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Thread: China's Expanding Role in Africa

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default China's Expanding Role in Africa


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    Default Pragmatists versus idealists

    The Chinese are implementing a practical long term strategy to facilitate their national interests. On the other hand we're waging an ideologically based war (trying to democratize the Middle East) at the expense of ignoring, or worse compromising, our more important interests such as access to a reliable supply of oil, and lesser but still important access to stable markets. Terrorism and extremism is not an imaginary threat, but it is not a threat to our national survival unless we stupidly give the enemy a victory by over reacting. If it comes down to an armed conflict for access to oil, we'll need a large conventional army to secure it, not a few guys with armed UAVs.

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    Default China's Expanding Role in Africa

    China’s Expanding Role in Africa: Implications for the United States, A Report of the CSIS Delegation to China on China-Africa-U.S. Relations November 28–December 1, 2006
    ...While China’s more ambitious and complex Africa policy of today may in due course bring financial and political payoffs, alter the playing field in Africa, and create pressures for changes in U.S. policy approaches, multiple risks also attend China’s strategy. In particular, Beijing faces nine core challenges in translating its vision of a strategic partnership with Africa into a sustainable reality:

    1. China will need to work assiduously to overcome obstacles tied to language, culture, religion, and racial bias.

    2. Although the FOCAC Beijing Action Plan calls for increased exchanges between African and Chinese media, and for the two sides to facilitate the placement of resident correspondents in China and in African countries, Chinese media and popular culture have only very limited entry into African markets thus far. Knowledge and expertise about Africa in China’s policy advisory and think tank communities is thin and lacking in up-to-date, on-the-ground experience.

    3. Evolving African popular opinion—the “African street”—is not currently factored systematically into Beijing’s thinking.

    4. The Chinese approach is neither familiar nor well equipped to engage with the emergent and increasingly vocal and influential nongovernmental groups in Africa.

    5. Adhering to a formal policy of noninterference and putting it into consistent practice will be difficult and likely clash over time with deepening Chinese interests.

    6. In the future, China will be under increasing pressure to define how it will direct and coordinate internally the complex bundle of ambitious policy and programmatic initiatives it is advancing.

    7. The Chinese diaspora business community poses special “reputational risks” related to bribery and counterfeiting, among other controversial practices.

    8. Pressures will mount for China to do more to harmonize its donor activity in Africa with ongoing international assistance, especially with respect to debt.

    9. Pressures will mount on Beijing to manage its relations better with its most important bilateral partner, the United States, vis-à-vis Africa....

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default When China Ruled the Sea

    There is a great book called When China Ruled the Sea: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne (1405 -1433) by Louise Levathes.

    It discusses a period in Chinese history when it was very involved with discovery and trade. A period where it was very ambitious in diplomacy and very interested in the world.
    Regards, Rob

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    Default Anchors Away

    I heard/read somwhere about a month ago that China was going to budget 5 billion for road projects. I wonder how long it will be until they fully project force into the sea lanes. They've been in space already.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Default

    I find it instructive whenever people warn of an impending China threat to compare defense budgets. China is, even if you triple their official budget, less than $100 bn. The latest U.S. defense budget request comes in at $481.4 bn --- and this completely excludes the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns at $140 bn.

    Frankly we should welcome China attempting to compete with us as a conventional peer. They will never match us and will end up wasting enormous resources trying to. Unfortunately I doubt they're that stupid.

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default Sales Brochure

    I will look at this more but the tone of the Executive Summary strikes me as hyped when it comes to expansion. What I have read so far reads more like a glossy sales brochure than an assessment.

    China has long been in Africa and in many ways was more effective at it than the US or the USSR because the Chinese tended toward a low-tech, man power intensive model. In contrast, the US talks low tech and adaptable project models that better meet local needs but in securing funding we often get driven toward high (or higher than the Chinese) tech solutions.

    Cuturally Communist Chinese models for communal agriculture in many cases better matched cultural tendencies even when they failed dramatically in execution.

    And even during the height of the Cold War, U.S. "allies" like Mobutu were more than willing to drag their skirts in front of the Chinese to prompt renewed fervor among their Western suitors. Witness this paragraph:

    Moreover, Beijing believes this history compares very favorably with the poor political and security legacy left to Africa by the U.S.-Soviet superpower rivalry of the Cold War era that stoked wars in places like Angola, Mozambique, and Ethiopia and created alliances with corrupt strongmen like Zaire’s President Mobutu and Somalia’s President Barre.
    The PRC was also a player in those arenas as well as in others.

    Overall I am not impressed. CSIS is usually much better.

    Tom

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    Default 3 Gorge Dam

    Another past reference cited it would produce 9 times the output of Hoover Dam when fully functional. That's alot of juice and it won't all go to commercial factories for consumer goods - some of the benefit has to go to China's military and naval expansion to my way of thinking seems the logical choice, but that's an aside from the Africa issue at hand. I can't see them wasting resources on look-good-feel-good PR like money for AIDS, but I could be wrong on that too. Where I was at in W. AFrica they had built a soccer stadium that was never used and they quickly saw there wasn't any benefit from being much involved with that small nation.

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    The Jamestown Foundation's China Brief, 7 Feb 07:

    Beijing’s Great Leap Outward: Power Projection with Chinese Characteristics
    ...Western reports of Hu’s on-going eight-nation African tour have focused on China’s anxiety to secure a long-term, reliable supply of oil and other strategic commodities; African crude already accounts for nearly a third of China’s total oil imports. The Chinese leadership has inked new deals on oil and other minerals with several countries, including Cameroon, Sudan, Zambia and South Africa. Equally important, however, has been Beijing’s eagerness to demonstrate the impressive sway of Chinese economic and diplomatic prowess. During the FOCAC as well as the current trip, Beijing has written off hundreds of millions of dollars of debt owed by 33 African nations. China’s direct investment in 49 African countries is close to $7 billion. While meeting Zambian leaders earlier this week, Hu vigorously defended his country’s assertive strategy toward Africa against charges of “Chinese-style neo-colonialism.” “China is eagerly expanding imports from Africa,” the president said, adding that tariffs for African products had been drastically curtailed. Hu declared that Chinese aid and investment in areas ranging from infrastructure and mining to hospitals and schools would be increased. The Africans and the Chinese, Hu said, would always remain “good friends, good partners and good brothers”.

    It is true that an increasing number of African politicians—particularly those in the opposition—have protested against China’s “exploitation” of Africa’s resources and the ill-treatment of local laborers by the Chinese owners of African-based firms. Hu and his foreign policy advisers, however, are convinced that as far as the “mainstream elite”—particularly the authoritarian rulers and businessmen in several countries—are concerned, China has already displaced the United States as Africa’s big brother. Indeed, one of the main purposes of Hu’s trip is to demonstrate that China’s African policy is on par with Western norms. Thus in Liberia, the president inspected Chinese peacekeeping forces billeted there under the auspices of the United Nations. In Sudan, where China has been accused of supplying arms to government forces committing atrocities in Darfur, Hu urged President Omar al-Bashir to do more to permit a UN-sponsored initiative aimed at halting the genocide in Darfur. Western diplomatic sources in Beijing noted that a key reason behind Beijing’s newfound eagerness to participate in UN-organized peacekeeping missions is to demonstrate China’s rising clout, particularly when juxtaposed against the declining influence of the United States in Africa and the Middle East....

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    Council Member bismark17's Avatar
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    Default Re:

    Poole's latest book, The Terrorist Trail, goes into into detail about a Jihadist/African/China nexus that has been developing for a period of time that I find to be very interesting and credible.

    Of course, being a Poole book, it veers totally off into another vein and now I am reading a study of the Southern African conflicts starting with the Zulu warriors, the Boer campaigns, the Selous Scouts and that totally hooah SADF strategic recon unit and how they operated.

    I really love his books but just wonder if they might be better broken into seperate policy papers or smaller more focused individual books...Don't get me wrong, I love his books, and would love to meet the guy but they just seem to be oddly packaged...I digress... sorry!

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    TWQ, Summer 07, The Tenuous Hold of China Inc. in Africa
    ...China’s “corporate engagement” strategy in Africa consists of several elements. Top Chinese leaders and diplomats create a favorable environment for Chinese investment in Africa through a mixture of prestige diplomacy, economic assistance, and diplomatic support for African leaders. At home, China’s economic bureaucratic agencies encourage Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) to increase their investment and trade with Africa. China’s SOEs implement Beijing’s aid projects, extract strategic natural resources for export back to China or for profit in the international marketplace, and expand their manufacturing bases in China. Chinese workers staff Chinese projects efficiently and at low cost, and Chinese migrants build trade networks and supply chains linking China and Africa. At least, that is the idea.....

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    Council Member MountainRunner's Avatar
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    Default Good read on China

    Check out Josh Kurlantzick's new book Charm Offensive for a good read on China's use of diplomacy, trade incentives, cultural exchange, and various assistance packages to change its image and win friends in Africa and elsewhere.

    Not that published policy and actual policy match, but if you haven't seen China's 2006 Africa Policy, it's worth skimming. The policy is in six parts:
    1. Africa's Position and Role
    2. China's Relations with Africa
    3. China's African Policy
    4. Enhancing All-round Cooperation Between China and Africa
    5. Forum on China-Africa Cooperation And Its Follow-up Actions
    6. China's Relations with African Regional Organizations

    Also noteworthy is China's intentional use of peacekeeping missions to up regional and global profile.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    Frankly we should welcome China attempting to compete with us as a conventional peer. They will never match us and will end up wasting enormous resources trying to. Unfortunately I doubt they're that stupid.


    If America is having trouble managing 26 million Iraqis, imagine how difficult it would be to deal with 1.3 billion people ... especially since China has never welcomed an occupation.


    As far as China never coming close to American millitary ... that all depends. China is eager to buy arms and technology from Europe and Europe is eager to sell it to them.


    Should be interesting how this current conflict between the central and the local government (where most of the human rights abuse occurs) turns out. After years of trying to do something about it, the central government is using the media to expose local government abuses to make sure the populace is on their side.

    Now the central government has to step in and control those areas. This is going to be a real test to their validity and if things don't improve in the rural areas under thier control, they might face a peasant uprising in the coming years.

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    CS Monitor, 27 Jun 07: Young Chinese idealists vie to join their 'peace corps' in Africa
    Across the border from South Sudan, in the small Ethiopian village of Asossa, Sun Yingtao, a young agriculture student from Hebei Province in China, is teaching subsistence farmers – many of them refugees from war-torn Sudan – techniques for getting good yields out of their meager lands.

    Seconded to the Ethiopian Department of Rural Development, Mr. Sun spends his days trying to identify various vegetable diseases, discussing possible alternative water usage, and debating the pros and cons of sowing onions and peppers in rows or in a scattered fashion.

    Sun, who has been here for six months, is a civilian volunteer – one of a group of 50 young men and women who have been sent by the Chinese government as part of a new, experimental "peace corps" project in the country. This is the program's second year, and there are small volunteer groups in three locations: Ethiopia, the Seychelles, and Zimbabwe – three countries of limited economic importance for China....

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    What goes up...

    Christian Science Monitor - In Sudan, China focuses on oil wells, not local needs June 26th

    Mostly covers the growing backlash to Chinese assistance in Africa.
    Last edited by Mooks; 07-04-2007 at 06:10 PM. Reason: Date + summary

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    For more in the same vein you might scan this article in Der Spiegel (focusing mainly on Zambia).

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    According to a recent Pew Research Report:

    In general, Africans are more positive than Latin Americans about the growing influence of both China and the U.S. on their countries. But in both regions, somewhat greater percentages say China's influence is a good thing than say that about U.S. influence.


    Across Africa, favorable views of China outnumber critical judgments by two-to-one or more in every country except South Africa, where opinion is divided. In both Mali and Ivory Coast more than nine in ten (92%) have a favorable view of China, and positive opinions also overwhelm critical judgments in Senegal and Kenya, where 81% view China favorably.

    Three-quarters hold a favorable view in Ghana and Nigeria, as do two-thirds of Ethiopians. Even in Uganda where a third of the population does not know enough about China to express an opinion – twice as many have a favorable view as view China unfavorably (45% to 23%). The survey provides a trend only for Nigeria, where favorable attitudes toward China are sharply up, rising 16 percentage points in just the past year from 59% to 75%.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Having just returned from a 2 1/2-week sojourn to Senegal, I can say that some of the Dakar natives I came into contact with told me that they were definitely noticing an influx of Chinese migrants incoming to Senegal. Opinions were split on whether this was a good thing or not.

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    Council Member Mark O'Neill's Avatar
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    Default A related view:

    Having read the posts in this thread I thought that an opinion piece that I had published in one of our two national daily newspapers might be of interest.

    The link to Australian Business interests was necessary to get it published - it reflects the interests of the paper's readers (it is kind of an Australian equivalent of the Wall Street Journal). The bottom line message about China's changing role still comes through clearly,

    regards,

    Mark

    Time is ripe for investment in Africa
    Mark O'Neill
    The Australian Financial Review, 16 May 2007 , P. 63

    The Ogaden Region in Ethiopia has attracted little attention in the West since a bloody border conflict between Ethiopia and Somalia over 20 years ago. It is a place of nomads, unmarked minefields, bandits and camel thorn. And now, Chinese workers.

    A rebel attack last week on an oil field in the Ogaden resulted in the deaths of nine Chinese nationals. The presence of Chinese workers in Eastern Ethiopia underlines a profound change in the nature of Beijing’s engagement with Africa. During transition from the colonial era and the Cold War, China’s involvement was largely ideology and arms. Now, it is resource development and trade. This changed pattern reflects events across the continent.

    A scramble for African resources is taking place. Exploration is occurring at a rate not seen since the early European colonial era. Australian companies are part of this rush. Woodside Petroleum and BHP Billiton are seeking developments in places as diverse as Libya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But, the scale of investment by Asian powers dwarfs all Australian enterprises.

    China and India have emerged as major players in developing African resources. They are seeking to feed their ongoing economic booms. A recent World Bank Report, Africa’s Silk Road: China and India’s New Economic Frontier, illuminates the scale of this effort.

    The World Bank has estimated that Chinese direct foreign investment in Africa was over $US 1.18 billion by mid-2006. Angola is now China’s largest source of imported oil. The Council on Foreign Relations estimates Chinese investment in Sudan at over $US10 billion. Chinese corporations control 40% of Sudanese oil production. They have invested over $US150 million in Zambian copper during the last eight years.

    India is not that far behind China. The East African littoral has had a significant Indian diaspora for centuries. Recent energy deals with Libya, Sudan and the Ivory Coast, have further widened Indian influence.

    The environmental, labour and governance records of many of the new Asian mining and raw materials ventures are generally poor, but Africa’s desire for new investment is great. Emerging Asian economic influence in Africa is challenges stability in three ways.

    First, African nations remain extremely sensitive to ideas of colonialism and exploitation. There is growing concern that many developing nations in Africa are engaged in a ‘race to the bottom’ for investment. Beijing’s large role in the Zambian copper industry was a bitterly contested issue in that country’s recent presidential elections. The World Bank has noted that African exports to China and India, less those involving raw resources, face high tariff barriers. Many African states are not resilient. Internal dissatisfaction or agitation over perceptions of economic neo-colonialism could prove destabilising.

    Second, China’s public diplomacy position of ‘non-interference’ in sovereign nations plays out in Africa as ‘values free’ engagement. The number of unconditional financial deals it has with nations afflicted by severe human rights and internal security issues highlights this. One example is Zimbabwe, where China is sustaining the Mugabe regime as that nation’s top foreign ‘investor’. Similarly, analysts have identified Chinese support for the Sudanese Government as a factor in the longevity of the conflict in Darfur. Economic support to such states prolongs instability.

    Finally, it may be wrong to assume that Africa has seen the last of the proxy conflicts that characterised its experience during the Cold War. These conflicts may be replicated by economic battles between China and India as competition develops, or if Africa‘s old source of investment, Europe, seeks to reassert itself. The recent announcement by the Bush Administration of the creation of a US ‘Africa Command’ points to the possibility of future strategic competition between divergent US and Chinese interests.

    The situation in Africa suggests risk and opportunity for Australian business. The key risks are instability for operations, and the development of African competition in our traditional markets. The key to mitigating these risks lies in Australia grasping the opportunities at hand.

    The environmental, labour and governance record of Australian firms is a key point of differentiation when contrasted with many Asian firms. It suggests a marketable comparative advantage. Australian ability in the provision of services for the resources sector is another opportunity for promotion. Australia must stop viewing Africa as an object of charity or curiosity. It is time to pursue a strategy of business engagement and development.

    Mark O’Neill is a Fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy

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