Rwanda's economic development has been fantastic in the last couple of years allowing Rwanda to become a model of development success. Is this success a good thing considering that its model of economic development was based on the Chinese model?

From Forum Aussenpolitik:

Those contacts have taken diverse forms and tend to evolve complementarily. While Vision 2020 has been inspired by the Chinese development model back in the 90s, nowadays private and public entities from the PRC compete for the Rwandan logistics and services markets. This state of things benefits both sides – China gains experience and recognition in sectors other than the extraction of raw materials, while Rwanda strengthens its economic base. One of Kagame’s central goals, self-reliance through the rejection of foreign aid, has also been supported by Xi Jinping in 2018. Vision 2020 exemplifies Rwanda’s leader policy of emulating the general characteristics of China’s development while implementing domestically-adjusted practical steps.

Is the success of the model a threat to Western powers. If so, how so?

  • I suppose if someone thinks that other countries being poorer is good for their own development, they might be concerned about economic growth in Rwanda. Some military types might think that, but not many economists.
    – Obie 2.0
    Jul 20, 2019 at 2:03
  • Voting to close mostly because "a threat to Western interests" is extremely subjective, lacking either stated-in-question, or real life, definition.
    – user4012
    Jul 26, 2019 at 0:03
  • @Obie2.0 there are different forms of economic growth. Being colonised by a foreign superpower doesn't seem good (from multiple perspectives) to me.
    – JJJ
    Jul 26, 2019 at 0:44
  • @JJJ - Is that a Western interest? Anyway, exploitation and colonialism is a real concern, not only with China, but also with the United States and corporations. Internal democracy hasn't always translated to greater concern for the well-being of people in other countries. However, the flip side is that any economic growth in Rwanda is going to bring with it an increase in participation in global markets.
    – Obie 2.0
    Jul 26, 2019 at 0:51
  • @Obie2.0 not necessarily. As with all colonisation, its primary goal is to benefit the colonising power, not the colonies. Western and other countries' interests are broad and not necessarily China-specific. It shifts the geopolitical balance (not necessarily bad, but can be a factor). Specifically in this case I think vital resources are relevant. China (and other colonising powers in the past) don't go there for fun, they aim to get something out of it. In this case, mostly rare elements.
    – JJJ
    Jul 26, 2019 at 1:14

2 Answers 2


I think that there a few intermingled issues in this question:

  1. Chinese model - authoritarian government, more or less free economy (in their case especially considering safety net, while technically there are plenty of gov owned companies). Yes, this model tend to work, something similar worked well in Europe during industrial revolution or in Chile under Pinochet. As people (or states) tend to get much better along with similar ones, then from political perspective it may be a political issue for Europe.

    Nevertheless, in the West there is a belief (well, it worked so in the West) that populations after reaching some level of economic wealth and education, start demand political power, so this "Chinese model" is perceived just a transition period. (Assuming that "Chinese model" would actually work in long run, then minor interests in Africa are barely noticeable issue, as that would undermine contemporary Western ideology at home too)

  2. Total success of investment would not be a problem as such, however quite often gigantic government investment projects tend to be white elephants. But no worry, Chinese lenders are willing to help anyway to partially get out of the debt trap, but this time it would require serious political concessions. And those political concession may be more than problematic for not only Europeans, but everyone except Chinese.

  3. General success of the economy - paradoxically that's the part that is not problematic, but actually beneficial from Western perspective - it should mean less refugees / economic migrants trying to cross Mediterranean Sea.

  4. Most of European countries (the main exception is France) don't have any real political influence over African countries, thus by default could not consider their non-existent interests threatened.


Is the success of the model a threat to Western powers. If so, how so?

Possibly, the extent of which is hard to quantify, but there are certainly relevant factors.

Africa may not seem that relevant to the West, but it is certainly important in a few ways. Firstly, it's near an important shipping route. When looking at ships going from China to Europe Africa is somewhat in the middle. Secondly, Africa may have rare materials (e.g. specific minerals) that are important for advanced technologies.

As such, China's involvement is not necessarily a threat, but it does give them more power geopolitically.

Is this success a good thing considering that its model of economic development was based on the Chinese model?

This touches on another issue. More closer to the West, in this case NATO. Shadow1024 correctly uses the term white elephant to refer to Chinese investment programs abroad. To following quote from The Diplomat explains how some see this as "debt-trap diplomacy":

“Some believe China engages in ‘debt-trap diplomacy’ through the BRI, ensnaring developing countries with debt dependence and then translating that dependence into geopolitical influence,” says Paul Haenle, former U.S. government adviser and director at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center, summarizing much of the critique.

“Particular concerns around China’s actions in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Malaysia are central in the debt trap debates. China acquired 99 years of operating rights for the Hambantota Port in southern Sri Lanka after costs for the project spiraled out of control, forcing Colombo to give up control of the port in return for a Chinese bailout,” Haenle explains.

So, where does NATO come in? Montenegro, a non-EU NATO member actually has also made such an investment deal with China. From the Jason Institute:

Montenegro is among the most vulnerable nations to accept Chinese loans. The loan for the first part of the highway will likely result for Montenegro’s debt to rise to 80% of its GDP. This has caused EU officials to fear that the tiny Adriatic republic will become entangled with China’s ‘debt-trap diplomacy’. This is similar to a scenario that unfolded in Sri Lanka when Chinese investments reached $1 billion. The government was forced to hand over a port in the Pacific Ocean as part of compensation efforts. A similar situation also happened in Djibouti, where as a result China opened its first military naval base abroad in order to ‘protect Chinese investment’. A Munich Security Conference report stated that about 40% of Montenegro’s total external debt – the highest measured percentage – is destined for China. There seems to be evidence that China invests where it knows that the loans are highly wanted, but unlikely to be paid back.

As you can see, China's Belt and Road Initiative takes place in many countries and as such it has a lot of geopolitical impact. Combine that with the difference in form of government and ethics between the West and China and it's certainly something that has the potential to harm the West's interests globally.

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