"Forward with the nation" : Zambia, China, and the West, 1960-1970




Achberger, Jessica

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This dissertation examines how Zambia’s international relations, particularly with China, affected its political and economic development in the first decade after independence. Zambian development issues in the 1960s were directly tied to the volatile situation in Southern Africa, and its methods of negotiating this situation were deeply influenced by the Cold War. Regional issues placed land-locked Zambia in a difficult situation politically, economically, and socially. Yet, despite major hurdles to peace and stability, Zambia was an anomaly among newly independent Africa nations. Postcolonial African history is riddled with violent decolonization struggles, civil war, and oppressive dictatorship. The history of these newly independent nations was dramatic and bloody and has garnered much attention from scholars of Africa, identifying causes ranging from inept colonial governance to neo-colonialism, global resource competition, and poor leadership. More recently, scholars have begun to include the Cold War in this postcolonial narrative; however, they have almost exclusively focused on instances of resistance. It is true that violent conflict unfortunately represents a majority of decolonization struggles, not just in Africa, but in Asia as well. It is also true that these narratives are more dramatic than their peaceful counterparts. It is not true however, that decolonization struggles influenced by the Cold War only manifested in bloodshed. Relatively speaking, the Zambian independence process was deliberate and peaceful. Yet Zambia’s political and economic development following independence was directly influenced by the bi-polar political situation of the Cold War. The Zambian government’s most important communist ally was the People’s Republic of China. The reaction of the West to this “mutually beneficial friendship” between Zambia and China was, unsurprisingly, not a positive one. Yet Zambia’s staunch commitment to non-alignment was both a reaction to its political and economic situation, as well as the best way of ensuring development. Through trade agreements, pledges of aid, and, most importantly, the negotiation of the TAZARA railway, the Zambian government showed deft political skills at negotiating between the West and China for its continued economic development.



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