Paris – In a startling revelation by a French newspaper ‘Le Monde’, it seems Beijing has been actively pursuing its dream of gaining control over African Heads of Government; winning over local sports markets and securing access to major sports events in the African continent.
In order to concretize this, the Chinese Government has been making inroads in various international sports bodies to further its goal of becoming a global soft power. Intelligently, it followed a systematic path by first participating in athletic events, then slowly started winning international competitions and finally gained a seat in the international organizing committee of sports bodies to promote its own agenda.
For the Chinese, it isn’t just about influence and exercising control. There is economics involved too, just like every other effort of theirs. The Chinese scheme involves advancing and flooding its own low-grade domestic products in the local African markets to demonstrate its ability to match international brands. At the same time, to nurture demand, the Chinese have been constructing sports facilities in many poor African countries that were severely lacking sports infrastructure, including stadiums and requisite training equipment for sports persons. It is obvious these initiatives were to function as a bait to generate the desired support from these nations in order to gain seats at international organizations.
In recent times, another ‘Le Monde’ article mentioned that in mid-March 2021, Alassane Quattara, President of the African country Ivory Coast, himself inaugurated a 60,000 seating capacity stadium in the northern part of capital Abidjan, which he claimed was a ‘gift from China’. It is presumed to be the main stadium that would host the finale of the 2023 African Cup of Nations, a major international men’s soccer competition in the continent, in which nearly 24 nations participate.
By gifting this stadium in Abidjan, China is eyeing building two more stadiums in this small nation, whose total staggering cost is expected to be beyond 200 million Euros. This reflects the typical Chinese tactic of enticing leaders with supposed ‘gifts’ and then building infrastructure worth millions that the country can very well do without, but when approved places it in a cycle of unrepayable and continuous debt.
In the past 10 years, China has built or renovated more than 100 stadiums in the African continent. It is well on course to capture more such facilities with the sole aim of strengthening its diplomatic relations with these African countries that later support its candidature to various international bodies of the United Nations. Beyond international diplomacy, as has been mentioned, this kind of investments in infrastructure help Chinese companies gain access to African markets to promote their products and keep the demand sustained.
Another interesting feature to these Chinese efforts is to win over the rights to broadcast major sporting events in the African continent for a Chinese company called ‘Star Times’. Already, these African countries with massive Chinese investments have been found rushing to sell their premium event’s rights to the Chinese broadcaster. To confirm, China has already ‘won’ broadcasting rights of the African Cup of Nations-2023, which is likely to be organized in Chinese- built stadiums, including the one in Abidjan.
It is time African nations realize the Chinese method of Debt Trap Diplomacy, which beyond hitting them economically is capable of enslaving them in a neo colonial set up, this time with a Chinese at the helm.