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China's influence in Africa

Hausarbeit 2007 21 Seiten

Politik - Internationale Politik - Region: Afrika

Leseprobe

Table of contents

Introduction

I/ A growing influence on the African continent
A/ The different aspects of Chinese engagement in Africa
1) A very active diplomacy towards Africa and a political approach appealing to most African countries
2) A generous partner
3) A growing cultural influence on the African continent
4) Skyrocketing trade relations
B/ China’s interests in Africa
1) A diplomatic backup from African countries
2) Significant economic and commercial interests
3) A privileged access to energy and natural resources

II/ The consequences of China’s engagement in Africa
A/ An ambivalent economic impact
1) Perspectives of economic growth and a better integration in the world trade
2) But limited perspectives of development on the long run
B/ China’s political impact on Africa: mainly negative consequences
1) A very limited positive shift: China’s increasing engagement in UN peacekeeping operations in African states
2) The negative political consequences of China’s engagement on African governance

Conclusion

Sources

Introduction

The third China-Africa Cooperation Forum held in Beijing between the 3rd and 5th November 2006 revealed the growing influence that China is becoming in Africa since a few years. This summit was announced by Chinese officials as being the most important diplomatic event ever organized in the country since 1949. The size of the African participation -48 African countries took part- was telling: Africa’s leaders recognise that China is a now a hugely important economic and political player on their continent.

Actually, China has had a long involvement with Africa, going back to the early days of independence movements in the 1960s and before. But the current level and intent of China’s involvement is different. In those earlier days, China’s engagement with Africa was politically driven: personnel, technical assistance and weapons were sent to the continent to support newly independent countries and liberation movements. Besides, during the cold war, African leaders perceived China as a leading nation of the Third World, and Maoism was sometimes used as ideological reference, while China had geopolitical interests in the continent, namely to counter its biggest ideological rival, the Soviet Union, in countries such as Angola and Congo. But in the 1980s, China’s influence and involvement in the African continent waned. China was unable to compete with western aid programs, and Africa had lost its strategic importance for Chinese officials.[1]

However, this situation dramatically changed in the last decade. China's policy towards Africa during this period has its roots in the crisis surrounding the Tiananmen massacre and the persistent Western criticism of China’s human rights record. These events indeed provided the initial trigger which compelled the Chinese government to seek closer ties to non-Western countries, and especially with Africa.[2] In addition, the emergence of the international hegemony of the United States in the post-1989 period led China to steer a more active foreign policy. As a consequence, Chinese officials advanced the concept of multipolarity, and reached out to non-Western states to bolster China’s international position vis-à-vis the United States and particularly its room for manoeuvre within the United Nations and other international bodies.[3]

Furthermore, since China’s economic boom and its growing thirst for raw materials, the commercial perspectives represented by the African continent and its potential in energetic resources are also in the heart of the new Chinese strategy in Africa.[4]

However, China’s growing influence in Africa has raised a range of interrogations about its objectives and methods. A crucial question I will try to answer is whether China’s growing involvement in Africa is a positive or a negative shift for the region. Will it help or hinder the development prospects of the continent? To answer that question, I will first review the scale of China’s political and economic involvement in Africa and examine the objectives and strategies underlying Chinese foreign policy towards Africa. Then I will look at the impact that China’s engagement has or may have in a near future on African countries by considering its economic and political repercussions.

I/ A growing influence on the African continent.

A/ The different aspects of Chinese engagement in Africa.

China uses a variety of instruments to promote its interests in Africa, and understanding its tools of influence offers a window of its strategies on the continent.

1) A very active diplomacy towards Africa and a political approach appealing to most African countries.

China has committed itself to a very dynamic diplomacy in Africa. During the past two years, more than one hundred high level meetings have taken place between Chinese and African diplomats. Since January 2006[5], President Hu Jintao, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing have all travelled to Africa, visiting a total of 15 countries.[6] In addition, and at a time when Western states are generally inclined to roll back their diplomatic presence in Africa, China maintains embassies in every African country not recognizing Taiwan.[7] The number of Chinese commercial representations is also growing very fast.

Its history as a former colony of European powers allows China to invocate a shared colonial past with African countries and promote itself as sensitive to the dignity of Third World countries. To construct a common identity with African states vis-à-vis the paternalistic West, China has developed a “South-South-cooperation” rhetoric, which is very appealing to many African elites who conceptualise these emergent South–South relations as a historical opportunity for Africa to escape the neo-colonial ties to the West.[8]

An illustration of this policy is the fact that China uses its permanent seat in the UN Security Council to position itself as a mentor of African countries. Contrary to the United States which generally largely ignore African nations in UN forums, China has supported a range of proposals favoured by African countries, for instance on UN Security Council reform, peacekeeping and debt relief. In so doing, Chinese officials can portray China as a champion of the developing world that is sensitive to other developing countries’ concerns, and underline the natural convergence of interests between China and African countries.[9] As Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao put it, “[a]s a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China will always stand side by side with developing countries in Africa and other parts of the world.”[10]

In addition, China's political approach was a welcome change for many African leaders who bristled over the conditions imposed by the United States, Europe and multilateral institutions. Indeed, forty years of development according to the lines defined in Paris or in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) haven’t brought much improvement in Africa, and it is difficult to resist the “Chinese model”, with its 10% economic growth. A great number of African elites and intellectuals therefore regard China as an appealing economic model worth emulating, and regularly cite China as the ideal development model for their countries.[11]

More significantly, China's stress on national sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs makes of it a very attractive strategic partner. China’s donor policies are very appealing to many African leaders: indeed, the issue of Taiwan aside, no political preconditions are attached to its development assistance, which makes it an attractive alternative to harsh recommendations given by the IMF, or the Western focus on good governance, specific political objectives or standards such as human rights and democracy, which are often seen as a kind of blackmail by African countries.[12] “Our principle in our relations with other countries is never to try to impose our social system, our model of development, or values or our ideology” said Liu Jinchao, a spokesman of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.[13]

In addition to that, Chinese aid tends to benefit the governments of receiving countries more directly than the policies of Western donors, who are preoccupied with the reduction of poverty. A case in point is the numerous prestigious infrastructures (sport stadiums, ministry buildings…) that were built by China in African countries such as Gambia, Sierra Leone, Benin, Mali, Togo etc. These prestigious projects are no longer financed by Western countries, but are still very appreciated by African leaders.[14] For example, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Mozambique has been built with Chinese aid, as part as a larger program comprising the construction of an investment- and trade-promotion centre in Maputo, debt reduction and other economic assistance. Unsurprisingly, Mozambique now regards China as one of its most important allies outside of Africa. On one visit to Beijing, Mozambique’s prime minister announced that his country supports China’s “independent foreign policy” (that is to say its independence from American power) and called for China to play a larger role on the African continent.[15]

2) A generous partner.

China provides a lot of aid to African countries, and thereby builds goodwill and political support in the continent. It is estimated that about 44% of its state development aid goes to Africa.[16]

Chinese assistance to African countries includes grants as well as low and no-interest loans. China also often forgives debt for the poorest countries. For example, in 2004, it has cancelled 10 billion dollars in bilateral debt from 31 African countries.[17] Debt relief has been an excellent public relations tool for China, for it provides two positive messages: the first one is the providing of a loan, the second one the relief of the debt. Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has proclaimed that “China’s exemplary endeavour to ease African countries’ debt problem is indeed a true expression of solidarity and commitment.”[18]

[...]


[1] See Ogunsanwo, Alaba (1974): China’s policy in Africa, 1958-1971. Cambridge, p. 1-14.

[2] See Opitz, Peter J (1991): Gezeitenwechsel in China. Die Modernisierung der chinesischen Aussenpolitik. Zürich, p.62-64.

[3] See Tüll, Denis M. (2005): Die Afrikapolitik der Volksrepublik China, p.9. On the Internet: http://www.swp-berlin.org/de/common/get_document.php?asset_ id = 2355 (stand: 03.12.2006).

[4] See Philip, Bruno (2006) : A Pékin, la Chine et l'Afrique forgent un nouvel axe. In : Le Monde of 04.11.2006. On the Internet: www.lemonde.fr/web/article/0,1-0@2-3216,36-830429@51-830522,0.html (stand 03.12.2006).

[5] 2006 was consecrated “year of Africa” in China.

[6] See Economy, Elizabeth C. (2006): The peril’s of Beijing’s Africa strategy. In: International Herald Tribune of 02.11.2006. On the Internet: http://www.cfr.org/ publication/ 11886/perils_of_beijings_africa_strategy.html (stand: 03.12.2006).

[7] 46 African countries have diplomatic relations with China. The seven resting countries (Burkina Faso, Gambia, Malawi, Sao Tome and Principe, Swaziland, Chad, and Senegal) recognize Taiwan.

[8] See Tüll, Denis M. (2005): Die Afrikapolitik der Volksrepublik China, p.9. On the Internet: http://www.swp-berlin.org/de/common/get_document.php?asset_ id = 2355 (stand: 03.12.2006).

[9] Ibid.

[10] See Kurlantzik, Josh and Eisenman, Joshua (2006): China’s Africa strategy. In: Current History of May 2006. On the Internet: http://www.carnegieendowment (stand: 03.11.2006).

[11] See Tüll, Denis M. (2005): Die Afrikapolitik der Volksrepublik China, p.14. On the Internet: http://www.swp-berlin.org/de/common/get_document.php?asset_ id = 2355 (stand: 03.12.2006).

[12] Ibid, p. 24-25.

[13] See Philip, Bruno (2006) : A Pékin, la Chine et l'Afrique forgent un nouvel axe. In : Le Monde of 04.11.2006. On the Internet: www.lemonde.fr/web/article/0,1-0@2-3216,36-830429@51-830522,0.html (stand 03.12.2006).

[14] See Tüll, Denis M. (2005): Die Afrikapolitik der Volksrepublik China, p.14. On the Internet: http://www.swp-berlin.org/de/common/get_document.php?asset_ id = 2355 (stand: 03.12.2006).

[15] See Kurlantzik, Josh and Eisenman, Joshua (2006): China’s Africa strategy. In: Current History of May 2006. On the Internet: http://www.carnegieendowment (stand 03.11.2006).

[16] See Grill, Bartholomäus (2006): Die neuen Kolonialherren. In: Die Zeit of 14.09.2006. On the Internet: http://www.zeit.de/2006/38/China-Afrika (stand: 03.12.2006).

[17] See Pan, Esther (2006): China, Africa, and Oil. On the Internet: http://www.cfr.org/publication/9557/ (stand: 03.12.2006).

[18] See Kurlantzik, Josh and Eisenman, Joshua (2006): China’s Africa strategy. In: Current History of May 2006. On the Internet: http://www.carnegieendowment (stand: 03.11.2006).

Details

Seiten
21
Jahr
2007
ISBN (eBook)
9783638836548
Dateigröße
476 KB
Sprache
Englisch
Katalognummer
v78168
Institution / Hochschule
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster – Institut für Politikwissenschaft
Note
1,7
Schlagworte
China Africa India

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