Africabeat template: Africabeat: China turns toward Africa

Monday, January 16, 2006

China turns toward Africa

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This post contains commentary followed by an extensive list of articles on China's role in Africa.

China's interests in Africa have long been known, but in the last six months, there has been an amazing proliferation of "China goes to Africa" articles in the international media.

While the rest of the world often views Africa in the context of a donor-recipient relationship, China views Africa as a central part of its strategic plan, most notably for its oil reserves (China’s demand for oil far outstrips its supply) and for its markets for manufactured goods. The Chinese perceive American influence in Africa to be less entrenched than it is in the rest of the world, thus offering unique opportunities for China to pursue its economic interests

The question on everyone’s mind is what effect – for good or for evil – China’s expanding role will have on the continent. As the blog “China in Africa: A New Colonial Power?” asks, will China’s ambitions in Africa constitute a “new round of colonialism” or “an opportunity for real development”?

My guess is a little bit of both.

What makes the Chinese different from the Americans is that they are willing to do business virtually anywhere and with anyone. On the one hand, that is a positive. The Chinese are more willing to invest in post-conflict countries and to open businesses or broker trade deals in environments that many American or European companies would deem too risky.

But that also means the Chinese are willing to do business with some very questionable people. In the case of oil-rich Sudan, the Chinese have heavily invested in infrastructure development and have even sold war planes and other military equipment to the government in Khartoum, a regime thought to have committed war crimes against its own people in Darfur. China has also sold military equipment in Zimbabwe, despite the arms embargo, and has offered assistance in improving the government’s ability to jam independent radio stations and filter the internet.

(For my part, I have never been completely sold on this critique. China is playing the same game all world powers play. How much training, military equipment, economic aid, and other implicit or explicit support has the United States given to questionable regimes in the last fifty years? (Not to mention engaging in full-out war). I would bet it would outstrip China by some exponential factor.)

On balance, I suspect most African leaders welcome Chinese involvement. If anything, it offers governments an alternative to American and European hegemony and the prescriptions of Western-run institutions like the IMF and the World Bank. Competition may give African governments more bargaining power vis-à-vis donor governments and perhaps force some to see Africa’s economic development as part of their own self-interest, and that (I hope) will be a good thing.

Use the links below to learn more about a really interesting and emerging topic.

Photo: Chinese President Hu Jintao receives Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in Beijing this past July.

Soft diplomacy:

"China Wages Classroom Struggle to Win Friends in Africa," Howard French. New York Times, November 20, 2005.

"China's Soft Power in Africa: From the "Beijing Consensus" to Health Diplomacy" by Drew Thompson. China Brief, October 13, 2005.


From China With Love” by Janet Wilhelm. Mail & Guardian. January 9, 2006.

China-Africa trade jumps by 39% BBC News January 6, 2006.

La Chine à l’assaut du marché africain” by Jean-Christophe Servant. Le Monde Diplomatique.

"Chungking Mansions : l’Afrique à Hong-Kong"


China’s foreign minister in Africa bolster energy interests.” Associated Press. January 12, 2006.

"China Oil Firm Buys into Nigeria” Chris Hogg. BBC January 9, 2006.

CNOOC Announces $2.3B Nigeria Investment” by Peter S. Goodman. Washington Post. January 9, 2006.

"Dueling Priorities for Beijing in the Horn of Africa" by David Shinn, Joshua Eisenmann. China Brief, October 13, 2005.

"Sudan: China's Outpost in Africa" by Yitzhak Shicor. China Brief, October 13, 2005.


"Beijing's Arms and Oil Interests in Africa" by Ian Taylor. China Brief, October 13, 2005.

More articles:

China’s Africa Safari” by Paul Mooney. YaleGlobal Online. January 3, 2005.

Asia, Africa on way to new strategic partnership”

La Chine et l’Afrique: Entre Engagement et IntérêtGéopolitique africaine, 2004.

We Love China” by Lindsey Hilsum. Granta

A rising China counters US clout in Africa,” Christian Science Monitor. March 30, 2005.


What are the politics behind China’s race to develop Sudan?” by Rob Crilly, Irish Times. November 25, 2005.

China’s interests in Sudan bring diplomatic cover” Reuters, December 17, 2005.

Blogs posts:

Zimbabweans protest at Chinese aid for Mugabe This is Zimbabwe

China in Africa: the CNOOC Nigerian Oil Deal” Jewels in the Jungle (with some really interesting comments by Nigerian readers)

The future of Africa is not China” Chippla’s Weblog

China’s trade with Africa – good news or bad news? Ethan Zuckerman. My Heart’s in Accra

CNOOC: “It’s a good deal Nigerian Times

Chinese Censorship Specialists in Zimbabwe” Committee to Protect Bloggers

Other links:

Forum On China-Africa Cooperation (中非合作论坛) (Government website)

China in Africa: A New Colonial Power? (Blog)


"Cultivating responsible trade ties between China and Africa" makes it onto the World Economic Forum (Davos, Switzerland) agenda:


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Blogger jenbrea said...

This post got picked up by a Taiwanese blogger (非洲:中國) . I am new to the blogsphere, and I am just starting to realize just how powerful and how cool this community (and Global Voices) can be.

Also, I'll be editing this weblog and posting new China/Africa articles as I come across them. Until then, I highly recommend you visit the blog "China in Africa: A New Colonial Power?

If you come across any articles you think should be here, email me or post a comment and I'll incorporate them.

9:41 PM  
Blogger Black River Eagle said...


I'm having huge problems viewing your March 28, 2006 post on Charles Taylor. My browser goes crazy when just trying to view and scroll up/down the page. Also the comments area does not even appear for the Taylor post. Can you look into that problem and leave a note at my place, please. I'd like to link to your post for my upcoming post on Liberia and Charles Taylor.

Ciao for now. Thanks.

7:09 AM  

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