On his trip to Africa in March, one of Xi Jinping’s main aims was to reassure regional leaders that China’s growing presence on the continent is a force for good.
In Xi’s keynote speech – delivered in a conference centre built with Chinese money in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania – the Chinese president dismissed accusations that Beijing was exploiting African nations, stressing instead that ties were being extended in the spirit of equality.
“China frankly faces up to the new circumstances and problems in our relations and vows to ensure that all issues are solved in the spirit of mutual respect and cooperation, in order to ensure a win-win outcome,” Xi claimed.
“The Sino-African friendship is precious and should be cherished,” he added, rather more fluently.
But 3,000 kilometres to the west of Tanzania, another African country was dealing with the messy reality of some of that friendship.
That was after it transpired that over 100 million faulty condoms labelled as made in China’s central Henan province had made it into Ghana’s public health system without being tested properly. According to Ghana’s food and drugs authority (FDA) the condoms were riddled with perforations, under-lubricated and too small in size. “When we tested these condoms, we found that they are poor quality, can burst in the course of sexual activity and have holes which expose the users to unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease,” the head of drug enforcement at the FDA, Thomas Amedzro, told the Observer newspaper in the UK.
The contraceptives had been distributed for free as part of an HIV/AIDS prevention campaign and had even been embossed with the words Be Safe.
The customs documentation for the condoms indicated that they had been produced by Xibei Latex in Henan. But Xibei was quick to defend itself, saying that it had sold only 25 million condoms to Ghana in June last year through an export company in Kenya. In a message to the Shanghailist website, Xibei explained the faulty condoms thus: “We have realised that fake condoms in the name of Be Safe have been imported to Ghana. Those fake condoms are not related to our Be Safe Corporation Limited and we would very much appreciate it if you could kindly explain that.”
But several Ghanaian commentators were quick to blame Xibei, lumping it together with other Chinese companies accused of importing fake medicine in recent months. Anti-Chinese sentiment is also running high after news that Chinese gold miners have been illegally mining in areas traditionally worked by Ghanaians.
“Receiving loans, grants and technical aid from China is no exchange for our sovereignty. It is time for our leaders to bite the bullet and enforce our laws to the letter,” inisisted one commentary on Ghanaweb.
Then again, for China’s netizens this was more a case of Henan – arguably the least respected province domestically – letting the side down.
“Nobody can stop Henan people losing face in China but, please, I really wish they wouldn’t make us lose face overseas,” was one typical comment.
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