China in Africa

China has become much more involved with Africa in recent years. All over the entire content they have become largely involved. Actually in just the past few years (as of 2009) China has become Africa’s largest trading partner, surpassing The United States. Even though China is Africa’s largest trading partner their trade with them only makes up 4% of their total global trade. Overall, China has become very involved with Africa, from student scholarships to expanding its media connections. China even has some 1,500 peacekeepers that are assigned to the majority of the United Nations peacekeeping missions.

Back when the Communist Party of China took control of its Chinas’ mainland it wasn’t concerned at all with Africa in their foreign policies. In the beginning China either did not have good or any relations at all with any of Africa’s colonial leaders. But surely after some time has passed things began to change.

After the African colonies started gaining their own independent during the 1950’s and into the early 1960’s, China began to realize that Africa could use their political support within the United Nations to replace Taiwan on the Security Council. China began to get involved in the African countries so that it could open up embassies. The first to come about was in Cairo in 1956, after the Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Organization had begun organizing many conferences. China had taken many steps to become involved with Africa, spending lots of time and effort.

All of the effort finally paid off though in 1971. In 1971 the United Nations General Assembly admitted the Peoples Republic of China into the United Nations, along with replacing Taiwan on the Security Council. China earned 34% of its votes from African countries (this is how they knew their efforts were paying off). Back in the 1950’s and 1960’s China had backed many of Africa’s national liberation movements ( I personally think is one of the main reasons they had so much African support while trying to get into the Unites Nations.)

After a while though things seemed to change, during the 1980’s China seemed to be changing from, and I quote He Wenpig “ideological idealism to pragmatic idealism and from unconditional internationalism to a priority of national interest.” At the end of the cold war, after the Soviet Union and the West was done reaping Africa of its raw materials China saw its opening and seized it.

China had a need for raw materials in the early 1990’s and Africa caught their attention. They began to import petroleum along with many other minerals and raw materials such as: copper, iron ore, manganese, uranium, timber, and etc. All of these supplies were found in large supplies in Africa. And without anyone really noticing by the mid 1990’s China had begun increasing its involvement in Africa.

Because China had become so involved in Africa in the early 2000’s they created the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, this group meets once every three years to discuss and coordinates China’s relations within the 50 African countries that recognize Beijing. It’s weird to think that even though China is more devolved than the African countries they themselves are still a developing country. It is clear that China has four main interests in China. First, that Africa is a source of raw materials. Second, China wants to expand its exports to Africa.

The third point being that China is seeking more political support. Lastly, one of Beijing’s priorities is to end diplomatic recognition of Taiwan by any of the countries in Africa. The United States also has reasons that they want to be involved in Africa too. The first three are the same as Chinas with the fourth being that they want to minimize Africa’s involvement in terrorism, drug trafficking, international crime, and piracy and money laundering. And lastly, the United States uses Africa for many military ports. So far, we have not found China trying to establish any military interests in Africa.

China’s relations with African countries rely of their state-to-state and party-to-party relations. All of China’s relations with the 50 countries that recognize Beijing are for the most part very good or at least satisfactory at minimum. One thing China does to maintain good relations is that China’s foreign minister makes his first oversea visit to a Country in Africa (the African leaders notice this and appreciate it). Between the two countries leaders there have been hundreds of visits between China and the different African countries.

This is where China is getting more African support, as they are able to make more visits and also send more invitations to different African countries while the United States provides low-level technical assistance and election monitoring. The United States is helping the Africans, but the Chinese are building long lasting bonds with the African countries. The only reason Africa had military interest to China is in case of any interruptions while there is movement of oil and minerals that the Chinese industrial output. Since China is trying to maintain political stability in Africa they do not want to jeopardize this at all.

This is why they do not have military interests within Africa, strictly political reasoning. Also the Chinese have over a million nationals working in Africa (this number is significantly higher than the number of United States nationals working there). Once again, this is just another aspect that China is winning Africa over with. China’s current policy emphasizes military operations that are not war as solutions to international disputes. During state-to-state contacts China’s military rely of parades of Chinese military personal. Not only does China have officers in Africa, but Africa has similar offices in Beijing.

Although China does not directly have military bases in Africa, they do supply China with many arms. Between 2002 and 2009 they transferred over $2.5 billion weapon supplies to Africa countries. China even helped build a small weapons factory in Sudan. There is no exact number to the small weapons that China has supplied to the Africa countries in conflict zones, but we do know that the ammunition and light weapons end up there. They are originally obtained by legal government institutions, but China does not monitor them enough and this is why the weapons do end up in conflict zones. Military training has become more abundant in Africa. They will send military experts to Africa to help with education, maintaining equipment, along with health care. They even help with Zimbabwe’s air defense.

China does not directly have military inside of Africa but they help to coordinate the People’s Liberations Army (the People’s Liberation Army works very closely with the Communist Party of China). It’s actually a very smart idea. They do not directly have any military relations in Africa, but have the People’s Liberation Army at their disposal. They are currently trying to expand the People’s Liberation Army’s Navy in Africa.

China continues to have “political” interests only in Africa, but if you step back and look at the whole of what they are doing they pretty much indirectly have total control of much of Africa. They run most of Africa’s trade, have huge political impact, and support their military interests. China might be saying that their interest in Africa is not out of self-interest, but it the truth is clearly evident.

China’s total trade with Africa as of 2011 was $166 billion, most of this money is coming from about the 15 countries that have much of the oil and mineral exports. Even though China has lots of trade with Africa, it is out of balance. Much of their trade is between 5 countries in Africa.

The under devolved countries (which is the majority in Africa) really don’t mean much the China’s economy, but they continue to recognize and support them because of the political power behind having 30+ countries that will support them. China’s beginning interests in Africa were for mining, energy, and construction and manufacturing. Now that they have realized the potential in Africa they have begun moving into finance, aviation, agriculture, and tourism involvement in Africa.

There have been over 2000 Chinese companies that have invested in African countries. This investment in Africa only is about 4% of their total global investment. This is such a large return for such a little investment. The Chinese are putting 4% of their investments into Africa. And getting out of it 50 countries that support and maintain good relations with them. Not only maintain good relations but they also look up to China as a supporter for them.

China’s prime minister is even talking that China’s goal is to migrate more production to Africa so that it can create more jobs on the continent. They also plan on sharing political information and strategies with the Africans. This includes sharing their knowledge with the Africans about developing laws, polices, regulations and etc. Along with all of the political influence they plan on paying more attention to environmental concerns in Africa. China is slowly but surely becoming a powerhouse in China.

If they help Africa develop its countries out of the third world, we could be looking at a whole new world economy and new world powers eventually emerging. Not only has China been a big trade partner with Africa they have been there to aid them too.

China is not the largest aid donor to Africa, but their donations are still significant. The Chinese also hand out multi-billion dollar loans for the Africans to build big projects such as damns, railroads, bridges, and etc. The trick behind this is that they have no political tie involved, and along with it the loans are normally tied to the construction of the project by a big Chinese company. This receives much appreciation from African governments. Along with aiding Africa, China has also cancelled out billions of dollars of debt owed by 35 different African countries. As I said before, China pretty much has all of Africa under its control indirectly.

Even though it seems like China is going great in Africa it still has its own set of problems that it has to face. China has to deal with human rights issues within Africa along with the fact that the United States is trying to democratize Africa while most African countries welcome China’s policy. This is somewhat controversial between the two countries, but nothing major at all. This also gives China an advantage while working with the African governments. There have been some small labor unions that have put the blame on Asian imports.

Because the Africans have been able to get cheap African imports this is putting many African manufactures out of work. As before I said their arms transfers have caught some media’s attention giving them bad press. China’s big concern in Africa is the labor issues they face. Some of the Chinese companies have really poor records on worker safety and even following the local labor laws put in place.

Overall, I’d have to say that I believe that China is in Africa for only self-interest reasons. But, we as Americans can’t really put much criticism on them for doing so because we have done the exact same thing. The sad part is that we as human beings don’t have enough want to help each other out. Instead of helping out our fellow man, big corporations around the world would rather exploit people for their own personal profit.