Beijing put up the money to build Zambia China Mulungushi Textiles and provided the expertise to run it. It grew to become the biggest textile mill in the country, manufacturing 17-million metres of fabric a year and 100 000 pieces of clothing, and winning international awards for the quality of its cloth. The mill employed more than 1 000 people, propped up the economy of Kabwe in northern Zambia and kept thousands of cotton growers in business.
But last month the factory shut down production, strangled by a new wave of Chinese interest across Africa that some critics say amounts to little more than another round of foreign plunder, as Beijing extracts minerals and other natural resources at knock-down prices while battering the continent's economies with a flood of subsidised goods and surplus labour.
Hostility is such in some quarters that the Chinese President, Hu Jintao, on an eight-country tour of Africa to promote Beijing's blossoming trade relationship with the continent, cancelled plans to launch a $200-million smelter at a Chinese-owned Zambian copper mine at the weekend because of miners' anger at working conditions. He also faced protests from the sacked Mulungushi factory workers.
"Our textile factories can't compete with cheap Chinese imports subsidised by a foreign government. People are saying: 'We've had bad people before. The whites were bad, the Indians were worse but the Chinese are worst of all.'"
Read, "Thanks China, now go home" on M&G Online