Finally, China has an interest in ending Taiwan’s diplomatic presence in Africa.Only four countries—Swaziland, Burkina Faso, Gambia, and São Tomé and Principe— still recognize Taipei. China’s unrelenting insistence on the One China Principle has keptthis interest on the agenda. Since Taiwan elected President Ma in 2008, there has been aninformal truce between Taipei and Beijing concerning efforts to undermine each other’sdiplomatic partnerships. This could change quickly if new leadership in Taipei pursued amore hostile relationship with Beijing. China does not object to Taiwan’s commercialactivities in Africa, which, in any event, are modest.
American Interests in Africa
It is instructive to compare hard American interests in Africa with those of China.First, the United States wants to maintain access to natural resources, especially oil.Second, it seeks to maximize its exports to Africa. Third, it desires to obtain the politicalsupport in international forums of as many African states as possible. Do these interestssound familiar? China’s only interest in Africa that is not shared by the United States isBeijing’s effort to end Taipei’s diplomatic recognition.I would argue that the United States has two additional interests that have not yetreached the same level of importance for China, although they may do so in the future.First, there are negative issues such as terrorism, narcotics trafficking, internationalcrime, piracy, and money laundering that the United States wishes to eliminate or minimize so that they do not harm American interests in Africa or the homeland.Increasingly, China is facing some of these threats and it may soon be appropriate to addthis interest to China’s list.Second, because of its global security responsibilities, the United States relies onthe permission of many African countries for U.S. military aircraft to overfly and land, itsnaval vessels to call at African ports, and use of African territory to counter terroristthreats. The United States maintains a military base in Djibouti and a drone operation inEthiopia. China’s global security requirements do not approach those of the UnitedStates. A similar requirement for China is many years away, although there are growingnumbers of Chinese naval visits to East African ports in connection with its contributionto the international anti-piracy operation in the Gulf of Aden.
China’s Formal Relationship
China has diplomatic relations with fifty African countries and has an embassy inforty-nine of them. The only exception is Somalia, where the security situation has precluded a presence by most foreign embassies. By comparison, the United States hasdiplomatic relations with all fifty-four countries and also has embassies in forty-nine of them. In addition to security concerns in Somalia, there is no U.S. embassy in four countries where the United States has not been willing to pay the cost of operating anembassy. All fifty African countries that recognize China except for the Comoro Islandsand recently independent South Sudan have an embassy in Beijing.China attaches extraordinary importance to the role of high level visits in itsinteraction with Africa. Hu Jintao has made six trips to Africa, two as vice president andfour as president, visiting multiple countries. Premier Wen Jiabao has been a frequent2