House bill move aims to contain China growth

African experts call reclassification an extension of US diplomatic aggression

This undated photo shows the Capitol Hill in Washington DC. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

The unanimous passage of a bill by the United States House of Representatives to revoke China's status as a developing country is an extension of the US diplomatic aggression against China to contain the country's development, which will also impede China's assistance to poorer countries, African experts said.

The so-called PRC Is Not a Developing Country Act, if enacted, will impose unrealistic obligations on China and may upset China's development agenda with its domino effects felt in Africa, they said.

Although it is the second-largest economy in the world, China is still listed as a developing country in all major international organizations such as the United Nations, World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

XN Iraki, an associate professor at the University of Nairobi's Faculty of Business and Management Sciences, said China is still a developing country because its per capita income is still much lower compared with developed countries.

Iraki added that China's 65 percent urbanization rate is low compared with the United Kingdom's 85 percent.

He said if China's status is revoked, China could be forced to take up more responsibilities as a more developed country.

Adhere Cavince, an international relations scholar on China-Africa relations, said China is still considered a developing country across many metrics.

He said in terms of gross domestic product per capita, China is only around a fifth of the United States and ranks way below many of the Global North economies.

"China is still struggling with a number of development challenges.… It means that more work still needs to be done by Chinese people and the government to consolidate durable development gains," he said.

Huge cost

Adhere said reclassifying China as a developed country may come at a huge cost for its partners, especially from the Global South.

"In its understanding of the challenges of itself being the largest developing country, China has stood with other emerging economies in terms of development," he said, adding that China's assistance cannot be rivaled by any of the countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

"Through avenues like the Belt and Road Initiative, China has positively impacted Africa's productive sectors," he said.

"Any attempts to reclassify China as a developed country may impose unrealistic obligations on China, which will impede Beijing's development assistance to poor countries."

Nobert Njoroge, vice-chairperson of the Kenya-China Alumni Association, said China's status as a developing country has been discussed due to its rapid economic growth and increasing influence in the world economy.

"Despite its impressive economic growth, China still lags in literacy level distribution, life expectancy and overall human development index compared with developed countries."

Goodson Nguni, a political commentator in Zimbabwe, said: "The US wants to control and dominate China, a rising power."

Zimbabwean researcher Nomathemba Mhlanga said the move seeks to cut China's development trajectory by adding a premium to its development cost through the assumption of international responsibilities beyond its ability.

"The law is meant to put spanners on China's development agenda and its growing investment initiatives into Africa," Mhlanga said.

Gift Mugano, an economist in Harare, also questioned why the US gives itself the right to impose labels on other sovereign countries.

Mugano said the US wields some influence in the World Bank, WTO and IMF, and could also decree a heavy tariff regime on Chinese products and companies.

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