It is important to look at U.S.-China interaction in Africa from the optic of statements by senior U.S. officials. These statements began in 2005 and generally reflect a desire to engage with China in Africa in a positive way.
There have been, however, occasional expressions of concern, criticism, and caution. At the same time, the official statements rarely reflect the strident expressions of concern about China’s activities in Africa that are often heard in the American media. Let’s look at the statements chronologically. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Michael Ranneberger, told the House Africa Subcommittee in July 2005: “China’s growing presence in Africa is a reality, but it can increase the potential for collaboration between the United States and China as part of a broader, constructive bilateral relationship. China should have many of the same interests in Africa as the United States, based, among other elements, on our shared reliance on a global oil market, shared desire to diversify sources from the Middle East and shared concern over volatile oil prices.”
In remarks before the National Committee on U.S. China Relations in September 2005, Deputy Secretary of State, Robert Zoellick, addressed China’s role in the wider global community. Although not referring specifically to Africa, he stated that “it is time to take our policy beyond opening doors to China’s membership into the international system: we need to urge China to become a responsible stakeholder in that system.” The concept of China as a responsible stakeholder in the international system became the watchword throughout the Bush administration.