Lucy Corkin (2006) has a thorough piece on China’s interest in Angola. She states that the most important form of cooperation and joint venture exists between the Chinese oil company Oil Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (Sinopec) and the Angolan company Sonangol combined to form Sonangol-Sinopece International (SSI). Indira Campos and Alex Vines (2008) confirm the significance of Angola’s extractive industries for China. They report hat Sinopec Group has a 55 percent stake in the joint venture and Sonangol has 45 percent. Between 2005 and 2006, nine cooperation agreements were signed and SSI bought three new Angolan offshore oil blocks with reserves of 3.2 billion barrels. However, negotiations fell through in 2007. Sonangol declared independence and SSI gave up he three newly acquired negotiations.
The roots of the conflict lay deep, first in Portugal’s imperial policy and practice in Africa. Second, they lay in the struggle for control of state power among Angola’s three national liberation movements immediately after Portugal was compelled to conceded independence in the wake of a military overthrow of its civilian government in Lisbon in April 1974. The struggle became complicated by external forces — the dynamic of the Cold War and the security interests of South Africa’s white minority government, which sought to perpetuate its rule in South Africa and Namibia as well as its hegemony in the whole of southern Africa….The perceived threat to the security interest of he white minority government of South Africa expanded the scope and duration of the war. The third root of he conflict was the ideological conflict for world hegemony between the United States and the Soviet Union….
The consequences of war were devastating. Not only did the war deplete the overall labor force, especially in the rural areas, but destroyed peasant households and agricultural production. What was once a self-sufficient sector now depended heavily on imported food aid. Conditions were further exacerbated by the actions of UNITA rebels. They cut off road transport, obliterated bridges and prevented rail traffic and used infrastructure to smuggle diamonds to purchase weapons. The author estimates that $10 million worth of diamonds were smuggled every week through Zaire and $1 billion spent every year to buy weapons from the Soviet Union. Infrastructure that had been destroyed during the war is now being reconstructed and rehabilitated by the Chinese. It is estimated that $211 million loan has been given to build roads destroyed during the civil war. Campos and Vines (2008) maintain that Angola’s developmental needs are tremendous and the involvement of Portugal and Brazil in doubling their credit lines to help Angola rebuild its economy demonstrates that China is not the dominant contributor. The US at one point had been the major importer of Angolan oil, but that has since shifted to China and South Africa. Still, Chinese FDI is small in comparison to Western FDI, with Portugal taking the lead.
The number of Chinese living in Angola has increased, but as of 2005, the Portuguese comprised the main foreign labor force. In 2006, there were an estimated 15,000 Chinese with work visas living in Angola. In 2007, the number increased to 22,000. Most of the Chinese are low-paid migrant workers who will return home after their one to two year contracts end. They live in isolated, closed compounds, “often at the site of actual construction”. The authors also report that “those workers earn a very low salary and therefore lack the financial ability, language skills, and contacts to establish their own businesses in Angola” (Campos and Vines 46). However, given that over half of the population in Angola are jobless, the influx of Chinese workers may fuel resentment and contribute to future controversy. The authors mention that Chinese companies garner 70 percent of the contracts, which means only 30 percent of Angolans get contracts. However, it seems with the focus on rebuilding quickly, the Angolan government has favored Chinese companies over domestic ones by giving them over 70 percent of the contracts. Furthermore, since the Chinese also prefer to hire their own workers and have brought up issues about the standards of local workers and contractors, many locals have no benefited from anticipated levels of employment that the Chinese were expected to provide.
The authors also make the excellent point that there is a need for mutual understanding that is absent in work-related interactions between the Chinese and Angolans. The Catholic University in Luanda opened a research quarter for studies on China-Africa relationship. There is still little historical, cultural and linguistic knowledge between China and Angola. Chinese researchers are beginning to recognize the importance of Angola and other African countries, but the concern is that “China’s intellectual capacity to analyze the country has not increased” and therefore, this “highlights a serious sociocultural deficit for promoting a more realistic understanding of nonelite bilateral relations” (46-47).