Friday, March 12, 2010

China and Africa

Back in Beijing I once met an Arabic-speaking woman who used to work in a foreign aid organization. "China helps Africa so it can get natural resources," she told me. "Westerners actually care."
My experiences in China make me think that's probably the case, but it's beside the point if China's methods are more effective. Western aid is supposed to be well though out, even scientific, with all the studies aid organizations carry out. But perhaps going in and just doing it is better. It's not like we really understand all the factors that go into making a poor country rich, much less have the ability to influence all of them. Perhaps we should just go in, ask people what they need most, and give it to them.
One of the problems with US foreign policy, I think, is that it depends on belief in our own good intentions. Good intentions don't matter if you're incompetent, however, or represented by someone who doesn't share those good intentions.

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