Having already taken over Venezuela with billions of pre-petition Debtor in Possession loans to the soon to be insolvent nation, China has franchised its model of financial colonialism, perfected over the decades by the IMF and World Bank, and on Wednesday agreed to lend Guinea $20 billion for 20 years in exchange for concessions on bauxite, an aluminum ore of which the West African country has vast resources the country's mines minister said.
Having bypassed conventional international lenders such as the IMF for various reasons, the African nation demonstrated that when it comes to commodity-rich African nations, the (financial) world is unipolar, and the pole goes right through Beijing.
According to Reuters, the projects guaranteed by the loan included China Power Investment Corp’s (CPI) planned alumina refinery and Aluminium Corp of China’s (Chalco) bauxite mine and another bauxite project by China Henan International Cooperation Group, all of them in the northwestern town of Boffa.
“Those are the three projects targeted as priorities for the first phase,” Mines Minister Abdoulaye Magassouba told Reuters. “The revenues these projects generate will serve as reimbursement for the loans.”
According to the Mines minister, proceeds from the Chinese loan would be spent on badly needed infrastructure - Guinea is one of the world’s least developed countries - including roads in the capital Guinea and highways upcountry, a project for extending the port of Conakry, an electric transmission line and the building of a university, Magassouba said. The Chinese loan represent a "roads-for-minerals" formula that China often uses to gain access to Africa’s resources.
Chalco said last month it plans to invest $500 million in the project in Boffa, about 200 kilometres from the capital Conakry, which was abandoned by BHP Billiton in 2013. Meanwhile, China's interest in the Guniean aluminum goes back at least to 2012 when CPI first unveiled the $6 billion CPI alumina project.
Guinea, Africa’s leading bauxite producer, holds some of the world’s richest bauxite and iron ore deposits, including the Simandou iron ore deposit, in its remote east, which is mired in legal disputes but has nevertheless attracted intense interest from China. China, which has been one of the world's largest users of aluminum, has been eager to secure long-term access to aluminum's key ore.
And while this latest attempt to internationalize the Yuan is notable, if hardly unique, it pales in comparison with the recent report that China will shortly launch a crude oil futures contract priced in yuan and convertible into gold, in what analysts say could be a game-changer for the industry.
The contract could become the most important Asia-based crude oil benchmark, given that China is the world's biggest oil importer. Crude oil is usually priced in relation to Brent or West Texas Intermediate futures, both denominated in U.S. dollars.
As the Nikkei summarized, "China's move will allow exporters such as Russia and Iran to circumvent U.S. sanctions by trading in yuan. To further entice trade, China says the yuan will be fully convertible into gold on exchanges in Shanghai and Hong Kong." In short, as the US lurches from one crisis to another, China continues to covertly upstage not only established "developed world" institutions like the IMF and WB as lender of only resort, but also the (petro)dollar as the world's reserve currency.