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China-Africa Relations

Tag Archives | China-Africa Relations

China’s Deft Sudan Diplomacy

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South Sudan's President Salva Kiir in Juba, the country's capital. Isaac Billy/UN

Beginning in the late 1990s, China made major investments in Sudan’s oil sector.

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir in Juba, the country’s capital. Isaac Billy/UN

When Sudan was still one country, China developed the oil fields initially discovered by the American company Chevron, built the pipelines for transporting crude from Sudan’s interior to Port Sudan on the Red Sea and built the oil refinery. China obtained control of 40 percent of Sudan’s oil production and shared the remainder with the governments of Sudan, Malaysia and India. When the oil fields were operating at maximum capacity, China obtained between 5 and 6 percent of its total crude imports from Sudan.

During the six year period during which southern Sudanese decided whether to remain part of a unified Sudan or opt for independence, it became apparent they would vote for independence, China understood early in the transition process there would eventually be two Sudans and concluded that it had to improve its strained relations with southerners in order to assure continued access to its oil investments in an independent South Sudan.

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Emerging Powers expand ties with Africa

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Chinese and Chadian workers at an oil site in southern Chad. Ruth Fremson/New York Times

The end of the Cold War resulted in the strategic disengagement of western countries, including the United States, from Africa. They continued their trade, aid and assistance relationship with Africa, but once the threat of communist expansion disappeared, the West interacted with the continent in a different way. This change permitted an opening for several emerging countries to expand their ties with Africa.

Chinese and Chadian workers at an oil site in southern Chad. Ruth Fremson/New York Times

As some of these emerging non-African countries became economically strong, they increasingly replaced western influence and engagement in Africa, particularly in certain countries. This new development has fundamentally changed the relationship between the fifty-four countries of Africa and the rest of the world.

China is the most important emerging actor in Africa today. In fact, China has become the principal non-African presence—western or non-western—in a number of African countries. Other emerging countries are also rapidly expanding their activities on the continent. Most notable is India, which has long-standing ties to East Africa and South Africa.

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Brazil as a Positive Force in Africa

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Brazil's Dilma Rousseff with South Africa's Jacob Zuma. GovernmentZA/Flickr

Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff with South Africa’s Jacob Zuma. GovernmentZA/Flickr

Policy makers in the U.S. have exaggerated Chinese involvement in Africa, even though other rising powers are attempting similar inroads. For example, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brazil are trying to expand their ties with the region in spite of China’s safari. While on a recent trip to Luanda, the capital of Angola, I discovered that the Chinese are overcrowding the suburbs having built their own Chinatown’s. Perhaps there are more than 80,000 Chinese nationals residing in Luanda alone.

Anecdotal evidence however suggests that there is already a growing resentment of the Chinese presence in Angola. There has been talk of a “Chinese Invasion” and complaints that the Chinese are taking jobs and contracts away from Angolans.  Moreover, the Chinese have not been transferring skills or technology to Angolans, raising the question of what happens once a project is completed. Others, including those at high levels of government, have criticized the quality of the goods and services that Angola has been receiving from China.

On the other hand, Brazil is perhaps the only rising power involved in Africa with real cultural affinities towards the continent. Brazil has been closely linked for centuries with Africa through shipping routes and the slave trade.  Brazil’s current focus on Africa, however, is much more recent. It dates from the administration of President Lula da Silva and reflects Brazil’s remarkable economic development and search for new trade and investment venues. According to the New York Times, Brazil has displaced Britain as the world’s sixth largest economy.

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The Crisis in Mali

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A cholera hospital close to the Mali border in western Niger. Photo: Sean Smith

The reports filtering out of Northern Mali are appalling: a young couple stoned to death, iconic ancient shrines dismantled, and some 365,000 refugees fleeing beatings and whippings for the slightest violations of Sharia law.

A cholera hospital close to the Mali border in western Niger. Photo: Sean Smith

But the bad dream unfolding in this West African country is less the product of a radical version of Islam than a consequence of the West’s scramble for resources on this vast continent, and the wages of sin from the recent Libyan war. The current crisis gripping northern Mali—an area about the size of France— has its origins in the early years of the Bush Administration, when the U.S. declared the Sahara desert a hotbed of “terrorism” and poured arms and Special Forces into the area as part of the Trans-Sahal Counter Terrorism Initiative. But, according to anthropologist Jeremy Keenan, who has done extensive fieldwork in Mali and the surrounding area, the “terrorism” label had no basis in fact, but was simply designed to “justify the militarization of Africa.”

The U.S. military claimed that when the Taliban fell in Afghanistan, terrorists moved west into the Horn of Africa, the Sudan and the Sahara. But Keenan says, “There was absolutely no evidence for that…really a figment of imagination.” The real target of enlarging the U.S.’s military footprint was “oil resources” and “the gradually increasing threat of China on the continent.” The U.S. currently receives about 18 percent of its energy supplies from Africa, a figure that is slated to rise to 25 percent by 2015. Africa also provides about one-third of China’s energy needs, plus copper, platinum, timber and iron ore. According to the Financial Times, new gas fields were recently discovered on the Algeria-Mali border

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Exploring Sino-Russian Relations: The Dynamic Partnership

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Vladimir Putin in Beijing for Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Source: Kremlin Press Office

Exploring the dimensions of Sino-Russian relations reveals a perplexing question, “who is the junior partner?”

Vladimir Putin in Beijing for Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Source: Kremlin Press Office

No definite answer presents itself because Sino-Russian relations change depending on different issues and situations. In the post Cold War era, China has proved to be very adaptable to change while Russia has struggled to restructure to the new order. However, elements of this relationship afford Russia the facility to reassert authority over the international scene. The equation behind these circumstances is that the relationship benefits Moscow’s interest in the short term and Beijing’s interest in the long term.

Since the Soviet Union dissolved, Russia has been experiencing a national identity crisis. Russia went from being a superpower to a source of regional military and economic instability. An illustration of the stark contrast between these two countries’ economic growth over the past two decades is that in 1991 their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was at comparable levels. Today, China’s GDP is three times larger than Russia’s. Over the last decade, they have made progressive steps in advancing their economic, political, and military cooperation. An external factor that is fostering this relationship is the common perception that America’s role as the only superpower is undermining their national interests.

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Resource Nationalism: Old Threat, New Opportunities

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Shuttered shops selling Coca-Cola in Bolivia. Photo: Agustina Triquell

Resource nationalism, like other components of economic protectionism, has receded since the institutionalization of the Washington consensus and the gradual - if unsteady - democratisation of the developing world.

Shuttered shops selling Coca-Cola in Bolivia. Photo: Agustina Triquell

The days of aggressive expropriation, the seizing of private assets by governments, are empirically in decline. Governments, as The Economist point out, are increasingly open to foreign involvement in heavy extraction industries as they seek to exploit the technical, infrastructural, employment and foreign currency advantages of foreign ownership. But rather than a wholesale liberalization, governments are exerting a competitive impulse into contracts: to drive up prices as a means of maximizing revenue while simultaneously assuaging popular nationalism from below. Companies in turn, sensing an opportunity to achieve scale, are turning to Corporate Social Responsibility projects to heighten their attractiveness to prospective countries – and specifically, the people within.

There are exceptions: Zimbabwe’s indigenization policy serves to remind us of the close correlation between authoritarianism (competitive or complete) and state sponsored, often economically destructive, nationalism. It is with this example in mind that Ernst & Young ranked resource nationalism as the number one global risk facing mining and metal companies. Resource nationalism then has not disappeared, but it has been accompanied by pragmatism on the part of governments in developing economies.

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China’s Involvement in Mozambique

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The glowing hues of dusk bathe a mud-splattered gold miner in the border province of Manica. The area draws scores of workers from neighboring Zimbabwe.  Photo: Robin Hammond

China-Mozambique ties are pretty typical of those with most African countries. Unlike many countries in Africa, however, Mozambique never recognized Taiwan.

The glowing hues of dusk bathe a mud-splattered gold miner in the border province of Manica. The area draws scores of workers from neighboring Zimbabwe. Photo: Robin Hammond

In 1963, five FRELIMO delegations visited China, including one headed by its leader at the time, Eduardo Mondlane. When a faction broke away from FRELIMO in 1965 and formed COREMO, China favored the new pro-Beijing COREMO organization but also continued to support FRELIMO. When COREMO disappeared in the early 1970s, China threw all of its support behind FRELIMO, which had pro-Moscow and pro-Beijing factions. This policy was dictated by the fact that the Sino-Soviet split had reached its peak. China stepped up its military training for FRELIMO fighters operating out of Tanzania. FRELIMO leader Samora Machel visited China in 1971 and 1975.

Mozambique became independent in 1975 and immediately recognized Beijing. China granted an interest-free loan of $56 million and sent the first in a continuing series of medical teams to Mozambique that has continued up to the present day. The Chinese embassy claims that since the first medical team arrived in 1976, Chinese medical staff have treated 1.3 million patients and trained more than 2,000 Mozambicans.

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Enter the Dragon: Will China’s Deal of the Century Save Congo?

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UN Peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Martine Perret/UN

Twenty-four trillion dollars. It is a number that beggars the imagination, almost 40% of the global economy, and it is buried in one of the world’s poorest and most violent countries: The Democratic Republic of Congo.

UN Peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Martine Perret/UN

Failed state, rape capital of the world, humanitarian catastrophe…Congo personifies all these but beneath the surface its dark earth holds $24 trillion of copper, cobalt, coltan, the bones and blood of information age manufacturing. For this reason, if for no other, the world cannot ignore Congo. It can’t afford to.

Called Congo’s “deal of the century,” in 2007 China recognized the beleaguered nation’s importance to the global economy with an unprecedented $9 billion resources-for-infrastructure agreement which holds the potential to unlock Congo’s vast mineral wealth and improve the material lives of its seventy-one million people with new roads, rails, hospitals, and universities. Now, five years later, Congo’s eastern frontier remains a lawless battleground with conflict minerals undermining regional stability and the $9 billion question remains: Will Chinese investment be the cornerstone for Congo’s development or a grave marker for dead dreams in the green hills of Africa?

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China, Africa and Implications for the United States

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China is planning to build Chad’s first oil refinery, lay new roads, provide irrigation and erect a mobile telephone network. Chinese oil workers at the exploration site.  Ruth Fremson/New York Times

China and the United States have surprisingly similar interests in Africa.

China is planning to build Chad’s first oil refinery, lay new roads, provide irrigation and erect a mobile telephone network. Chinese oil workers at the exploration site. Ruth Fremson/New York Times

Both rely increasingly on the continent for oil while China also imports large quantities of minerals. Both seek political support from Africa’s 54 countries, which constitute more than a quarter of the membership of the United Nations. Both see Africa as an increasingly attractive export market, although today the African countries collectively account for a tiny percentage of each country’s global trade.

China also wants to expand the “one China” principle throughout Africa; four African countries recognize Taiwan. This is not an American interest. For its part, the United States wants to minimize the impact in Africa of terrorism, narcotics trafficking, international crime, piracy and money laundering so they do not harm US interests in Africa or the homeland. While these are increasingly becoming Chinese interests, they have not yet reached the level of US interest. The United States also seeks to continue naval access to African ports and maintain the ability to overfly and land military aircraft. This is not yet an important interest for China.

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No Simple Thing: How Rice Will Reshape the World

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Rice fields near Vang Vieng, Laos.  Photo: Claudia Gold

“Have you eaten rice today?” In Asia this time honored greeting is synonymous with ‘how are you?’ and is heard from flooded paddies to corporate boardrooms.

Rice fields near Vang Vieng, Laos. Photo: Claudia Gold

A passing reminder of how essential this crop is for the 3.5 billion people whose day begins and ends with rice. From India’s dusty plains to the metropolises of China to the Philippines’ emerald hills no common thread runs through Asia’s diverse cultures, mythologies, and languages like rice. Japanese meals are referred to as morning, noon, and evening rice, Indian babies are introduced to rice in elaborate annaprashan ceremonies, and the Chinese New Year is greeted with ‘May your rice never burn!’ Commonplace and celebrated, the importance of rice cannot be overstated and this will only increase in coming years, as the world turns to rice to feed a global population set to exceed 9 billion by mid-century. Though rice’s roots are deeply rooted in Asia’s valleys and terraced paddies its future is global, and it is uncertain.

As rapidly expanding populations demand more and more from this ancient crop to sustain a modern world the question is clear: can rice feed the world, and if so, how? The world is in chaos. A billion people are starving and riots break out across the globe, protestors are killed, cities are burning, stricken governments call out their armies to guard food stockpiles. This is not some nightmare or vision of a future apocalypse…this is 2008. Population growth, high oil prices, biofuel subsidies, the suspected roots of the food crisis are many but when rice prices tripled in 2008 the World Bank believes a hundred million people were thrust into poverty and the world’s hungry increased by 75 million.

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Sudan’s Oil War

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Sudan People’s Liberation Army unit. Photo: Nenad Marinkovic

Since the January 2011 referendum vote for independence and subsequent separation the following July, militia violence has been increasing across the borderlands.

Sudan People’s Liberation Army unit. Photo: Nenad Marinkovic

Hostilities were initiated by Sudan as a means of destabilizing the newly formed South Sudanese government. The situation continued to escalate with both sides funding and arming paramilitaries to conduct cross-border raids. In doing so, leaders in Juba knew they were giving Khartoum what it wanted, but many believed that if they did not respond accordingly to Northern aggression, then South Sudanese residing in Sudan would be targeted by government forces. By March 2012, a tentative agreement was reached by both governments – dubbed the “Four Freedoms” – but conservative hardliners in the North stopped the ratification, believing the South was acting as a fifth column against Northern interests. Struck down at the eleventh hour, the Four Freedoms agreement led to the 8 April 2012 deadline, which passed without citizenship parameters being set in place, leaving both populations in an inauspicious legal situation.

The accelerating outbreak in violence, culminating in South Sudan’s incursion into Heglig, is a direct result of the lack of progress made during negotiations on matters encompassing security, citizenship, and revenue from natural resources. North-South discussions were continually undermined not only by Khartoum’s ignorance – an inability to fully comprehend how the North’s legacy irreparably damaged relations with the South’s citizenry – but also by Islamic hardliners. South Sudan’s incursion into Heglig intensified the situation and justified the fifth-column perception. The manner in which Khartoum’s leadership treated the South Sudanese stemmed from the way in which they were perceived by the Northern population. Referred to as a ‘bid’ or black slave, the South Sudanese were not seen as equals, and thus, during the decades-long conflict, in the minds of the North it was not a civil war but a slave rebellion that needed to be stopped.

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Hidden Hands behind Sudan’s Oil War

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South Sudan's presidential guard await the arrival of foreign dignitaries invited to participate in the country's official independence celebrations in Juba. Photo: Steve Evans

South Sudan’s presidential guard await the arrival of foreign dignitaries invited to participate in the country’s official independence celebrations in Juba. Photo: Steve Evans

Once again Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir waved his walking stick in the air. Once again he spoke of splendid victories over his enemies as thousands of jubilant supporters danced and cheered. But this time around the stakes are too high.  An all out war against newly independent South Sudan might not be in Sudan’s best interest. South Sudan’s saber-rattling is not an entirely independent initiative; its most recent territorial transgressions - which saw the occupation of Sudan’s largest oil field in Heglig on April 10, followed by a hasty retreat ten days later – might have been a calculated move aimed at drawing Sudan into a larger conflict. Stunted by the capture of Heglig, which, according to some estimates, provides nearly half of the country’s oil production, Bashir promised victory over Juba.

Speaking to large crowd in the capital of North Kordofan, El-Obeid, Bashir affectively declared war. “Heglig isn’t the end, it is the beginning,” he said, as quoted in the Wall Street Journal. Bashir also declared a desire to ‘liberate’ the people of South Sudan from a government composed of ‘insects.’ Even when Heglig was declared a liberated region by Sudan’s defence minister, the humiliation of defeat was simply replaced by the fervor of victory. “They started the fighting and we will announce when it will end, and our advance will never stop,” Bashir announced on April 20.

Statements issued by the government of South Sudan are clearly more measured, with an international target audience in mind. Salva Kiir, President of South Sudan, simply said that his forces departed the region following appeals made by the international community. This includes a statement by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, which described the attack on Heglig as “an infringement on the sovereignty of Sudan and a clearly illegal act.”

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Assessing China’s Role and Influence in Africa

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China’s interest in Africa has grown rapidly in recent years. In Chad, China bought the rights to several oil exploration zones from a Canadian company and has gone from bit player to center stage in Chad’s affairs. Ruth Fremson/New York Times

Remarks by David H. Shinn to the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights.

China’s interest in Africa has grown rapidly in recent years. In Chad, China bought the rights to several oil exploration zones from a Canadian company and has gone from bit player to center stage in Chad’s affairs. Ruth Fremson/New York Times

I thank Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee Chairman Christopher Smith and Ranking Member Karen Bass for inviting me to participate in this hearing. For the past six years, two of us have been researching a book on China-Africa relations that is being published by the University of Pennsylvania Press and will be available this June. My comments today reflect some of that research. Unless otherwise noted, the statistics and analysis in this testimony refer to all fifty-four countries in Africa. China tends not to make a distinction between Sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa as the U.S. government often does.

U.S.-China Economic Competition in Africa

The Subcommittee asked that we focus on how China competes economically with the United States in Africa, how China serves as an undemocratic model of governance and issues concerning natural resources, land grabs and human rights. Let me take the economic competition question first. The most important difference between the United States and China is the very structure of the American and Chinese governments and the way their respective systems engage in Africa. American commercial activity (trade, investment and bidding on contracts) in Africa is conducted by private companies with limited involvement by the U.S. government.

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The U.S. Reassesses the China-Africa Relationship

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Chinese Contingent of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) during a medal ceremony held today in the Liberian capital, Monrovia.  Eric Kanalstein/UN

China, India, Brazil and Russia and even smaller non-western countries such as Turkey, Iran and Indonesia steadily have been replacing western influence in Africa throughout the first decade of the 21st century. China has contributed more to this process than any other single non-western nation and perhaps more than all of the others combined.

Chinese Contingent of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) during a medal ceremony held today in the Liberian capital, Monrovia. Eric Kanalstein/UN

China surpassed the United States in 2009 as the largest bilateral trading partner with the combined fifty-three countries in Africa. Although accurate statistics are elusive, Chinese investment in Africa during 2009 may also have been larger than that of any other single nation. Chinese leadership in trade and investment with Africa almost certainly extended through 2010 and will likely continue into the foreseeable future. The United States was slow to react to the non-western challenge to western influence in Africa, especially that which came from China. The United States did not even perceive the situation as a challenge during the waning years of the Clinton administration and through the first four years of the Bush administration.

When the United States finally understood the magnitude of growing Chinese influence in Africa during the second half of the Bush administration, it did not accord it a high priority in U.S.-Africa policy, which has traditionally had the lowest policy priority of major world regions. The West generally had decreased its attention to Africa following the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s. The 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States focused Washington on the Global War on Terror, especially the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This created an ideal environment for China, which has now experienced three decades of annual GDP growth of about 9 percent, to assert its economic and, in some cases, political influence in Africa.

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China-Africa Relations: The Big Picture

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South African President Jacob Zuma in Beijing. Source: Examiner.com

China has four hard interests in Africa’s fifty-four countries. I exclude from this list interests often cited by Beijing such as support for economic development and political stability in Africa. These are goals or objectives of Chinese policy, but they do not constitute China’s interests any more than they are interests of the United States.

South African President Jacob Zuma in Beijing. Source: Examiner.com

China’s principal interest in Africa is continuing access to raw materials, especially oil, minerals, and agricultural products. China now imports about one-third of its total oil imports from Africa. It is important, however, to put this in perspective. China’s oil imports from Africa constitute only about 13 percent of total African oil exports. The United States and European Union each account for about one-third of total African oil exports. On the other hand, China imports about 90 percent of its cobalt, 35 percent of its manganese, 30 percent of its tantalum, and 5 percent of its hardwood timber from Africa. All of these products help to sustain China’s rapidly growing economy, which, in turn, helps to keep the leaders of the Communist Party of China in power. Since the year 2000, China’s imports from Africa have increased eleven fold.

Although far less important than the raw materials that China imports from Africa, China has an interest in increasing its exports to Africa. With a population of one billion and a growing middle class, Africa is an increasingly attractive market. Consequently, China has increased its exports to Africa nine fold since 2000. Increasingly, these exports include high value products that are important to sustaining China’s industrial production.

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