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Developing nations’ investment drive does not harm sovereignty

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Developing nations’ investment drive does not harm sovereignty

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Letter

Developing nations’ investment drive does not harm sovereignty

From Dr Lubinda Haabazoka, President of the Economics Association of Zambia, Lusaka, Zambia

I read Martin Wolf’s article “The challenge of one world, two systems”, (January 30) with interest. You are right to call for competition and co-operation with China’s rise, rather than constant fear-mongering over a natural shift in the balance of world power. But it is also true that the media is helping to harden these erroneous views.

Too often, journalists jump to extremes in their coverage of the west and China, presenting business and economic developments in wholly zero-sum terms. Indeed, this was made clear by China itself, as the FT highlighted in “China reviews lending to developing countries” (January 30). It notes that “if every country were forced to choose one side, there would again be deep and costly divisions among and within countries”; nowhere is this clearer than in my country of Zambia. Virtually all coverage on Zambia presents us as torn between our historic Commonwealth ties, and those of Chinese investors.

Reports on Chinese investments in Zambia — and the region — are depicted in terms of exploitation, normally concluding that the west has somehow “lost” to the Chinese. This is not only false, it is colonial in mindset. By presenting foreign investment in a developing nation in this manner, we are bringing the question of sovereignty back into the mix, much like in the cold war era. But as you state, this is not the cold war. Seeking investment is not selling sovereignty; just ask Ireland and Google.

Zambia has never defaulted on a loan; and when it was advised to limit borrowing by the IMF and the World Bank, it did just that — continuing to attract investment from Canada and London. And if the west chooses to invest more in a country like Zambia, it is the media’s responsibility not to present such a decision as a purely political power move with China — which is ultimately belittling to a surging economy.

I agree that it is not too late to stop attempts to shift the world into an era of unbridled strategic competition — and the media should be at the forefront of that pushback.

Dr Lubinda Haabazoka
President of the Economics Association of Zambia, Lusaka, Zambia

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