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China-Africa Relations

Tag Archives | China-Africa Relations

China Sending Troops to South Sudan

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Alberto Gonzalez Farran/UN Photo

Al Jazeera asked me on 21 June 2014 to comment on the decision by China to send an infantry battalion of 850 troops to the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan. I explained that these additional troops would join some 350 non-combat Chinese troops who have been part of the UN peacekeeping operation for the past several years. The Chinese contingent is part of an authorized UN force of 12,500 troops from many other nations.

This decision by China underscores that it is taking an increasingly robust role in protecting its security interests in Africa. The China National Petroleum Corporation controls 40 percent of the oil production in Sudan and South Sudan and Chinese companies built most of the oil infrastructure. Several hundred Chinese nationals work in South Sudan; some 300 have already been evacuated. When the oil fields in both Sudan and South Sudan are operating at full capacity, they provide about 5 percent of China’s imported oil.

Ethiopia and China: How Two Former Empires Connected in the 20th Century

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Liu Zhen/China News Service
Liu Zhen/China News Service

Liu Zhen/China News Service

Ethiopia was never colonized and along with China has a long imperial history. China’s imperial period came to an end with the fall of the Qing dynasty and formation of the Republic of China as a constitutional republic in 1912. The overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974 by a left-wing military junta ended Ethiopia’s empire. In 1970, four years before the end of Ethiopia’s empire, the People’s Republic of China established formal diplomatic relations with Haile Selassie’s imperial government.

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New $2 Billion Fund, China and the African Development Bank

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Asahi.com
Asahi.com

Asahi.com

According to the Financial Times, the Chinese and the African Development Bank will soon announce a contribution of $2 billion to an Africa-wide investment vehicle, “Africa Growing Together Fund.” Unlike most Chinese finance on the continent, this would be open to all companies to compete.

If it’s true (and it is still to be confirmed), this is a huge change and a very welcome one. While the multilateral banks are not immune from corruption and embezzlement challenges, they do have stakeholders that try to hold them accountable in a transparent process. That has not been the case with the Chinese policy banks. I suspect that Chinese firms will still win the majority of contracts but what an excellent tactic by a maturing Chinese leadership to make them compete internationally for their wins.

This kind of competition is how companies become excellent, not by having deals handed to them, or by winning through collusion or non-competitive means. I can’t wait to learn more. A hat tip to John Briscoe.

Chinese Direct Investment in Africa

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Chinese workers

Thierry Pairault recently published a good analysis titled “Chinese Direct Investment in Africa: A State Strategy?” in Region et Developpment. He reviews available statistical and informational databases in order to analyze the actual importance of Chinese direct investment in Africa and to infer its strategic importance. He reaches a series of conclusions, including that China does nothing that the rest of the world has not already done or would not do in its place.

Africa in China’s Foreign Policy

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China in Africa

Brookings published in April 2014 an extensive analysis titled “Africa in China’s Foreign Policy” by Yun Sun, a fellow at the Henry L. Stimson Center in Washington. The author notes that given the low priority of Africa in China’s foreign policy agenda, African issues rarely reach the highest level of foreign policy decision making in the Chinese bureaucratic apparatus. She also emphasizes, correctly in my view, that there is a constant tension between the narrow, mercantilist pursuit of economic interests in Africa and that pursuit’s impact on the overall health of the Sino-African relationship and China’s international image.

Chinese-Built Angolan “Ghost Town” Wakes Up?

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Kilamba, c. 2012

Anyone who has been to Luanda knows that the city lacks housing.

Kilamba, c. 2012

The hotels are extremely expensive, and researchers have been known to rent a room in someone’s house for $100 a day. Angolan president Jose dos Santos pledged to build a million new homes, between 2008 and 2012. Kilamba City was part of that promise. The idea of constructing a new town, Kilamba City, 20 km outside Luanda, where flats would be available for purchase, seemed like a good one.

A Frenchman, Pierre Falcon, the famous architect of the “Angola-gate” arms trade and corruption scandal, owns the company that oversaw the project: Pierson Capital Group. The complex was financed by ICBC, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, allegedly backed by oil-revenues. CITIC built the flats. The state-owned oil Angola was in charge of marketing the apartments (they would use those revenues to repay the loan). Chinese firms built Kilamba. And then the apartments seemed to stand empty. Visiting Western journalists photographed the long, lonely expanses of buildings. Kilamba City was filled, it seemed, by ghosts.

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Open Access to Articles on China-Africa Issues

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China-Africa

The publishing house Taylor & Francis is giving open access to dozens of journal articles on China-Africa issues (including one of mine, with Zhang Haisen). For people outside of universities, which can access these for free, this could be very useful. One warning: some of these are fairly dated and the research has moved on considerably since then. And the quality of these articles also varies quite a bit, with some based on very solid empirical foundations and others relying more on news media and secondary sources. Caveat readers.

Here’s the publisher’s description of this bonanza:

China is increasingly becoming involved in all aspects of development within Africa. From infrastructure building to the investment in aid on the continent. The following articles explore this growing relationship, looking at the impact on US – African relations, the media view on the partnership and China’s aid policies within the region. You can now explore over 35 leading papers on China in Africa entirely for free below.

The Geopolitics of Gay Rights in Uganda

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President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda. Photo: Russell Watkins

Last week’s passage into law of the controversial anti-gay bill in Uganda puts the country among an elite club of nations noteworthy for their backpedaling on human and civil rights.

President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda. Photo: Russell Watkins

Kampala has experienced widespread condemnation for its action, and funding from the World Bank and two European governments has already been suspended. President Obama and the U.S. Congress must now decide whether to restrict aid to the country, but geopolitical considerations may ultimately determine the extent to which Kampala will be penalized by Washington.

As a host of a U.S. military presence and a major contributor to the African Union Mission in Somalia, Washington has long viewed Kampala as a strategic ally in Central and East Africa. Given Uganda’s geographic proximity to a range of conflicts where Western interests are at stake — such as the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and South Sudan — a sophisticated military partnership with Uganda serves several of Washington’s strategic interests in the region. The $1 billion in aid that Washington has provided to Uganda since Obama took office underscores the value of this alliance from Washington’s perspective.

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China’s Investment in Ethiopia

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Source: Elissa Jobson/gga.org

Source: Elissa Jobson/gga.org

Good Governance Africa published on 1 March 2014 an article titled “Treading a New Path” by Elissa Jobson, a freelance journalist, that deals with Chinese investment in Ethiopia. She notes China’s investment in shoe manufacturing and wonders if this will lead to additional Chinese investment in Ethiopia.

Chinese Military Sales to Nigeria and Algeria

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Algerian military

Algerian military

Defence Web announced recently that Nigeria and Algeria are in the process of purchasing sophisticated military equipment from China. These announcements are reminders of an important Chinese export to Africa that receives very little coverage in the media.

An article dated 30 January 2014 and titled “China Launches First Nigerian Offshore Patrol Vessel” reported that the China Shipbuilding and Offshore International Company launched the Nigerian Navy’s first of two P-18N offshore patrol vessels. The first vessel was built entirely in China while between 50 and 70 percent of the second ship will be constructed in Nigeria in an effort to enhance local shipbuilding capability and provide technology transfer. Delivery of the first vessel is scheduled for the middle of 2014 and the second to be completed late in 2014 or early in 2015. The vessels are 95 meters long with a draft of 3.5 meters. Crew complement is 70 and the vessels can carry a helicopter on the rear deck. The Nigerian Navy announced that the vessels would mainly be used for maritime surveillance, patrol and response.

An article dated 27 January 2014 and titled “Algeria Acquires Chinese Artillery; Evaluating UAVs” reported that the Algerian military appears to have acquired self-propelled artillery from China and is evaluating Chinese unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as it continues to expand its military forces. Early this year, there was a picture in Algeria of a convoy of about 50 new PLZ 45 self-propelled howitzers, which are made by Norinco for the export market. Algeria is also reportedly in discussion with China for the purchase of Xianglong UAVs, a jet-powered High Altitude Long Endurance aircraft designed by the Guizhou Aircraft Corporation of China.

How Africans view Chinese Business in Africa

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China in Africa

The Ethics Institute of South Africa (EthicsSA) published in February 2014 a major study titled “Africans’ Perception of Chinese Business in Africa: A Survey.” Pretoria-based EthicsSA is a non-profit, public-benefit organization that opened its doors in 2000. The survey involved an on-line questionnaire from 1,056 Africans in 15 countries that have a large presence of Chinese companies.

The perceptions were surprisingly negative. In terms of the reputation of Chinese business in Africa, 43.3% is negative and 35.4% is positive. In respect to the quality of Chinese products and services, 55.9% is negative and 22.7% positive. Regarding environmental responsibility of Chinese companies in Africa, 53.9% is negative and only 11.1% is positive. In terms of economic responsibility of Chinese companies in Africa, 40.1% is negative and 28.3% positive. Concerning corporate social responsibility, 45.7% is negative and 21% positive. Perceptions of employment practices of Chinese companies in Africa are 46% negative and 19.1% positive.

The survey concluded that Africans are happy with Chinese investment in the sense that it contributes to the development of their countries. However, Africans are concerned about the economic, workplace, social and environmental impact of Chinese investment.

South Sudan is “New Chapter” in Chinese Conflict Resoution Policy

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South Sudan's President Salva Kiir

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir

Reuters interviewed Zhong Jianhua, China’s special representative for African Affairs, in Beijing on 10 February 2014. Michael Martina then wrote an intriguing article titled “South Sudan Marks New Foreign Policy Chapter for China: Official” the following day. The article suggests that China may be changing its policy on conflicts in Africa.

Zhong told Reuters that “China should be engaging more in peace and security solutions for any conflict” in South Sudan. He added that this “is a challenge for China. This is something new for us…It is a new chapter for Chinese foreign affairs.” The article suggested there are signs that China is ready to put more pressure on Juba to avoid a return to fighting if a deal is reached among conflicting parties. Zhong said China would proceed cautiously and offered few details how China would expand its role. He emphasized that the situation calls for an African solution by African parties. He also refused to take a position on the involvement of Ugandan forces in South Sudan.

It is too early to tell whether Ambassador Zhong’s comments foretell a real change in China’s policy on efforts to resolve conflict in African countries where China has significant interests at stake. At a minimum, however, China’s actions in South Sudan merit close attention as they may signal a break with the past.

China’s Aid to Africa: Monster or Messiah?

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Tanzania

Tanzania

Brookings published in January 2014 an analysis titled “China’s Aid to Africa: Monster or Messiah?” by Yun Sun, East Asia fellow at the Stimson Center. She concludes that the intention of China’s aid to Africa is benign but not altruistic. China does not seek to use aid to influence the domestic politics of African countries or dictate policies. But Chinese projects create access to Africa’s natural resources and local markets, business opportunities for Chinese companies and employment for Chinese laborers. China’s comprehensive, multi-dimensional aid to Africa defies simplistic categorization.

In Sudan, Remnants of Colonialism’s Dead Hand

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UN peacekeepers at a camp for internally displaced persons in Juba. Isaac Billy/UN

“The negotiations have to be serious. They cannot be a delay gimmick in order to continue the fighting and try to find advantage on the ground at the expense of the people of South Sudan.” – John Kerry

UN peacekeepers at a camp for internally displaced persons in Juba. Isaac Billy/UN

Hopefully the recent ceasefire agreement between the warring parties in South Sudan will halt that country’s downward spiral into civil war. But if it does it will have to buck the convergence of two powerful historical streams: a legacy of colonial manipulation dating back more than a hundred years, and the current policies of the U.S. vis-à-vis the African continent. South Sudan became a country in 2011 when its residents voted overwhelmingly to separate from the Sudan, at the time the largest country in Africa.

But a falling out late last year between South Sudan President Salva Kiir, a member of the Dinka tribe, and Vice President Riek Machar, a member of the Nuer tribe, has plunged the country into war. Cities have been sacked, thousands killed, and almost 200,000 people turned into refugees. The birth of continent’s newest nation was largely an American endeavor, brought about by a polyglot coalition of Christian evangelicals, U.S. corporations, the Bush and Obama administrations, the Congressional Black Caucus, and human rights supporters.

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The China-Comoros Malaria Eradication Experiment

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Artemisinin. Photo: Brigitte Betzelt

The Economist on January 25, 2014, carried an article by Shannon van Sant — “Malaria eradication: cure all?

Artemisinin. Photo: Brigitte Betzelt

Shannon van Sant analyzes the fascinating and controversial effort by Chinese researchers, a Chinese drug company, and the Government of the Comoros to eradicate malaria across their three islands, and 700,000 people, using several rounds of an malaria treatment: artemisinin, developed from a Chinese herb, for the entire population, one by one. The questions she raises are good ones. Being myself in the middle of an intensive, months-long IRB (Institutional Review Board) process at Johns Hopkins to allow me to move forward on grant-funded research on Chinese agricultural investment, I can say that (no surprise) it appears that China lags behind in imposing rigorous safeguards for ethical research practice.

1. Are side-effects being monitored in a systematic way?
2. Are people who participate doing so with adequately informed consent?
3. How commercial is the motivation, given the involvement of China’s Ministry of Commerce and the Chinese drug company?

Van Sant concludes with two interesting comments. First, she notes the point made by the Minister of Health in the Comoros, Dr. Mhadji, that Western criticism may not be unbiased: “Not that the West is a disinterested party, for Western firms, too, manufacture artemisinin-based malaria therapies. On that point Dr. Mhadji has strong views. He dismisses criticism of the experiment as fuelled by competition between Western and Chinese pharmaceutical companies.” And she concludes with two great quotes from Nick White and Oscar Wilde:

As Nick White, a malaria researcher at Oxford University’s School of Tropical Medicine who has been working for years on eradicating malaria, says, “This research is radical. It is controversial. It is led by a very famous Chinese physician and investigator. There are lots of very serious questions here and a lot of unknowns.” Or, as Oscar Wilde more succinctly put it, “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

A lot of reporting went into this story. It is very well-balanced and insightful, and pulls in informed voices from different sides of the debate. Other islands (Mauritius, for example) eradicated malaria by compulsory spraying of DDT inside people’s houses. This option is no longer available and obviously contained its own risks. I’m not a public health expert — but I’m interested in comments from readers who are: what is your take on this experiment? What is the WHO position on it?