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Comparison between Chinese and Spanish Colonialism Essay

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Updated: May 7th, 2019

The Colonialism approach used in Latin American history by Spain

The most important aspect of how Spaniards went about colonizing Latin America is that the factor of religion played a crucial role in the process. In fact, the ‘Christianization’ of native populations represented the official agenda of Spanish conquistadors in the New World (Deagan 5).

At the same time, however, their de facto agenda was concerned with the extraction of natural recourses (specifically gold) out of the conquered territories in Latin America, and with their transportation to Spain, so that Spanish monarchs could never experience the shortage of money, while waging religious wars in Europe.

This is the reason why, ever since the beginning of the 17th century, Spain started to fall behind Britain, in terms of a socio-economic and technological development – due to the considerations of religion, on their part, Spanish monarchs ended up squandering the money (obtained from selling the colonial gold) on a number of economically irrelevant purposes.

Another important aspect of the Spanish policy of colonization in Latin America was the fact that, while expanding their colonial possessions in this part of the world, the Spaniards continued to assimilate with native populations rapidly.

In part, this can be explained by the fact that, throughout the course of the 16th and 17th centuries, the overwhelming majority of newly arrived Spanish colonists consisted of single males, which were naturally inclined to marry native women, as the mean of legalizing their land-claims in Latin America (Ewen 39).

Spanish colonists’ adherence to the theological provisions of Catholicism provided an additional boost to the earlier mentioned process, because according to this religion, one’s enthusiasm in ‘baby-making’ reflects the extent of the concerned individual being in favor with God (Lehrer 180).

The third major aspect of Spanish colonization of Latin America is that the Spanish government never ceased striving to maintain a full control over the colonial settlements in this part of the world, while denying colonists the right to even talk about the prospects of a self-governing.

In its turn, this resulted in slowing down the pace of Spanish colonies’ socio-economic development and in increasing the amount of tensions between the populations of mestizos, on the one hand, and the Spanish governmental officials, on the other (Levinson 102). The ultimate outcome of this was the fact that the first half of the 19th century saw the outbreaks of national-liberation revolutions, throughout the continent, aimed to depose Spanish rulership.

The approach used by the Chinese in Africa

As it can be seen in the video The Chinese are Coming (Shantiq), the most distinctive features of how the Chinese approach the task of expanding the sphere of their influence in Africa, can be outlined as follows:

1. Financial intervention. China provides the governments of many African countries with financial investments, in exchange for allowing Chinese companies to be put in charge of rebuilding (and consequentially owning) the segments of these countries’ economic infrastructure. Eventually, this will result in the concerned African countries being deprived of their de facto independence.

2. Workforce intervention. One of the most important provisions of economic contracts that Chinese companies sign with the governmental officials from African countries, is that these companies are being allowed to hire predominantly Chinese employees to work on projects, concerned with infrastructure-rebuilding.

This, of course, may only result in increasing the extent of African countries’ semi-colonial dependency on China even further, as it denies African workers an opportunity to secure jobs and consequently – to improve the measure of their professional adequateness.

3. The intervention of private entrepreneurs. As it appears from the video, the agricultural sector of chicken-farming in Zambia has now been effectively taken over by private entrepreneurs from China. One of the reasons for that is that the Chinese government endorses its citizens to travel to African countries and to establish trade-networks there.

This, of course, provides China with an additional tool of influencing the policy-making processes in the continent. China’s ultimate agenda, in this respect, is creating objective preconditions for the ethnic Chinese to exercise a unilateral control over the trade-related activities in Africa – just as it happened to be the case in many countries of South-East Asia.

4. Securing the access to natural resources. Given the fact that, in order for the Chinese economy to continue growing, it may never experience the lack of natural resources, Chinese companies are now striving to make sure that they would never be denied the access to the deposits of oil and copper in Africa.

This is the reason why, as of today, Chinese companies are applying a great effort towards assuming a unilateral control over even those copper-mines in Zambia and Congo, the functional maintenance of which is now considered economically unfeasible.

A comparative analysis of the two approaches from an economic point of view

The main conceptual similarity between the manner in which the Spanish used to address the task of colonizing Latin America a few centuries ago, and the manner in which the Chinese go about colonizing Africa nowadays, is that both: Spanish and Chinese colonization-related activities cannot be discussed outside of the notion of money-driven exploitation.

After all, just as it used to be the case with their Spanish counterparts in the past, the Chinese do not invest in improving the living standards of local populations, as the mean of ensuring the loyalty of the natives.

Moreover, both: Spanish and Chinese approaches to colonization are being reflective of their affiliates’ clearly ‘metropolitan’ thinking. That is, in a similar manner with Spaniards in Latin America, the Chinese justify their presence in Africa by suggesting that it is being primarily beneficial to their own country, without giving much thought to what may account for this presence’s effect on local populations.

The main difference between the Spanish and Chinese colonizers is also quite apparent – unlike Spaniards, the Chinese do not mix with locals. Quite on the contrary – as it can be seen in the video, many Chinese companies that operate in Africa, explicitly forbid their employees (consisting of Chinese citizens) to socialize with local residents. Partially, this can be explained by the fact that the Chinese have always been known for their clearly defined cognitive ethno-centrism.

I personally think that, economically speaking, it is specifically the Chinese colonization-approach that should be deemed more discursively appropriate. The main reason why it appears to be the case is that the deployment of this approach will allow the Chinese to remain in control of the African countries’ economies, without having to invest into maintaining this control’s legal legitimacy, and without facing the accusations of ‘neo-colonialism’.

In other words, the very conceptual premise of how China goes about attaining the status of a ‘colonial power’ in Africa, creates objective prerequisites for the main feature of this process to be cost-effectiveness. Given the fact that the geopolitical influence of the U.S. continues to be undermined, as we speak, it appears to be only the matter of time, before China decides to follow the footsteps of Western colonizers in Africa, and declares the continent’s most economically feasible parts being under its ‘protection’.

Works Cited

Deagan, Kathleen. “Colonial Origins and Colonial Transformations in Spanish America.” Historical Archaeology 37.4 (2003): 3-13. Print.

Ewen, Charles. “From Colonist to Creole: Archaeological Patterns of Spanish Colonization in the New World.” Historical Archaeology 34.3 (2000): 36-45. Print.

Lehrer, Evelyn. “Religion as a Determinant of Marital Fertility.” Journal of Population Economics 9.2 (1996): 173-196. Print.

Levinson, Brett. “The Imperialist Unconscious: Spanish Colonialism and the End of (the) Discovery.” Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies 2.1 (2001): 97-107. Print.

Shantiq. “The Chinese are Coming.” Online video clip. YouTube. 9 Mar. 2011. Web.

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