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May 16, 2013

Challenges for China-Africa Relations

April 18, 2013 by

President Jacob Zuma addresses the China-Africa roundtable meeting hosted by China’s President Xi Jinping in Durban, South Africa. Image via GovernmentZA

Adapted from Amb. David H. Shinn’s Speech to the Cosmopolitan Club in Manhattan.

Before making any predictions it is important to begin with a few basic assumptions about China that will also impact its relations with Africa. I believe China’s leadership will remain stable and in full control of the country through at least the Xi Jinping era. China’s focus will remain on ensuring domestic political stability and economic development. But structural challenges such as its aging demography, continued migration to cities, higher population growth rate as a result of loosening restrictions on the one child policy, higher labor costs, dangerous levels of income inequality, lack of a universal social security system, worsening environmental conditions, more severe weather events due to climate change, increasing domestic pressure for input on decision-making by ordinary Chinese, and growing global competition from other emerging nations will take their toll on China’s society and system of governance.

Nevertheless, China’s GDP growth rate will continue to out-perform the world average, but at a less impressive rate than during that past three decades. China will also maintain a high savings rate and contribute disproportionately to global economic growth. While it will try to change elements of the existing international order, it will operate within this system rather than try to replace it.

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Malian Diaspora: A Product of the Arab Spring

September 20, 2012 by

Young boy in the Dogon village in Southern Mali. John Isaac/UN

On September 10, 2012 Yeah Samake, the mayor of Ouéléssébougou in Mali, and I visited the Mintao Refugee Camp located in the northern Burkina Faso town of Djibo. We left the capital city of Ouagadougou early that morning, traveling a distance of over 150 miles on potholed roads, arriving at the camp four hours later.

We passed several overloaded trucks along the way carrying precious food supplies to the destitute Diaspora that had succumbed to the washed out ruts in the road.

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Emerging Powers expand ties with Africa

September 17, 2012 by

Chinese and Chadian workers at an oil site in southern Chad, part of China’s growing economic presence in Africa. Ruth Fremson/The New York Times via The 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.

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.

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The Crisis in Mali

August 26, 2012 by

A cholera hospital close to the Mali border in western Niger. 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.  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.”

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Mali: Not on Clinton’s Farewell Agenda

August 24, 2012 by

On August 10, 2012 Secretary Hillary Clinton ended her ten day trip to nine sub-Saharan African countries: Senegal, Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Benin. The trip was publicized as her last to the continent, as Secretary of State in the Obama Administration. The common thread throughout her structured remarks was on the building blocks for democratic institutions, good governance, rule of law, corruption, security, and trade.

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Eritrea’s Regional Relations

August 17, 2012 by

AMISOM soldier looks out over an IDP camp. Photo by Laura Heaton/Enough Project

The UN Security Council in December 2009 imposed an arms embargo, severe travel restrictions, and an asset freeze on Eritrean political and military leaders because of Eritrea’s support for extremist groups in Somalia. This step helped solidify the growing political isolation of Eritrea.

African Union

Eritrea has long considered the African Union as a tool of Ethiopia and treated it accordingly. Following the outbreak of war between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 1998 and the closure of the Eritrean embassy in Addis Ababa, Eritrea no longer had a representative to interact routinely with the African Union in Addis Ababa. Girma Asmerom was the last Eritrean ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union; he left in 1998.

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Barack Obama’s ‘Intelligence Finding’ and the Syrian Civil War

August 12, 2012 by

President Obama with senior advisors in the Oval Office. Pete Souza/White House

The revelation about President Barack Obama’s decision to provide secret American aid to Syria’s rebel forces is a game changer. The presidential order, known as an “intelligence finding” in the world of espionage, authorizes the CIA to support armed groups fighting to overthrow Bashar al-Assad’s government. But it threatens far more than the regime in Damascus.

The disclosure took its first casualty immediately. Kofi Annan, the special envoy to Syria, promptly announced his resignation, bitterly protesting that the UN Security Council had become a forum for “finger-pointing and name-calling.” Annan blamed all sides directly involved in the Syrian conflict, including local combatants and their foreign backers. But the timing of his resignation was striking. For he knew that with the CIA helping Syria’s armed groups, America’s Arab allies joining in and the Security Council deadlocked, he was redundant.

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Arab’s “Spring” or Turkey’s “Rise”?

August 10, 2012 by

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Kuwaiti Prime Minister Nasir al-Muhammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah attend a Turkish-Arab Relations Conference in Kuwait in 2011. Image via Kuwait-Ra’ed Qutena

Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s announcement that Turkey is changing the rules of engagement regarding Syria is more than a simple escalation of rhetoric: it reveals the extent to which the Turkish foreign policy has radically changed. From Turkey’s famous “zero problems” policy and “transformative diplomacy”, Turkey under the Justice and Development Party is resorting to active engagement.

With the sharp deterioration of Turkish-Syrian relations, Ankara is trying to seize the opportunity of the strategic vacuum and the weakness of its Arab rival, Syria, not only to take part in shaping the future of a “new” Middle East, but also to enhance Ankara’s influence in its historical Ottoman territory and impose itself as a regional power with global ambitions.

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Syria’s Descent Raises Disturbing Questions

August 2, 2012 by

Rebel fighter in the Jedida district of Aleppo, Syria. Image via Freedom House

While roundly condemned by human rights groups including Human Rights Watch, the apparent extra-judicial shooting of four Assad loyalists in Aleppo places the international community in a bind.

For months, several Middle Eastern states, the United States and others have funneled weapons, money and equipment to the rebels without knowing the full details of who exactly they dealing with. As the recipient of the aid, the Free Syrian Army’s (FSA) members straddle the ideological spectrum, and include former Al Qaeda (AQ) fighters from Iraq. Not wanting to repeat its mistake in Libya last year, the US had been careful not to commit lethal assistance until it had a better idea who the FSA actually was.

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Backing Horses: The Syrian Civil War

July 18, 2012 by

Syrian rebel fighter in Damascus, Syria. Image via Freedom House

While the Russians are being painted as international law’s bogeymen, indifferent to choosing sides in a conflict when the only side to pick can only ever be that of peace, the Syrian opposition forces are nibbling, if not slaughtering their way, into view with their recent killings in Damascus. President Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle has received a series of lethal blows in the National Security Building – four of them, according to rumour mill of press reports.

On Wednesday, Assad found himself one minister of defence and brother-in-law short. The latter was the infamous intelligence chief Assef Shawkat, though that itself has been disputed.

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China, Africa and Implications for the United States

July 14, 2012 by

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/The New York Times via The New York Times

China and the United States have surprisingly similar interests in Africa. 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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A Post ‘Arab Spring’ Palestine

July 3, 2012 by

President Mahmoud Abbas in Paris. Photo by Olivier Pacteau

Will the Arab Spring serve the cause of Palestine?” is a question that has been repeatedly asked, in various ways, over the last year and a half. Many media discussions have been formulated around this very inquiry, although the answer is far from a simple “yes” or “no.”

Why should the question be asked in the first place? Hasn’t the Arab link to the Palestinian struggle been consistently strong, regardless of the prevalent form of government in any single Arab country? Rhetorically, at least, the Arab bond to Palestine remained incessantly strong at every significant historical turn.

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Emerging Powers vie for Influence in Africa

May 4, 2012 by

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 a variety of emerging countries to expand their ties with Africa.

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.

(more…)

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The United States Reassesses the China-Africa Relationship

January 18, 2012 by

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.

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.

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