Algeria: The Chinese Invasion

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April 17, 2013: The government has organized local religious leaders and teachers into an organization being funded to promote the traditional (to North Africa) Malekite version of Sunni Islam. This is meant to counteract the more radical Wahhabi form of Islam that is so dominant in Saudi Arabia (and frequently exported since the 1970s via all that oil money). Al Qaeda was founded by Wahhabis and similar minded Salafists (from Egypt). Malekites are fundamentalists but more mystical and less into Islamic terrorism. Malekites believe it is better to influence others through example rather than terror. The local Islamic terrorists who left hundreds of thousands of Algerians dead in the 1990s were Salafists and are not well liked in Algeria. The government is trying to take advantage of this anti-Salafist sentiment to persuade religious young Algerians to adopt the Malekite tradition. That might work, but the Salafists and Wahhabi are still considered cool by the young, if only because of all the bloody mayhem they have created in the last four decades.

The rapid defeat of the Islamic terrorists who attacked a natural gas facility in January has demoralized the local Islamic terrorists. The failed gas field raid was quickly followed by the defeat of al Qaeda in Mali and the destruction of their bases down there. Many Algerian Islamic terrorists had gone to Mali last year and by February many of them were suddenly dead or fleeing in all directions. Few came back to Algeria, mainly because Algerians were angry about al Qaeda attacking a key source of national wealth (the natural gas field). The government capitalized on that and has intensified counter-terrorist operations in the last two months. Thus, the Algerian Islamic terrorists are now in survival/rebuilding mode. They are not gone but they are very much weakened and very much on the defensive.

China is becoming a major presence in Algeria. Over the last decade Chinese firms have invested $1.5 billion here. Currently some 30,000 Chinese are working in Algeria for fifty Chinese companies. Most of the Chinese are working on transportation (road and railroad) projects. Although Algeria has a lot of unemployment, there are few people with the necessary skills for these projects, so China brings in skilled workers from China. Some of those Chinese will settle down in Algeria but not as many as in non-Arab Africa. The Arabs are not as accepting of foreigners as many other cultures are. While many oil-rich Arab states import foreigners for most of the civilian jobs, these workers are not encouraged to stay and there are strict laws governing the presence of the foreign workers. Algeria sees the Chinese investments, especially in infrastructure, as a way to get the local economy growing and thus provide jobs for the many young Algerians who are increasingly angry about being unemployed. The Chinese workers are very efficient and tend to get their projects done on time and on budget. This makes the Chinese popular with the government which, mainly because of corruption, is notoriously inefficient, especially when it comes to building things for the public.

April 3, 2013: For the first time ever Chinese warships are visiting Algeria. Two Chinese warships that had recently been on anti-piracy duty off Somalia are in Algeria for a four day good will visit and to train with the Algerian Navy. This is also an opportunity for the Chinese to show off their warships, which in the last two decades have gone from being clones of Cold War Russian ships to inexpensive versions of more modern designs. Algeria is rebuilding its navy and has already bought some Russian warships.

Some 120 kilometers south of the capital Islamic terrorists ambushed a convoy transporting a provincial governor. The attack failed and the terrorists fled after they had killed one of the governor’s security guards.

 

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