Amid growing concerns
about the People's Republic of China's burgeoning influence
around the globe, Beijing has now set its sights on Africa. China's
interest in Africa is not new. In the 1960s and 1970s,
Beijing's interest centered on building ideological solidarity
with other underdeveloped nations to advance Chinese-style
communism and on repelling Western "imperialism." Following the
Cold War, Chinese interests evolved into more pragmatic pursuits
such as trade, investment, and energy.
In recent years, Beijing
has identified the African continent as an area of significant
economic and strategic interest. America and its allies and
friends are finding that their vision of a prosperous Africa
governed by democracies that respect human rights and the rule
of law and that embrace free markets is being challenged by the
escalating Chinese influence in Africa.
The People's Republic of
China (PRC) aids and abets oppressive and destitute African
dictatorships by legitimizing their misguided policies and
praising their development models as suited to individual national
conditions. Beijing holds out China's unique development
model-significant economic growth overseen by a disciplined,
one-party totalitarian state with full authority, if not control,
over all aspects of economic activity-as an example for others to
Moreover, China rewards
its African friends with diplomatic attention and financial and
military assistance, exacerbating existing forced dislocations
of populations and abetting massive human rights abuses in troubled
countries such as Sudan and Zimbabwe. As a consequence, Chinese
support for political and economic repression in Africa counters
the liberalizing influences of Africa's traditional European
and American partners. China's vigorous campaign to develop close
ties with individual African nations also reflects Beijing's
global quest to isolate Taiwan diplomatically (seven of the 26
countries that have full diplomatic relations with Taiwan are
The most pernicious effect of the renewed
Chinese interest in Africa is that China is legitimizing and
encouraging Africa's most repressive regimes, thereby increasing
the likelihood of weak and failed states. The United States must
also be alert to the potential long-term disruption of American
access to important raw materials and energy sources as these
resources are "locked up" by Chinese firms for the PRC's
domestic market to maintain China's economic growth.
U.S. national interests
lie in effectively countering these developments in Africa by
deftly encouraging democratic processes, economic freedom, and
respect for human rights across the African continent.
for Natural Resources
For the past decade, the
Chinese economy has been expanding at a nearly double-digit annual
growth rate. This rapid expansion requires enormous resources,
accelerating domestic energy demand, combined with declining
domestic petroleum production and insufficient coal output,
has spurred Beijing to pursue stable overseas sources of
hydrocarbon fuels. By 2004, China had become the world's second
largest oil consumer, behind only the United States. Chinese oil consumption is
expected to increase by 10 percent per year, while
China's oil and gas imports are forecast to increase from the
present 33 percent of China's total oil and gas demand to 60
percent by 2020. Asian oil and natural gas
production is not growing fast enough to meet Chinese demand, and a
large portion of Middle Eastern oil and gas production is normally
allotted to U.S. and European markets.
In an attempt to gain
control over its oil and gas consumption needs as world spot market
prices rise precipitously, Beijing has focused on African nations
as likely hydrocarbon acquisition targets. An estimated 25 percent
of China's total oil imports currently comes from Africa, and Beijing has placed a high
priority on maintaining strong ties with its African energy
suppliers through investment, high-level visits, and a strict
policy of "noninterference in internal affairs" that Africa's
dictators find comforting.
Chinese government firms
have invested billions of dollars in foreign exchange and have used
Chinese engineering and construction resources on
infrastructure for developing oil, gas, mineral, and other natural
resources in dozens of African countries, including Algeria,
Angola, Gabon, Nigeria, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. The PRC's new African
energy investments are clearly intended to supplement its
Middle Eastern oil imports.
Sudan, which now supplies 7
percent of China's total oil imports, has benefited from
the largest Chinese investments. The China National Petroleum
Corporation (CNPC) is the single largest shareholder (40 percent)
in the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company, which controls
Sudan's oil fields, and has invested $3 billion in
refinery and pipeline construction in Sudan since
In March 2004, Beijing extended a
$2 billion loan to Angola in exchange for a contract to supply
10,000 barrels of crude oil per day. Under the
agreement, the loan will be heavily reinvested in infrastructure
construction, with 70 percent of the loan funds going to Chinese
companies and the remaining 30 percent going to local
In July 2005, PetroChina concluded
an $800 million deal with the Nigerian National Petroleum
Corporation to purchase 30,000 barrels of oil per day for one
In January 2006, China National
Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), after failing to acquire
American-owned Unocal, purchased a 45 percent stake in a
Nigerian offshore oil and gas field for $2.27 billion and promised
to invest an additional $2.25 billion in field development.
Gabon's declining oil industry
also saw massive investment from China National Petrochemical
Corporation (SINOPEC), which plans to explore Gabon's onshore and
offshore oil reserves.
South Africa and Zimbabwe remain
Beijing's major sources for platinum and iron ore.
In 2004, there were more than a
dozen exchange visits of high-level party and government officials
between China and African countries. Most of the exchanges have
centered on economic and energy cooperation. For
In February 2004, Chinese
President Hu Jintao visited Algeria, Gabon, and Nigeria-the three
African oil giants-to consolidate further the security of energy
In June, Chinese Vice President
Zeng Qinghong visited Tunisia, Togo, Benin, and South Africa, which
have significant mineral reserves.
In October-November 2004, National
People's Congress Chairman Wu Bangguo visited Kenya, Zimbabwe,
Zambia, and Nigeria.
All of these visits
focused on joint oil, mineral, and renewable resource exploration
opportunities in the region. In return, top leaders from Kenya,
Liberia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe visited Beijing and secured
further investment and economic assistance from China. In
January 2006, Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing's trip to six West
African nations-Cape Verde, Senegal, Mali, Liberia, Nigeria, and
Libya- was accompanied by the release of "China's African Policy,"
an official Chinese government paper aimed at promoting economic
and political cooperation as well as joint energy development
without interfering in each other's internal affairs.
The Chinese government has
combined its efforts to secure exclusive access to African
natural resources with an aggressive political campaign
to ingratiate itself with Africa's tyrants and despots. For
example, Sudan's government has long abetted and perpetrated
genocide against large non-Muslim populations in its Darfur region.
While the United States, the European Union, Japan, and other
Western democracies have sought to impose U.N. sanctions against
the Sudanese regime over the issue, China has opposed U.N. actions
Over the past several
years, the Khartoum government has forced hundreds of
thousands of people to flee their homes in southern oil fields
largely owned by the CNPC. In fact, Sudanese
government troops and government-aligned militias have used
Chinese-made helicopter gunships, based at airstrips maintained by
Chinese oil companies, in raids that devastated hundreds of towns
and villages around the oil installations.
Chinese Deputy Foreign
Minister Zhou Wenzhong's comments in a recent interview
demonstrate China's utter lack of concern for political
volatility in Africa:
Business is business. We
try to separate politics from business. Secondly, I think the
internal situation in the Sudan is an internal affair, and we are
not in a position to impose upon them.
Sales and Military Cooperation
African dictatorships are
regular buyers of Chinese weapons and military equipment,
which they often use to oppress minority populations, quash
political opposition, harass neighboring countries, and extinguish
any glimmers of democratization. In 2004, despite the U.S. and EU
arms embargo against Zimbabwe, China sold Zimbabwe fighter aircraft
and military vehicles for $200 million. In addition,
China provided a military-strength radio-jamming device, which the
Harare government used to block broadcasts of anti-government
reports from independent media outlets during the 2005
parliamentary election campaign.
When President Robert
Mugabe seized power in 1980, Zimbabwe was one of the most
prosperous nations in Africa. However, for the past decade, Mugabe
has relentlessly repressed political opponents and opposing
tribes, and the country's economy has contracted drastically.
Now Zimbabwe is facing chronic food shortages and 70 percent
unemployment. In May 2005, Mugabe ordered implementation of
"Operation Murambatsvina (Clear the Filth), a program of forcible
eviction and demolition of tens of thousands of houses and informal
building structures of urban residents." The U.N. estimates that
the forcible evictions and demolition of residential and business
structures has displaced 700,000 people, most of whom
supported Mugabe's political opposition. Mugabe has compounded
the catastrophe by denying international humanitarian aid
agencies access to render humanitarian aid.
The Mugabe regime's
repeated abuses led the United States and the European Union to
impose sanctions against Zimbabwean officials who had "formulated,
implemented, or supported policies that have undermined Zimbabwe's
democratic institutions." Increasing isolation and
pressure from the West have caused Zimbabwe to develop close
relations with China, adopting a "Look East" policy that provides
Mugabe with a lifeline to resist Western sanctions and criticism. China provides for Mugabe's
military needs without interfering in his "internal affairs" and
praises Mugabe as "a man of great achievements, devoted to world
peace and a good friend of the Chinese people."
China has a history of
selling weapons and arms production lines via state enterprises and
front companies to other repressive regimes, such as Liberia and
Nearly 80 percent of Sudan's $500
million annual oil revenue is used to purchase weapons to subdue
the rebels in southern Sudan. With Chinese
assistance, the Sudanese government recently built three weapons
factories near Khartoum.
In 2003, several Hong Kong firms
were accused of smuggling illegal arms including Chinese-made
AK-47s, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenade launchers
into Liberia and neighboring Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast,
where rebels and mercenaries were involved in civil wars. The illegal arms trade led the
U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution in December 2004
banning all trade in arms, timber, and diamonds with Liberia. The
resolution noted the link between illegal trade in natural
resources such as diamonds and timber and the proliferation and
trafficking of illegal arms, which is fuelling and exacerbating
conflicts in West Africa, particularly in Liberia.
Beijing's involvement in
sub-Saharan African security issues has expanded to peacekeeping
operations, exchange programs, and military
In April 2003, approximately 175
People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers and a 42-man medical
team were deployed to the Democratic Republic of Congo on a
In December 2003, 550 peacekeeping
troops, equipped with nearly 200 military vehicles and water-supply
trucks, were sent to Liberia, marking China's
largest overseas operation under U.N. auspices since it deployed
800 military engineers to Cambodia from 1992 to
China has also deployed about
4,000 PLA troops to southern Sudan to guard an oil pipeline and recently reaffirmed its
intention to strengthen military collaboration and exchanges with
Ethiopia, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sudan.
trade, Investment, and an Economic Development Model
relationship with Africa is alarming not only because it has
facilitated Chinese energy and weapons dealings, but also because
it is competing with U.S.-African trade. The China- Africa
Cooperation Forum (CACF) was founded in 2000 to promote stronger
trade and investment relations between China and African countries
in both the government and private sectors. The CACF has produced
two ministerial meetings and four meetings of senior officials,
contributing to the rapid growth of trade and investment over the
past five years.
In 1999, the annual volume
of trade between China and Africa was $5.6 billion. After the establishment of the
CACF, Sino-African trade more than quintupled to $29.5 billion in
2004. By the end of October 2005,
annual Sino-African trade for the year totaled $32.2 billion,
surpassing the 2004 total. The volume of trade between
the United States and Africa also increased remarkably, more than
doubling from $26.9 billion in 1999 to $58.9 billion in 2004.
However, African trade with China is growing at a much faster rate:
an average of more than 50 percent annually since 2002.
In 2004, Chinese direct
investment in Africa reached $135 million, with 77 additional
Chinese companies doing business in the region. At the
fourth CACF Senior Officials Meeting in August 2005, attended by
delegations from 46 African countries and observers from six
African regional organizations, China proposed upgrading the third
CACF ministerial meeting in 2006 to a summit meeting involving the
heads of state from China and Africa, which was
welcomed by all participants.
China has also offered aid
to its African partners, ranging from building infrastructure to
treating infectious diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS. Since
the 1960s, over 15,000 Chinese doctors have worked in 47 African
states treating nearly 180 million patients.
Chinese-sponsored roads and railways are under construction in
Kenya, Rwanda, and Nigeria, and a mobile telephone network is being
built in Tunisia. These projects are often contracted to
Chinese firms rather than local businesses, adding little to
the local economy in terms of employment. State-run China Radio
International launched its first overseas radio station in
Kenya in January 2006 to provide 2 million Kenyans with 19
hours of daily programming on major news from China and around the
world, including China's exchanges with African countries.
Moreover, the Chinese
government has actively advocated a Chinese-style economic
development model to African countries, based on a restricted
market system constrained by the overarching priority of
maintaining a single-party, totalitarian government. Many
authoritarian African regimes, desperate to invigorate their
fraying economies while maintaining a strong grip on political
power, seem to find the Chinese economic development and reform
model preferable to the free-market and representative-government
policies promoted by the United States and the European
support of African despots lends them international legitimacy and
influence in the United Nations and other international arenas
that help to blunt pressure from the Western democracies on human
rights, economic openness, and political freedoms. At the same
time, when it serves Chinese interests, Beijing succors would-be
junta leaders and illiberal rebels who want power and would roll
back political reforms in immature democracies. These rebels seem
to believe that if they want to overthrow a legitimate government,
China will work to bolster their international legitimacy in
the United Nations and other international fora.
As China's power and
influence grows, Beijing is becoming more willing to challenge the
United States, EU nations, and others in international arenas
to protect its interests in Africa. Over time, differences
between China and democracies over human rights and basic political
and civil rights will sharpen. For example, in September 2004, the
U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 1564, which condemned the
mass killing of civilians in the Darfur region, but stopped
short of imposing oil sanctions if Khartoum did not act to
stop the killing. China abstained from the vote and threatened to
veto any further move to impose sanctions.
In July 2005, Britain,
backed by the United States and seven other countries, led a
Security Council briefing on Zimbabwe's slum demolition campaign in
an effort to organize a formal debate in the General Assembly and
possibly generate a punitive Security Council resolution. Meanwhile, Zimbabwean
President Robert Mugabe visited Beijing, seeking financial
assistance for his failing economy. Because of Beijing's strong
support for Mugabe and opposition to Security Council action, the
U.N. was unable to reach a consensus on further formal
discussions of the issue.
Chinese objective in Africa is to isolate Taiwan diplomatically in
an effort to pressure Taipei toward unification. Seven African
countries-Burkina Faso, Chad, Gambia, Malawi, Sao Tome and
Principe, Senegal, and Swaziland-currently maintain official
diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
diplomatic influence was not a high priority on China's Africa
policy agenda until the early 1990s, when the competition between
China and Taiwan to win diplomatic recognition from individual
African countries escalated drastically. Now, through offers
of massive economic assistance, Beijing has secured recognition
from six additional African countries at Taiwan's
Lesotho and Niger switched
their diplomatic recognition to the PRC in 1994 and 1996,
respectively. The Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau, and
South Africa switched their recognition from Taipei to Beijing in
1998, and Liberia switched recognition to Beijing in 2003 shortly
before China dispatched PLA troops to assist with Liberian
water-supply projects. In addition to ongoing efforts to sever
Taiwan's few remaining connections in Africa, China has also
sought repeatedly to maintain the support of its African partners
for its "one China" policy via diplomatic attention, economic
investment, and other assistance.
United States Should Do
China's broad energy,
trade, political, diplomatic, and even military interests in Africa
threaten to undermine American and European efforts to promote
peaceful, pluralistic, and prosperous societies in the region. To
protect and advance American interests and influence in Africa, the
United States should:
Develop a coordinated,
comprehensive strategy. Appropriate U.S. agencies should develop
a comprehensive and coordinated strategy based on a review of the
challenges and obstacles in each country and the available
American resources. Consistent, constant, and coherent American
engagement in Africa will help to counter the illiberal forces that
stunt African development.
Increase the U.S. diplomatic
profile in Africa. The
United States has demonstrated considerable commitment to promoting
economic growth and development, representative government, health,
and human rights in Africa. Since 1960, Washington has
provided $51.2 billion (in 2003 dollars) in official bilateral
development assistance to sub-Saharan Africa. The
United States is the largest humanitarian aid donor ($3.3 billion
in 2003) and also the largest source of bilateral and multilateral
support to combat HIV /AIDS, malaria, and other infectious
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's
reorganization and expansion of diplomatic posts,
combined with extensive public diplomacy to publicize U.S.
assistance efforts in Africa and shared interests between the two
regions, will help to change the pervasive African perception that
the United States cares little for the region. To further these
efforts, President George W. Bush should go on an extended trip to
Africa to strengthen relations with Africa.
Encourage human rights,
democratic principles, and good governance. Atrocious human rights violations in
Sudan, Zimbabwe, and some West African nations remain a primary
concern. The United States should make a more consistent effort to
moderate the conduct of repressive African regimes and to help
young African democracies lay the institutional foundations
for a free, open, stable, and prosperous society in their
individual countries and throughout the region.
To this end, the United
States has made "good governance" a requirement to qualify for
Millennium Challenge Account aid. Washington should go a step
further by denying bilateral economic assistance to countries that
consistently violate human rights or resist the
transition to representative government and by promoting this
policy in both international financial institutions and the United
Increase trade and economic
relations with Africa. Although U.S.-Africa trade accounts for
only about 1 percent of total U.S. trade, it has grown rapidly
since passage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) in
2000. AGOA significantly lowers, through 2015, trade barriers to
goods exported from African countries, provided that they have
established or are making progress toward market-based economies,
enhancing the rule of law, representative governance, lowering
barriers to U.S. trade and investment, improving human rights, and
While AGOA is a positive step, the
United States should continue to press the region and individual
countries for permanent free trade agreements that liberalize trade
in goods and services, lower investment barriers, and strengthen
property rights. Such agreements would encourage stronger economic
growth and increase economic ties between the United States and
trade partners in Africa. Charity and international aid will not
solve Africa's problems, but economic reform and growth
Encourage development of energy
resources. Africa is an
increasingly important oil supplier for the United States,
providing 15 percent of total U.S. oil imports, which is forecast
to increase to 25 percent within the next decade. Given America's
desire to diversify its energy supplies, the United States should
press countries in Africa to open their oil and gas sectors to
foreign investment and remove regulatory and other barriers that
constrain economic development of those resources.
American military is the world's premier fighting force, making
many nations eager to gain access to U.S. military training and
facilities. Security engagement, including the International
Military Education and Training program (IMET), will increase
the likelihood of advancing U.S. goals, such as civilian control of
the military and counterterrorism and peacekeeping
Seek new international
partners. International cooperation is a
"force multiplier," and Washington should look beyond traditional
partners in Europe to the democratic nations of Asia and Latin
America to help advance these important issues.
China is actively
expanding its influence in Africa to secure supplies of natural
resources, to counter Western political and economic influence
while expanding China's global influence, and to further isolate
Taiwan. As a result, Chinese support for political and economic
repression in Africa is countering the liberalizing influences of
Africa's traditional European and American partners. It is in
the U.S. national interest to address these developments in
Africa by deftly encouraging democratic processes, economic
freedom, and respect for human rights across the African
Brookes is Director of the Asian Studies Center, and
Ji Hye Shin is a Research Assistant in the Asian Studies Center, at
The Heritage Foundation.
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AGOA-eligible countries are Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso,
Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic
of Congo, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gabon, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea,
Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali,
Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda,
Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South
Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. Côte
d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) was removed from the list in December 2004.
This is an important signal that the U.S. takes the criteria
seriously, which is the only way to ensure that they are effective.
U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration,
"African Growth and Opportunity Act: Country Eligibility," at
(February 8, 2006), and Office of the U.S. Trade Representative,
2005 Comprehensive Report on U.S. Trade and Investment Policy
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(February 8, 2006).