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T

h e streets o f M ap u to , th e cap i tal o f th e fo r-


m er P o rtu gu ese co lo n y o f M o zam b i q u e,
look li ttle d i fferen t from th ose of oth er su b-
Sah aran Afri can ci ti es. O p en sewers overflow wi th
ro tti n g fru i t, b eggars h arass p ed estri an s fo r 1 , 0 0 0
m eti cals th e equ i valen t of less th an 1 0 cen ts , an d
yo u n g m o th ers walk p ast i n d i rty rags, carryi n g
em aci ated ch i ld ren . Yet M ap u to i s also h o p efu l.
After d ecad es of bru tal ci vi l war, M ozam bi qu e h as
en jo yed p eace si n ce th e early 1 9 9 0 s an d h as b u i lt
a n ascen t, i f fragi le, d em o cracy. M o zam b i can
en trep ren eu rs h ave reco n stru cted th e sh attered
eco n o m y o f th ei r cap i tal, wh o se b u si n ess d i stri ct
h as even sp rou ted a sm all sk yli n e.
A m i d th e p i n k an d green M ed i terran ean -style
bu i ld i n gs on M ap u to s ocean fron t, si gn s of i ts P or-
tu gu ese co lo n i al h eri tage, o n e stru ctu re stan d s
ou tan en orm ou s, block y bu i ld i n g wi th an Asi an
p agod a roof th at h ard ly resem bles th e su rrou n d i n g
arch i tectu re. I t i s th e M i n i stry o f F o rei gn A ffai rs,
an d i t h as b een b u i lt, as p art o f a larger i n i ti ati ve,
wi th C h i n ese ai d . I n d eed , i n recen t years C h i n a h as
b eco m e a m ajo r p ro vi d er o f ai d to M o zam b i q u e,
lau n ch in g an in vestm en t- an d trade-prom otion cen -
ter i n M ap u to, offeri n g d ebt red u cti on , an d p rom i s-
i n g si gn i fi can t oth er econ om i c assi stan ce.
P erh ap s u n su rp ri si n gly, M o zam b i q u e n o w
regard s C h i n a as o n e o f i ts m o st i m p o rtan t alli es
ou tsi d e of Afri ca. O n on e vi si t to B ei ji n g, M ozam -
bi qu e s p ri m e m i n i ster an n ou n ced th at h i s cou n try
su p p orts C h i n a s i n d ep en d en t forei gn p oli cy a
term B ei ji n g u ses to d en o te i n d ep en d en ce fro m
A m eri can p o weran d called fo r C h i n a to p lay a
larger role on th e Afri can con ti n en t.
M o zam b i q u e i s h ard ly u n i q u e. O ver th e p ast
d ecad e, wh i le th e U n i ted States h as to o o ften
i gn ored su b-Sah aran Afri ca p oli cy oth er th an cou n -
terterrori sm coop erati on an d ai d i n i ti ati ves, B ei ji n g
h as qu i etly establi sh ed relati on sh i p s wi th th e con ti -
n en t s p oli ti cal an d bu si n ess eli tes. An d B ei ji n g h as
en jo yed co n si d erab le su ccess i n A fri ca, b u i ld i n g
close ties with cou n tries from Su dan to Sou th Africa,
becom in g a vital aid don or in m an y African n ation s,
si gn i n g trad e i n i ti ati ves wi th m ore th an 40 Afri can
states, an d d evelo p i n g m i li tary relati o n sh i p s wi th
m an y of th e con ti n en t s p owers.
IN TO AFRICA
A d ecad e ago , C h i n a s i n flu en ce i n A fri ca was
li m i ted . I ts ai d p ro gram s were h ard ly si gn i fi can t,
i ts d i p lo m ats relati vely u n sk i lled . A n d m an y C h i -
n ese were u n su re ab o u t th ei r co u n try s ro le as an
i n tern ati o n al acto r. I n m o st i n tern ati o n al fo ru m s,
C h i n a d i d li ttle o th er th an d efen d co re i n terests,
li k e th e on e C h i n a p ri n ci p le. R ecen tly, h owever,
con ti n u ed stron g econ om i c growth , a m ore sop h i s-
ti cated gen erati on of C h i n ese lead ers, better sch ol-
arsh i p i n C h i n a o n A fri ca, an d a d o m esti c
p o p u lati o n m o re co n fi d en t i n C h i n a as a glo b al
acto r h ave en co u raged B ei ji n g to tak e a m o re
p roacti ve ap p roach to forei gn affai rs.
B ei ji n g s m o ti ves are clear. C h i n a s gro wi n g
i n d u stri es d em an d n ew en ergy an d raw m ateri al
su p p li ers; i ts exp orters wan t m ark ets; i ts d i p lom ats
requ i re su p p ort i n i n tern ati on al organ i zati on s; an d
i ts p ro p agan d a sti ll seek s su p p o rt fro m alli es to
ad van ce C h i n ese i n terests an d , wh en n ecessary, to
cou n ter th e U n i ted States.
Afri ca h as becom e cen tral to th ese strategi es. I n
p art, C h i n a s cou rtsh i p of Afri ca i s a resou rce grab.
R ap i d C h i n ese eco n o m i c gro wth co u p led wi th
d wi n d li n g d o m esti c C h i n ese p etro leu m an d m i n -
eral d ep o si ts h ave en co u raged B ei ji n g to lo o k
ab ro ad fo r reso u rces. L ast year, C h i n a b ecam e th e
world s secon d-largest con su m er of petroleu m prod-
JO SH U A E I SE N M A N , a fellow in Asia studies at the American
Foreign Policy Council, is coeditor of C h i n a an d th e D evelop -
i n g Wo rld : B ei ji n g s Strategy fo r th e 2 1 st C en tu ry (M.E.
Sharpe, 2006). JO SH U A K U R L AN T Z I C K , a C u rren t H i story con-
tributing editor, is a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endow-
ment, where he is writing a book on the emergence of Chinas
foreign policy.
Beijing has enjoyed considerable success in Africa, building close ties with
countries from Sudan to South Africa, becoming a vital aid donor . . . , and
developing military relationships with many of the continents powers.
2 1 9
Chinas Africa Strategy
JO SH U A E I SE N M AN AN D JO SH U A K U R L AN T Z I C K
u cts, an d i ts i m p orts of n atu ral gas, cop p er, cobalt,
an d oth er k ey resou rces are ri si n g by as m u ch as 20
p ercen t an n u ally.
With in th e n ext decade, C h in a s dom estic oil pro-
d u cti o n i s li k ely to co n ti n u e d i m i n i sh i n g, an d th e
cou n try wi ll su rp ass th e U n i ted States as th e largest
global con su m er of oi l. An d C h i n a p ossesses n o si g-
n i fi can t strategi c p etro leu m reserve. A cco rd i n g to
en ergy an alysts su ch as E ri ca D own s of th e B rook -
i n gs I n sti tu ti o n , wh o fo llo ws th e d eb ate o n o i l
wi th i n th e C h i n ese lead ersh i p , B ei ji n g i s con vi n ced
th at i t m u st b eco m e less d ep en d en t o n m ark et-
d i ctated p ri ci n g i n case of a global cri si s or a d eli b-
erate U S attem p t to cu t C h i n a s en ergy su p p ly li n es.
T h i s search for resou rces tak es C h i n ese offi ci als
to co m m o d i ty-ri ch A fri ca, h o m e to m ajo r o i l p ro -
d u cers, i n clu d i n g N i geri a, Su d an , A n go la, an d
G ab o n , as well as so m e o f th e ri ch est d ep o si ts o f
m i n erals i n th e wo rld .
C h i n a alread y i m p o rts
ab o u t 2 8 p ercen t o f i ts
o i l an d gas fro m su b -
Sah aran A fri ca, co m -
p ared wi th ab o u t 1 5
p ercen t fo r th e U n i ted
States, an d i t h as m ad e si zable cop p er p u rch ases i n
Z am b i a, th e D em o crati c R ep u b li c o f C o n go , an d
oth er Afri can states. Alth ou gh Z i m babwe lack s oi l,
i t h as th e secon d -largest d ep osi ts of p lati n u m i n th e
world ; th ose ri ch es rem ai n largely u n tap p ed , as d o
Z i m babwe s d ep osi ts of m ore th an 40 oth er m i n er-
als, i n clu d i n g ferro ch ro m e, u ran i u m , go ld , si lver,
an d cop p er.
B u t C h i n a s A fri ca strategy i s ab o u t m o re th an
resou rces. As in oth er parts of th e developin g world,
C h i n ese bu si n essm en are looki n g to open n ew m ar-
k ets for th ei r p rod u cts. T h ey h ave been su rp ri si n gly
su ccessfu l: acco rd i n g to C h i n ese go vern m en t
rep o rts, trad e b etween C h i n a an d A fri ca ju m p ed
over 35 percen t between N ovem ber 2004 an d 2005.
I n fact, C h i n ese m erch an ts m ay h ave been too
su ccessfu l. I n 2004, C h i n ese exp orts to E th i op i a
m ade u p over 93 percen t of th e two n ation s bilateral
trade, an d in th e first h alf of 2005, C h in ese pu rch ases
from D jibou ti, E ritrea, an d Som alia/Som alilan d were
n egli gi ble, an i m balan ce th at cou ld ali en ate th ese
cou n tries in th e lon g ru n , as B eijin g s trade im balan ce
h as alread y begu n to ali en ate L ati n Am eri can states.
I n an attem pt to ease th e lopsided trade relation sh ip,
th i s year B ei ji n g scrap p ed tari ffs on 1 90 com m od i -
ti es from 25 Afri can n ati on s.
Yet, d esp i te clai m s by B ei ji n g th at th i s i n i ti ati ve
m ark s an i m p ortan t com m i tm en t to h elp Afri can
cou n tri es d evelop th ei r econ om i es, th e d eci si on i s
u n li k ely to d ram ati cally ch an ge C h i n a s trad e rela-
ti o n sh i p s i n th e regi o n . M ean wh i le, ai d ed b y i ts
u n d ervalu ed cu rren cy, C h i n a s u n p aralleled co m -
p eti ti ven ess i n d evelop ed i n tern ati on al m ark ets li k e
th o se o f th e U n i ted States an d E u ro p e h ave h u rt
Afri can exp orts, su ch as texti les.
C h in a s efforts to win frien ds across Africa also are
ai m ed at safegu ard i n g i ts i n terests i n i n tern ati on al
foru m s an d in stitu tion s, su ch as th e U N C om m ission
on H u m an R igh ts. T h e com m ission is to be replaced
by th e H u m an R igh ts C ou n cil in part becau se C h in a
h elp ed fi ll i t wi th Afri ca s worst h u m an ri gh ts
abu sers, in clu din g Z im babwe, Su dan , an d E ritrea. At
every tu rn th ese African n ation s th en h ave su pported
B eijin g s efforts to sidelin e attem pts to redress abu ses
th rou gh ou t C h i n a an d Afri ca. I n th e case of Su d an ,
C h i n a h as u sed i ts statu s as a m em ber of th e U N
Secu rity C ou n cil to block
real m easu res i n ten d ed
to ad d ress gen oci d e i n
D arfu r. B y leveragi n g i ts
seat, C h i n a h as d ri ven a
fu rth er wed ge between
Su d an an d th e West, a
m ove th at on ly bolsters B ei ji n g s i m p ortan ce to th e
oi l-ri ch K h artou m regi m e.
A fri ca i s o n e o f two p arts o f th e wo rld , alo n g
wi th L ati n Am eri ca, wi th si zable n u m bers of states
th at still recogn ize T aiwan . T aiwan s rem ain in g allies
are vi tal to p reven ti n g th e i slan d fro m b eco m i n g
i solated d i p lom ati cally, an d B ei ji n g clearly wan ts to
red u ce T ai wan s i n flu en ce on th e con ti n en t. I n late
2005, C h i n a lu red Sen egal, on e of th e m ost i m p or-
tan t West Afri can states, back to i ts cam p . Afri can
ru lers affirm th eir su pport for th e on e C h in a prin -
ci p le at n early every offi ci al m eeti n g wi th th ei r C h i -
n ese co u n terp arts. E arli er th i s year, E th i o p i a s
p arli am en t even ap p ro ved a reso lu ti o n i n su p p o rt
of B ei ji n g s an ti -secessi on law.
HO W TO W IN FRIEN DS
Si n ce at least th e 1 9 8 0 s, U S sch o lars o n A fri ca
h ave focu sed p ri m ari ly on d evelop m en ts wi th i n th e
co n ti n en t, o r o n A fri ca s relati o n s wi th Western
n ati on s an d i n tern ati on al ai d an d fi n an ci al i n sti tu -
ti o n s. A m eri can C h i n a sch o lars, b y co n trast, ten d
to fo cu s o n C h i n ese d o m esti c d evelo p m en ts, U S-
C h i n a relati o n s, an d C h i n a s relati o n s wi th th e
A si an regi o n . A s a resu lt, th ere h as b een li m i ted
research o n h o w C h i n a h as p u rsu ed i n flu en ce i n
A fri ca o ver th e p ast two d ecad es. U n d erstan d i n g
th ese tools of in flu en ce offers a win dow in to C h in a s
2 2 0 CURRENT HISTORY May 2006
African leaders are increasingly treating
China like a great power on the continent.
strategi es on th e con ti n en t, an d wh eth er th ey cou ld
be repli cated i n oth er parts of th e developi n g world.
H o w d o es C h i n a o b tai n reso u rces, b u i ld trad e,
an d wi n Afri can n ati on s to i ts si d e? I n Jan u ary, B ei -
ji n g released an o ffi ci al C h i n a-A fri ca p o li cy wh i te
p ap er, a d ocu m en t rem ark able for th e broad ran ge
o f i ssu es i t co vers. T h e wh i te p ap er o ffers so m e
clu es i n to B ei ji n g s strategy i n Afri ca. F i rst, C h i n a i s
d ram ati cally boosti n g i ts ai d an d econ om i c su p p ort
to Afri caai d i t can p rovi d e wi th few stri n gs, at th e
sam e ti m e as i n tern ati o n al fi n an ci al i n sti tu ti o n s,
li k e th e Wo rld B an k , i n creasi n gly li n k ai d d i s-
bu rsem en ts i n th e d evelop i n g world to good gover-
n an ce an d an ti corru p ti on i n i ti ati ves.
C h i n ese ai d to th e co n ti n en t h as b eco m e m o re
so p h i sti cated . Wh i le C h i n a o n ce fo cu sed o n large
b u i ld i n gssp o rts stad i u m s i n G am b i a an d Si erra
L eon e, for exam p lei t h as i n creasi n gly u sed ai d to
su p p ort i n frastru ctu re creati on th at th en also h elp s
C h i n ese co m p an i es, an d to d i rectly wo o A fri can
eli tes. I n 2002, C h i n a gave $1 .8 bi lli on i n d evelop -
m en t ai d to i ts Afri can alli es. B ei ji n g h as si n ce th en
stop p ed offi ci ally rep orti n g i ts ai d , m ak i n g a com -
p lete an d accu rate tally i m p ossi ble.)
C h i n a h as also u sed d ebt reli ef to assi st Afri can
n ati on s, effecti vely tu rn i n g loan s i n to gran ts. Si n ce
2 0 0 0 , B ei ji n g h as tak en si gn i fi can t step s to can cel
th e d eb t o f 3 1 A fri can co u n tri es. I n 2 0 0 0 , C h i n a
wrote off $1 .2 bi lli on i n Afri can d ebt; i n 2003 i t for-
gave an oth er $750 m i lli on . E th i op i an P ri m e M i n i s-
ter M eles Z en awi h as p ro clai m ed th at C h i n a s
exem p lary en d eavor to ease Afri can cou n tri es d ebt
p ro b lem i s i n d eed a tru e ex p ressi o n o f so li d ari ty
an d com m i tm en t. D ebt reli ef h as been an excellen t
p u bli c relati on s tool for B ei ji n g becau se i t n ot on ly
garn ers p o p u lar su p p o rt b u t also allo ws fo r two
p osi ti ve p ress even ts: th e fi rst to p rovi d e th e loan ,
th e secon d to reli eve th e d ebt.
I n ad d i ti o n to i n creased ai d , C h i n a s o u treach
i n clu d es effo rts to b o o st i ts so ft p o wer i n A fri ca.
T h i s i s evi d en t i n a gro wi n g fo cu s o n p ro m o ti n g
C h i n ese cu ltu ral an d lan gu age stu d i es on th e con -
ti n en t. I n 2 0 0 3 , 1 , 7 9 3 A fri can stu d en ts stu d i ed i n
C h i n a, rep resen ti n g o n e-th i rd o f to tal fo rei gn stu -
d en ts th at year. I n d eed , C h i n a p lan s to trai n som e
1 0 , 0 0 0 A fri can s p er year, i n clu d i n g m an y fu tu re
A fri can o p i n i o n lead ers wh o o n ce m i gh t h ave
trai n ed i n th e West.
B ei ji n g also seek s to establi sh C on fu ci u s I n sti -
tu tes i n Afri cap rogram s at lead i n g local u n i ver-
si ti es, fu n d ed b y B ei ji n g an d d evo ted to C h i n a
stu d i es an d C h i n ese lan gu age trai n i n g. Alread y, i n
Asi a, C on fu ci u s I n sti tu tes h ave p roved effecti ve i n
en co u ragi n g grad u ate stu d en ts to fo cu s o n C h i n a
stu d i es an d , u lti m ately, to stu d y i n C h i n a. M ean -
wh ile, C h in ese m edical sch ools an d ph ysician s train
A fri can d o cto rs an d p ro vi d e m ed i ci n e an d eq u i p -
m en t free of ch arge to Afri can cou n tri es.
T h rou gh th ese p rogram s an d exch an ges, C h i n a
d evelo p s tru st b y i n vesti n g i n lo n g-term relati o n -
sh i p s wi th Afri can eli tes th at form erly m i gh t h ave
been ed u cated i n L on d on or Wash i n gton . B ei ji n g i s
also work i n g to en cou rage tou ri sm i n Afri ca, p artly
i n an effo rt to d evelo p cu ltu ral ti es. T h e go vern -
m en t h as ap p ro ved 1 6 A fri can co u n tri es as o u t-
bou n d d esti n ati on s for C h i n ese tou ri sts, i n clu d i n g
E th i o p i a, K en ya, an d Z i m b ab we. T h i s p u sh ed th e
n u m b er o f A fri ca s C h i n ese to u ri sts to 1 1 0 , 0 0 0 i n
2005, a 1 00 p ercen t i n crease over 2004, accord i n g
to C h i n ese govern m en t fi gu res.
TRADE SUM M ITS AN D ARM S DEALS
O n th e trad e fro n t, B ei ji n g h as en acted p o li ci es
to en cou rage greater C h i n ese i n vestm en t i n Afri ca.
I t h as lau n ch ed cen ters fo r i n vestm en t an d trad e
p ro m o ti o n , p ro vi d i n g b u si n ess an d co n su ltati o n
to C h i n ese en terp ri ses i n A fri ca. B ei ji n g h as also
created sp eci al fu n d s an d si m p li fi ed p roced u res to
p rom ote C h i n ese i n vestm en t.
A s C h i n ese i n vestm en t i n th e co n ti n en t h as
gro wn , so m e 8 0 , 0 0 0 m i gran t wo rk ers fro m C h i n a
h ave m oved to Afri ca, creati n g a n ew C h i n ese d i as-
pora th at is u n likely to retu rn h om e. I n som e cases,
th i s d i asp ora, alon g wi th i m p orts of ch eap C h i n ese
go o d s, h as sp ark ed an ger i n A fri ca. M an y A fri can
b u si n essp eo p le b eli eve th at C h i n ese go o d s are
u n fai rly u n d ercu tti n g th em , an d fear th e d i asp ora i s
rem i tti n g n early all o f i ts m o n ey b ack to C h i n a
rath er th an rei n vesti n g i t i n to lo cal eco n o m i es.
T h ese are th e k i n d s o f co n cern s th at o n ce led to
an ger agai n st I n d i an p op u lati on s on th e con ti n en t.)
I n a strategy Wash i n gton wou ld be wi se to em u -
late, C h i n a u ses su m m i ts an d i n form al m eeti n gs to
reach ou t to African bu sin ess leaders. T h e first Sin o-
Afri can bu si n ess con feren ce was h eld i n E th i op i a i n
D ecem b er 2 0 0 3 . I t resu lted i n agreem en ts o n 2 0
p ro jects wi th a to tal valu e o f $ 6 8 0 m i lli o n . I n
Au gu st 2004, C h i n a h eld a C h i n a-Afri ca You th F es-
ti val i n B ei ji n g, an d i n 2 0 0 6 B ei ji n g wi ll h o st th e
th i rd m i n i steri al m eeti n g of th e C h i n a-Afri ca C oop -
erati o n F o ru m . E ven ts li k e th ese p ro vi d e a ven u e
fo r ro lli n g o u t B ei ji n g s tech n i cal assi stan ce, an d
wh ere th e i d ea of C h i n a as a ben i gn actor i n Afri ca
can be taci tly em p h asi zed .
F i n ally, B ei ji n g i n creasi n gly vi ews A fri ca as a
cen ter fo r m i li tary-m i li tary co o p erati o n an d a
Chinas Africa Strategy 2 2 1
m ark et fo r C h i n a s gro wi n g arm s i n d u stry. To d ay,
C h i n ese fi rm s ran k am o n g th e to p su p p li ers o f
co n ven ti o n al arm s i n A fri ca. B etween 1 9 9 6 an d
2 0 0 3 , C h i n ese arm s sales to A fri ca were seco n d
o n ly to R u ssi a s. I n p arti cu lar, C h i n a h as d evel-
o p ed clo se m i li tary ti es wi th Z i m b ab we, Su d an ,
an d E th i o p i a, th ree o f A fri ca s m o st strategi cally
i m p o rtan t states.
I n April 2005, Z im babwe s air force received six jet
ai rcraft for low-i n ten si ty m i li tary op erati on s. T h e
year before, a C h i n ese rad ar system was i n stalled at
P resi d en t R obert M u gabe s m an si on i n th e H arare
su bu rbs. M ost i m p ortan t, i n Ju n e 2004, Z i m babwe
rep orted ly p u rch ased
1 2 jet fi gh ters an d
1 00 m i li tary veh i cles,
worth an esti m ated
$240 m i lli on . T h i s
order, wh ich h ad been
k ep t secret, was also
rep orted to h ave ci r-
cu m ven ted th e state
p rocu rem en t board
task ed wi th ap p ro-
p ri ati n g Z i m babwe s
$1 36 m i lli on d efen se
bu d get.
C h i n a h as becom e
th e largest su p p li er
o f arm s to Su d an ,
accordi n g to a form er
Su dan ese govern m en t
m i n i ster. C h i n ese-
m ad e tan k s, fi gh ter p lan es, b o m b ers, h eli co p ters,
m ach i n e gu n s, an d rock et-p rop elled gren ad es su p -
plied K h artou m s forces in th e n orth -sou th civil war.
An d even as world lead ers rem ai n fearfu l of n ew
co n fli ct b etween E th i o p i a an d E ri trea, C h i n a h as
ex ten d ed arm s sales to b o th n ati o n s. D u ri n g th e
war b etween E th i o p i a an d E ri trea fro m 1 9 9 8 to
2000, C h i n a byp assed a U N arm s em bargo an d sold
o ver $ 1 b i lli o n i n weap o n s to b o th states. )
E th i o p i an P ri m e M i n i ster M eles Z en awi an d C h i -
n ese L i eu ten an t G en eral Z h u Wen q u an m et i n
A d d i s A b ab a i n A u gu st 2 0 0 5 . T h ey agreed th at
E th i o p i a an d C h i n a sh all fo rge m u tu al co o p era-
ti on i n m i li tary trai n i n g, exch an ge of m i li tary tech -
n o lo gi es, an d p eacek eep i n g m i ssi o n s, am o n g
oth ers. T h e p revi ou s week , Z h u h ad m et wi th th e
com m an d er of th e E ri trean Ai r F orce. At th at gath -
eri n g, Z h u h ad sai d i t was C h i n a s d esi re fo r th e
arm i es of th e two si sterly cou n tri es to coop erate i n
vari ou s trai n i n g.
N UM BER O N E FRIEN D
T h ese tools an d strategi es h ave p roved effecti ve.
C h i n a h as gai n ed access to si zable resou rces across
th e con ti n en t. I t h as been offered exp lorati on ri gh ts
to im portan t N igerian oil fields. B eijin g already dom -
in ates Su dan s oil in du stry an d h as th e in side track to
An gola s an d Algeri a s oi l i n d u stri es. M ore C h i n ese
com p an i es, too, are p rovi n g su ccessfu l i n m i n i n g
Afri can m ark ets. T h e C h i n ese telecom m u n i cati on s
gi an t H u awei , for i n stan ce, n ow h old s con tracts
worth $400 m illion to provide m obile ph on e service
i n K en ya, Z i m babwe, an d N i geri a. I n Z am bi a, C h i -
n ese in vestors are workin g on a $600 m illion h ydro-
electric plan t at K afu e
G orge. T h ey are also
acti ve i n Sou th Afri ca
an d B otswan a s h otel
an d con stru cti on i n -
dustries. C hinese firms
dom in ate th e recover-
ing economies of Sierra
L eon e an d An gola,
and C hina has become
an i n creasi n gly close
trade partner with South
A fri ca, th e regi o n s
largest econ om y.
Afri can lead ers are
i n creasi n gly treati n g
C h i n a li k e a great
p o wer o n th e co n ti -
n en t, affo rd i n g C h i -
n ese o ffi ci als an d
b u si n essp eo p le th e typ e o f welco m e an d access
o n ce reserved fo r Western lead ers. B ei ji n g s o u t-
reach h as b een well recei ved b y m an y A fri can
lead ers, wh o welco m e C h i n a s rh eto ri c o f n o n i n -
terferen ce an d con stan t i n vei gh i n g agai n st Am eri -
can h egem o n i sm .
Ju st as G ab o n , Su d an , A n go la, an d o th er
n ati o n s n o w lo o k to C h i n a fi rst, so to o M u gab e
n o w calls C h i n a h i s n u m b er o n e fri en d , wh i le
th e lead ers o f R wan d a, wh ere th e go vern m en t i s
accu sed of ri ggi n g p olls an d lock i n g u p op p osi ti on
lead ers, h ave lavi sh ed p rai se on B ei ji n g. I t s a d i f-
feren t way o f d o i n g b u si n ess, R wan d a s fi n an ce
m i n i ster to ld rep o rters, p leased th at C h i n a h as
o ffered ai d wi th o u t an y p reco n d i ti o n s, su ch
as i m p ro vi n g R wan d a s h u m an ri gh ts reco rd .
Su d an ese offi ci als, too, gi ve th an k s to B ei ji n g: We
h ave o u r su p p o rters, th e d ep u ty h ead o f Su d an s
p arli am en t sai d wryly after Wash i n gton attem p ted ,
wi th li ttle lu ck , to san cti o n Su d an at th e U n i ted
2 2 2 CURRENT HISTORY May 2006
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In Search of Oil
An exhibitor adjusts a display of the Chinese oil company
Sinopec at a petroleum conference in Johannesburg.
N ati on s. As M u gabe p u t i t, C h i n a i s becom i n g an
altern ati ve glo b al p o wer p o i n t.
T h i s gro wi n g i n flu en ce co m es at so m e U S
expen se. Africa h as n ot been a priority for U S foreign
policy, oth er th an cou n terterrorism cooperation with
states i n N orth an d E ast Afri ca. M ean wh i le, i n som e
d em ocrati c Afri can n ati on s, th e war i n I raq, th e u se
o f th e term em p i re i n relati o n to elem en ts o f U S
fo rei gn p o li cy, an d th e A m eri can fo cu s o n tran s-
p aren cy, so m eti m es seen as m ed d li n g, gen u i n ely
an ger average ci ti zen s. T h e Wh i te H ou se h as h eld
few b i lateral m eeti n gs wi th th e co n ti n en t s m o st
i m p o rtan t p layers, an d , acco rd i n g to a rep o rt o n
West Afri ca by th e C en ter for Strategi c an d I n tern a-
ti on al Stu d i es, i t h as cu t back on Am eri can en ergy
attach s to th e co n ti n en t, even as A fri can o i l
becom es m ore im portan t to th e U n ited States. At th e
sam e ti m e, restri cti ve U S p o li ci es o n stu d en t vi sas
h ave led m an y A fri can s
stu d yi n g ab ro ad , h i sto ri -
cally a van gu ard o f p ro -
A m eri can sen ti m en t, to
lo o k o u tsi d e th e U n i ted
States for th ei r ed u cati on .
Yet th e fact th at so m e
A fri can lead ers welco m e
B ei ji n g d o es n o t m ean th at average A fri can s wi ll
always b en efi t fro m C h i n a s i n flu en ce. A lth o u gh
m u ch o f A fri ca h as ri d i tself o f d i ctato rs, th e
co n ti n en t i s sti ll left wi th fragi le, p o o r p seu d o -
d em o craci es th at lack stro n g ci vi l so ci eti es, i n d e-
p en d en t m ed i a, an d o th er i m p o rtan t p i llars o f
d em o cracy. T h ese n ati o n s co u ld go ei th er way.
L i k e B en i n an d B otswan a, th ey cou ld blossom i n to
co n so li d ated , m atu re d em o craci es. O r, li k e Z i m -
b ab we an d R wan d a, th ey co u ld d eteri o rate i n to
o n e-p arty states th at h o ld electi o n s b u t lack o th er
essen ti al elem en ts o f a d em o cracy.
SETTIN G A PO O R EXAM PLE
I n th i s fragi le en vi ro n m en t, C h i n ese i n flu en ce
co u ld co m p li cate d em o crati c co n so li d ati o n an d
good govern an ce. I t m i gh t also u n d erm i n e C h i n a s
own efforts to be seen as a respon sible global power.
I n Z i m b ab we last year, th e co u n try h eld a d i sm al
electi on ; before th e vote, can d i d ates an d p oll work -
ers from th e M ovem en t for D em ocrati c C h an ge, th e
lead i n g op p osi ti on p arty, were th reaten ed , beaten ,
an d even k i lled . M u gab e h ad gerrym an d ered p ar-
li am en t so h e wo u ld b e gu aran teed to start wi th
m o re seats th an th e M D C b efo re vo tes were even
co u n ted . O n E lecti o n D ay, wh en M u gab e u n su r-
p ri si n gly wo n a sm ash i n g vi cto ry, an d th e M D C
u n su rp ri si n gly cri ed fo u l, n o m ajo r i n tern ati o n al
p ower wou ld en d orse th e ou tcom eexcep t C h i n a.
I n th e ru n -u p to th e election , C h in a h ad delivered
to Z i m b ab we agri cu ltu ral eq u i p m en t, electri ci ty
tran sform ers, an d p lan eload s of T-sh i rts beari n g th e
i n si gn i a of M u gabe s p arty. C h i n ese bu si n esses also
rep orted ly offered th e govern m en t jam m i n g d evi ces
to be u sed again st Z im babwean opposition radio sta-
ti o n s, an d B ei ji n g i s sai d to h ave sen t H arare ri o t
con trol gear, in case of dem on stration s. M u gabe was
ecstati c at h i s go o d fo rtu n e. T h e C h i n ese are o u r
good fri en d s, you see, h e told a B ri ti sh i n tervi ewer.
B eyon d Z im babwe, B eijin g h as been criticized for
block i n g Western efforts to i solate an d p u n i sh th e
Su d an ese govern m en t. I n th e fall of 2004, wh en th e
U n i ted States su b m i tted d raft reso lu ti o n s to th e
U n i ted N ati o n s th at wo u ld h ave called fo r to u gh
acti o n agai n st eth n i c clean si n g i n D arfu r, C h i n a s
U N am b assad o r q u i etly
d efan ged th e d rafts, ren -
d eri n g th em u seless.
C h i n ese su p p o rt also
h as h elp ed A fri can lead -
ers m ai n tai n co n tro ls o n
i n fo rm ati o n . B ei ji n g ai d s
A fri can regi m es wi th
trai n i n g o n p ress an d I n tern et m o n i to ri n g. T rac-
i n g C h i n a s effo rts i n th i s area i s d i ffi cu lt, b u t
C h i n a s o ffi ci al p ress even allu d ed to th ese m ed i a
i n i ti ati ves. O n N o vem b er 1 1 , 2 0 0 5 , th e Peoples
Daily p ro clai m ed , I n th e i n fo rm ati o n secto r,
C h i n a h as trai n ed d o zen s o f m ed i a fro m 3 5
A fri can co u n tri es fo r th e p ast two years. T h e d ay
b efo re, th e gro u p R ep o rters wi th o u t B o rd ers
released an an alysi s o f M u gab e s m ed i a acti vi ti es,
fi n d i n g th at th e u se o f C h i n ese tech n o lo gy i n a
to tally h yp o cri ti cal an d n o n -tran sp aren t fash i o n
reveals th e go vern m en t s i ro n reso lve to ab o li sh
freed o m o f o p i n i o n i n Z i m b ab we.
C h i n a s u n wi lli n gn ess to p u t an y con d i ti on s on
i ts assi stan ce to A fri ca co u ld u n d erm i n e years o f
i n tern ati o n al effo rts to li n k ai d to b etter go ver-
n an ce. Alread y, i n tern ati on al corru p ti on watch d ogs
li k e G lo b al Wi tn ess h ave warn ed th at C h i n a s $ 2
bi lli on ai d to An gola, gi ven i n ad van ce an d wi th ou t
p ressu re fo r p o verty red u cti o n , wi ll allo w th e
A n go lan go vern m en t to revert to i ts o ld h ab i ts,
sk i m m i n g th e p etroleu m cream for i tself. Tod ay, th e
m ajori ty of An gola s rou gh ly 1 3 m i lli on p eop le sti ll
li ve i n p overty, wh i le eli tes h ave si p h on ed off m u ch
o f th e n ati o n s o i l wealth . Yet i n N o vem b er 2 0 0 5 ,
Jo s P ed ro d e M o rai s, A n go la s fi n an ce m i n i ster,
sai d h e ex p ected fu tu re C h i n ese lo an s wo u ld
Chinas Africa Strategy 2 2 3
In Africa, where the rule of law often
does not exist, Chinas state-led
business model could prove a disaster.
exceed $2 billion . Wh en we ask ou r C h in ese cou n -
terp arts i f th ey are wi lli n g to p ro vi d e m o re lo an s,
th ey say yes, h e rem ark ed .
M ore gen erally, th e state-led bu si n ess m od el th at
C h i n a su ggests to vi si ti n g A fri can lead ers co u ld
p ro ve p ro b lem ati c i n A fri ca. C h i n ese fi rm s wi th
state li n k s o ften h ave p o o r stan d ard s o f co rp o rate
go vern an ce, i n clu d i n g a lack o f tran sp aren cy. I n
Afri ca, C h i n ese fi rm s, m an y of th em own ed by th e
C h i n ese state, h ave b een k n o wn to su b m i t b i d s
b elo w co st i n an effo rt to b reak i n to a m ark et.
E x am p les i n clu d e A sm ara s O ratta H o sp i tal i n
E ri trea an d a $ 3 0 0 m i lli o n h yd ro electri c d am an d
p ower p lan t on E th i op i a s Tek eze R i ver.
N o tab ly, th e Tek eze p ro ject i s b eh i n d sch ed u le
an d th e E th i op i an govern m en t i s i n si sti n g th e C h i -
n ese con stru cti on fi rm p ay for th e d elays. B ecau se
of below-cost bi d s an d a d esi re to save m on ey, som e
of th e bu i ld i n gs C h i n ese fi rm s h ave bu i lt i n Afri ca
are alread y cru m b li n g, lead i n g to fears ab o u t
wh eth er m u ch of th e n ew C h i n ese-bu i lt i n frastru c-
tu re wi ll stan d th e test of ti m e.
I n C h i n a, th i s p oor corp orate govern an ce h as led
to fi scal m eltd o wn s. Yet th e C h i n ese go vern m en t,
co n strai n ed b y i ts n eed to d em o n strate so m e ru le
of law to forei gn i n vestors, h as m an aged to p rose-
cu te th e m o st egregi o u s wh i te-co llar cri m i n als,
i n clu d i n g so m e co rru p t o ffi ci als. I n A fri ca, wh ere
th e ru le o f law o ften d o es n o t ex i st, C h i n a s state-
led bu si n ess m od el cou ld p rove a d i saster, an i n vi -
tati on for rap aci ou s govern m en ts an d com p an i es.
CO M PETIN G VALUES
U lti m ately, Afri ca wi ll p rovi d e a test of wh eth er
B ei ji n g can b e a su ccessfu l great p o wer, ex erti n g
i n flu en ce far fro m i ts b o rd ers. I n so m e resp ects,
C h in a s in flu en ce m ay prove ben ign , as C h in a sh ares
bu rd en s i n Afri ca wi th oth er n ati on s li k e th e U n i ted
States, becom es a greater sou rce of in vestm en t in th e
con ti n en t, an d fu n d s m u ch -n eed ed ai d p rogram s.
E ven as th e U n i ted States h as largely i gn o red
A fri can n ati o n s i n U N fo ru m s, C h i n a h as su p -
p o rted a ran ge o f p ro p o sals favo red b y A fri can
co u n tri es o n U N Secu ri ty C o u n ci l refo rm , p eace-
k eep i n g, an d d ebt reli ef. I n so d oi n g, C h i n ese offi -
ci als o ften p o rtray B ei ji n g as a ch am p i o n o f th e
d evelo p i n g wo rld th at li sten s to o th er co u n tri es,
d rawi n g an i m p li ci t co n trast wi th th e U n i ted
States, wh i ch C h i n a p o rtrays as u n i n terested i n
d evelop i n g n ati on s n eed s. As C h i n ese P ri m e M i n -
i ster Wen Ji ab ao p u t i t, A s a p erm an en t m em b er
o f th e U N Secu ri ty C o u n ci l, C h i n a wi ll always
stan d si d e b y si d e wi th d evelo p i n g co u n tri es i n
A fri ca an d o th er p arts o f th e wo rld .
Yet B ei ji n g s i n flu en ce m u st b e wei gh ed i n li gh t
o f th e fact th at C h i n a, at least fo r n o w, d o es n o t
sh are Am eri can valu es of d em ocrati zati on an d good
go vern an cei n A fri ca o r an ywh ere else. B ecau se
C h i n a s i n flu en ce m i gh t con strai n th e exi sti n g p ow-
ers i n A fri ca, i n clu d i n g th e U n i ted States an d
F ran ce, th e tem p tati o n m ay b e to m atch so m e o f
C h i n a s effo rts o n th e co n ti n en t i n o rd er to wi n
resou rces. B u t i t i s m ore i m p ortan t th at th e U n i ted
States leverage i ts valu es, wh i ch are sti ll m o re
ap p eali n g to average Afri can s.
F o r th e U n i ted States, C h i n a s gro wi n g ro le i n
Afri ca sh ou ld be a wak eu p call. Wash i n gton n eed s
to con vi n ce both average Afri can s an d th ei r lead ers
th at th eir fu tu re is better served, over th e lon g term ,
by work i n g m ore closely wi th th e U n i ted States, th e
E u rop ean U n i on , an d i n tern ati on al fi n an ci al i n sti -
tu tion s. After all, a C h in ese victory on th e con tin en t
cou ld com e back to h au n t th e stru ggli n g resi d en ts
of M ap u to an d oth er Afri can cap i tals. I
2 2 4 CURRENT HISTORY May 2006