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Dambisa Moyo: She provides a good snapshot of China Inc

In Winner Take All, Dambisa Moyo, the Zambian economist and writer, presents us with a Malthusian vision of the world's future against the backdrop of an ascendant China. She analyses the pressure that this new economic giant is bringing to bear on world resources, its growing financial reach, and the socio-political implications of this, especially in Africa. 

The essential premise of the book is that an increasing imbalance between world supply and demand in commodities (including land, water and energy) threatens the "double whammy" of increased demand from burgeoning populations for food and clean water on the one hand, and a relative scarcity of inputs (in particular water and arable land) on the other. 

While the underlying logic of Moyo's argument is undeniable, her views are nonetheless undermined by an unquestioning acceptance of current demands and constraints as permanent. It is taken for granted for instance that China is on an inevitable path of continuous growth, an assumption that is even now being challenged: with copper stocks piling up, cement demand failing and energy usage flattening, China is cutting the cost of borrowing for the first time since December 2008 in an attempt to boost economic growth. With memories of the "threat of Japan" only a few decades old, one would do well to remember that current realities are not immutable.

Dambisa Moyo provides a good snapshot of China Inc's strategies in Africa. In particular, she points to those factors that make China more competitive in Africa than its Western counterparts. She dismisses the notion that the Chinese are only out to exploit Africa, and instead makes an argument for China pursuing a largely beneficial and symbiotic relationship with the continent. She does share some widely-held concerns regarding China's involvement (lack of transparency, poor labour laws, lack of concern for the environment), but generally argues that it is for each host country to ensure that environmental, social and other conditions are met. While this description of Chinese involvement in Africa contains no anti-Chinese bias, the same cannot be said of her discussion of Western institutions and governments, which she perhaps unfairly accuses of fiddling while Rome burns. 

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