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China - Africa Speech - Brown U. - Dec. 2011

China - Africa Speech - Brown U. - Dec. 2011

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Published by David Shinn
Presentation by David H. Shinn, adjunct professor at George Washington University and former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, at 2011 Achebe Colloquium, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, 4 December 2011.
Presentation by David H. Shinn, adjunct professor at George Washington University and former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, at 2011 Achebe Colloquium, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, 4 December 2011.

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Published by: David Shinn on Dec 06, 2011
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China-Africa Relations: The Big Picture
2011 Achebe ColloquiumBrown UniversityProvidence, Rhode Island4 December 2011David H. ShinnAdjunct Professor Elliott School of International AffairsGeorge Washington University
Chinese Interests in Africa
China has four hard interests in Africa’s fifty-four countries. I exclude from thislist interests often cited by Beijing such as support for economic development and political stability in Africa. These are goals or objectives of Chinese policy, but they donot constitute China’s interests any more than they are interests of the United States.China’s principal interest in Africa is continuing access to raw materials,especially oil, minerals, and agricultural products. China now imports about one-third of its total oil imports from Africa. It is important, however, to put this in perspective.China’s oil imports from Africa constitute only about 13 percent of total African oilexports. The United States and European Union each account for about one-third of totalAfrican oil exports. On the other hand, China imports about 90 percent of its cobalt, 35 percent of its manganese, 30 percent of its tantalum, and 5 percent of its hardwood timber from Africa. All of these products help to sustain China’s rapidly growing economy,which, in turn, helps to keep the leaders of the Communist Party of China in power.Since the year 2000, China’s imports from Africa have increased eleven fold.Although far less important than the raw materials that China imports fromAfrica, China has an interest in increasing its exports to Africa. With a population of one billion and a growing middle class, Africa is an increasingly attractive market.Consequently, China has increased its exports to Africa nine fold since 2000.Increasingly, these exports include high value products that are important to sustainingChina’s industrial production.A third interest is China’s desire to obtain the political support of as many as possible of Africa’s fifty-four states, which now constitute well over one-quarter of theUN’s 193 members. While the African countries do not vote as a block in internationalforums, there tends to be considerable cohesion in their voting patterns. China is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and three African countries have non- permanent seats. China uses the threat of its veto in the UNSC to counter or water downsanctions against certain African countries and African countries oblige by supportingChina when it comes under criticism in the UN Human Rights Council. China also seeksAfrican support on a number of other issues such as climate change and those that come before the World Trade Organization.
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
visitor to the continent. Every year since 1991, usually in January, the Chinese foreignminister has made his first overseas visit to a country in Africa. Senior Communist Partyof China (CPC) officials also make regular trips to Africa. Between 2002 and 2005, for example, CPC officials made sixty-four visits to Africa. The CPC offers a layer of contact that is not even available to the United States because of its different politicalsystem. China has developed strong relationships between the CPC and African ruling parties.Beijing is equally welcoming to African officials; there is a constant parade of African leaders through China. This high-level personal contact is at the heart of Chinadiplomacy in Africa and, although it requires a lot of time, costs little. In 2000, Chinaformalized the interaction with the creation of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation(FOCAC), which meets at the summit level every three years, alternating betweenBeijing and an African capital.
Let’s look at China’s engagement in Africa, starting with trade. In 2009, China became Africa’s largest trading partner, passing the United States for the first time. In2010, total China-Africa trade climbed to $127 billion, increasing its lead over the UnitedStates. It is important, however, to put China’s trade with Africa in perspective. Itconstitutes only about 4 percent of China’s trade worldwide. For African countries, onthe other hand, trade with China is significant and makes up more than 13 percent of Africa’s global trade.China’s total trade is almost three times the amount of the trade for all fifty-four African countries. In recent years, China-Africa trade has been nearly in balance. Anexception occurred in 2009 when China had a $10 billion surplus due to the fall in the price of oil and minerals imported from Africa. Although overall trade has been roughlyin balance, there are huge disparities in the bilateral trade relationships. About fifteenAfrican oil and mineral exporting countries have large trade surpluses with China whilemore than thirty countries have significant trade deficits with China. This includes manyof Africa’s poorest countries.About 70 percent of Africa’s exports to China come from four oil and mineralexporting nations: Angola, South Africa, Sudan, and the Republic of the Congo. Some70 percent of Africa’s exports to China are crude oil and another 15 percent is rawmaterials, mostly minerals. This means that 85 percent of China’s imports from Africaare raw materials. Agricultural products have recently joined the list of importantimports. Since 2005, China has tried to make it easier for Africa’s least developedcountries that recognize Beijing to export to China. By 2010, China said that 4,700 itemsfrom Africa’s least developed countries could enter duty free. The fact remains,however, that the overwhelming volume of imports from Africa are primary products.Some 60 percent of Chinese exports to Africa go to six countries: South Africa,Egypt, Nigeria, Algeria, Morocco, and Benin. Since 2000, there has been a sharpincrease in the export of machinery, automobiles, and electronic products, which nowaccount for more than half of China’s exports to Africa.

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