in so many ways. The benefits include Zambia being able to negotiate better commercial deals with the respective foreign investors rather than being beholden to one or the other. It may be quite possible that if more US companies were involved in Zambia, for example, they are likely to be engaged in different business practices based on western values, such as employment of locals for skilled and unskilled positions, transfer industrial technologies to local partners, engage in more humane working conditions, and contribute to initiatives that promote the health and welfare of their workforce. Consequently, it is most likely that such civilized business practices could encourage the more than 600 Chinese enterprises in Zambia to emulate the Americans in order to secure deals, compete in the local labour and consumer markets.

In far as China is concerned, Zambia should continue with the excellent government to government relationship that exists but the new administration should double down on its economic cooperation with China by ensuring that ordinary Zambians benefit from the cooperation.

Zambia-China Economic Ties need Recalibration

If HH and the UPND alliance wants to fast track the country’s economic recovery, the main road should lead to Beijing. China offers two massive opportunities to Zambia in terms of Capital and Market. The impression one gets is that the former PF administration’s dealings with China were anchored on graft and personal benefits to the Zambian leaders and those connected to them, rather than ordinary Zambians. There are immediate, short term, medium term and long term economic strategies that the UPND alliance can adopt in relation to China that are beyond the scope of this article. I could share such opportunities based on the knowledge acquired during my extensive research while writing my recent book :China-West Battleground in Africa: Debt Ridden Zambia.

It is very clear from the above analysis that Zambia should cooperate with both the United States of America and China as it stands to benefit by facilitating its development because the two bring different but complementary menus to the table. As at present, the US is playing a critical role in providing Aid to Zambia and should in fact increase its involvement in Zambia through the promotion of democracy and human rights. On the economic front, it will be up to the private sector in the US to make decisions whether to invest or not as government cannot force them. On the other hand, Zambia and China should continue with its cooperation but recalibrate the relationship so that the economic cooperation results in poverty alleviation and genuine win-win situation unlike now when it is lopsided. Chinese capital and market provides a massive opportunity for the UPND alliance to exploit to speed up economic recovery.

This article comprises a few excerpts from my recent book whose link is below
The writer is a retired Chartered Accountant and Author. He is a financial commentator and Analyst, and an Op-Ed Contributor to the Hong Kong based, Alibaba owned, South China Morning Post (SCMP). Contact: [email protected]


  1. Asking Zambians to choose between China and USA is really crazy. he answer is both of them. The two great nations are important partners. The Cold War is a thing of the past. Today the choice is not ideology but diplomatic and economic cooperation. China provides affordable project finance and USA provides support to among others the healthcare sector. Choosing between two eyes is nonsensical.

  2. The Chinese are indeed zambias all wether friends , albeit fueling corruption and dictator ship without batting an eyelid……

    Africans however should be aware that the Chinese , like the indians , have billions of unemployed who they will gladly offload onto unsuspecting countries……..

  3. The Chinese are indeed zambias all wether friends , albeit fueling corru.ption and dict.ator ship without batting an eyelid……

    Africans however should be aware that the Chinese , like the ind.ians , have billions of un.employed who they will gladly offload onto un.suspecting countries……..

  4. I cant agree more than you have stated. USA has its World dominance agenda. I am sure the new regime should be very much aware of this. Their anti China policies are very much known and clear to the point of double standards and hypocrisy. On the other hand China has been an all weather friend from Colonialism to date. Their weakness is their failure to curb vices such as Corruption, lawlessness, human rights violations in the Countries where they operate.

    This non interference foreign policy may need to be reviewed by those in Power, however, I want to understand, in this game of geopolitics, that is what makes them “attractive” to other countries against the West.

  5. Good advice. Im sure HH being the economist and business magnet he is will strategize for the maximum benefit of the nation.

  6. Zambia belongs to the non-aligned grouping or at least tried to maintain the non aligned movement principles. I believe for the HH led government what will matter from all economic giants is a kind of relationship that will accrue to Zambia benefits leading to an improving economy. One expects better renegotiated deals with whoever and not preferences as in friendships for now its transactional friendships!

  7. @ Dr.Kasonde using words like ” nonsensical” and ” “crazy” are very insulting to a person who has researched and written a 308 page book on the subject. In addition,the book has been reviewed and catalogued in the World’s biggest library-the US Library of Congress.You clearly do not know the geopolitical and economic war that is going on between China and the US. As a Medical Doctor, you are well advised to use moderate language commenting on areas outside your expertise. It would be useful for you to show some respect to others and make mature comments commensurate with your profession by using moderate language.

  8. There is no country on earth that can provide a better deal tham China. On health, the U.S. is just mapping your country for its on future benefit. American companies have moved from the caterpillar days to weaponry.

  9. The Chinese in chambishi are protesting the change of government.
    The Chinese are telling their employees that they will no be able to get what they used to get because they voted for upnd.

  10. China cannot be swapped away like a fly. If I might suggest: Africa should fill the vacuum left by the death of the non aligned movement. But right now it’s divided along imperialistic lines with countries heavily bullied by the US on one side and China lovers coming in on the other side. Africa needs leadership

  11. Why are Zambians so sensitive? Whaz wrong with describing some opinion as being nonsensical or crazy? It’s time we learned to live in a thick skin. This whinging is what makes our president to hide in something called criminal defamation law because he does n’t want to be insulted. Such a person is Chicken. No courage

  12. Why are Zambians so sensitive?? Whatz wrong with describing some opinion as being nonsensical or crazy? It’s time we learned to live in a thick skin. This whinging is what makes our president to hide in something called criminal defamation law because he does n’t want to be insulted. Such a person is Chicken. No courage

  13. Puppet in office….the West are afraid of Pan African leaders…HH is a house negroee and the West is salivating

  14. I thought the Zambian Foreign policy is non aligned Welcoming all except to seek friendly and in national Interest Though there no such a thing as non aligned The key is that in whatever foreign engagements We as a country we should seek the Best National Interest promoting Peace Security and SDGs.As a President Elect and presiding on the affairs of the country Just as it has been gifted He must have a gift to represent the country with foreigners and supranational in the Best interest of Zambia He must balance this gifted opportunity and use his foreign policy wise to attract FDIs to Zambia to create employment and raise the economics of the country…

  15. His focus must be to identify new avenues of cooperation between Chinese and the US both through a bilateral relationship and their plurilateral engagements at any fora with National interest at hand He should not be weak to say yes or No to either as he addresses the Zambian economic and geopolitical interest’s in the share of Global FDIs moving those Global chains onshore here to Zambia’s economic zones and areas thereby creating growth and employment To be successful he must be non aligned and move investments across the global value chains to Zambia not moving copper and our commodity resources to those offshore locations from Zambia This will be in national Interest

  16. @Sharp shooter August 26, 2021 At 1:10 am
    With the poor or non existent reading culture, very few Zambians will relate to your description of our newly elected President as “the House Negro”. Unfortunately, they will not know that this was actually being revealed by a fellow Negro going back some 57 years ago to promote black consciousness. Malcolm X stated then that at a plantation setting, there was the White Master and then he had in his employ amongst the slaves, the House Negro and The Field Negro. The master did some favors to the house negro, like a little education, and good food left over from the dinner table. In return, the house negro kept the field negro in line. Very few will raise an eyebrow at the presence of one Olusegun Obasanjo at the inauguration ceremony. He…

  17. He came not as a representative of the federal Republic of Nigeria, he came in his capacity as one of the directors of the Brenthurst Foundation! For once, LT bloggers, please read/google the foundation. This is an organisation that offers “Consultancy” on matters of “good governance” and “economic development” and it has been linked to several eminent persons living (Our President, Musi Maimane aof RSA DA party) and dead (Anderson Kambela Mazoka)…

  18. LT take down even the above post (#19 David N August 28, 2021 At 10:23 am) if you have taken out the earlier portion! Otherwise it will not make sense to read just the last part…

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