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China-Africa Relations - US Assessment - Outre Terre - Jan. 2011

China-Africa Relations - US Assessment - Outre Terre - Jan. 2011

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Published by David Shinn

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Published by: David Shinn on Jan 13, 2012
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1The United States Reassesses the China-Africa Relationship(A French translation of this article appeared in issue 30 of 
Outre-Terre
published in January 2012.)David H. ShinnJanuary 2011China, India, Brazil and Russia and even smaller non-western countries such as Turkey, Iran andIndonesia steadily have been replacing western influence in Africa throughout the first decade of the21
st
century. China has contributed more to this process than any other single non-western nation andperhaps more than all of the others combined. China surpassed the United States in 2009 as the largestbilateral trading partner with the combined fifty-three countries in Africa. Although accurate statisticsare elusive, Chinese investment in Africa during 2009 may also have been larger than that of any othersingle nation. Chinese leadership in trade and investment with Africa almost certainly extended through2010 and will likely continue into the foreseeable future.The United States was slow to react to the non-western challenge to western influence in Africa,especially that which came from China. The United States did not even perceive the situation as achallenge during the waning years of the Clinton administration and through the first four years of theBush administration. When the United States finally understood the magnitude of growing Chineseinfluence in Africa during the second half of the Bush administration, it did not accord it a high priority inU.S.-Africa policy, which has traditionally had the lowest policy priority of major world regions. TheWest generally had decreased its attention to Africa following the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s.The 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States focused Washington on the Global War on Terror,especially the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This created an ideal environment for China, which has nowexperienced three decades of annual GDP growth of about 9 percent, to assert its economic and, insome cases, political influence in Africa.Chinese and American Interests in AfricaIt is important to look at both Chinese and American interests in Africa before offering anassessment of the U.S. view of China-Africa relations. China has four principal interests in Africa. First,China wants to ensure access to oil, minerals and raw materials that account for more than 85 percentof its imports from Africa and contribute significantly to its high GDP growth rate. Second, China desiresgood relations with all African countries so that it can seek their political and economic support inregional and international forums such as the UN Commission on Human Rights and World TradeOrganization. Third, it seeks to end Taiwans diplomatic presence in Africa and replace it withrecognition of Beijing. Only four African countries now recognize Taipei. Since the election in 2008 of President Ma Ying-jeau in Taiwan, there has been an informal truce between Beijing and Taipeiconcerning competition for diplomatic recognition. This truce is probably temporary. Fourth, Chinawants to increase significantly its exports to Africa as African economies grow and Africans becomewealthier.
 
2The United States has five major interests in Africa. First, it depends on Africa for about 20percent of its imported oil; more than 90 percent of all U.S. imports from Africa constitute petroleumproducts. Second, the United States seeks the support of African countries in regional and internationalforums. Third, it needs the consent of African countries for military aircraft over flight and landing rightsand access by its naval vessels to African ports. It also maintains a military base in Djibouti intendedprimarily to counter terrorism in the region. Fourth, the United States seeks to expand its exports toAfrica. Fifth, Africa, like other parts of the world, confronts a number of negative developments such asterrorism, piracy, money laundering and drug trafficking. The United States seeks to minimize thesethreats so that they do not harm U.S. interests in Africa or manifest themselves in the United States.Chinese and American interests in Africa are surprisingly similar. The United States and Chinashare three interests In Africa. The only Chinese interest that does not apply to the United States isChinas goal to replace Taiwans diplomatic representation in Africa. While China has shown littleinterest so far in pursuing two U.S. interests in Africamilitary access and minimizing the negativeissues--, this may be changing. Chinese naval vessels have been active in the anti-piracy operation in theGulf of Aden for the past two years. This has led to discussion in Chinese naval circles that it may needmore permanent access to ports in the region if its naval vessels are to operate effectively. China is alsocooperating increasingly with African organizations such as the African Union on counterterrorism andmoney laundering.
1
 Similar Chinese and American interests in Africa suggest the likelihood of greater competitionbetween the two countries. While this may be the case over the longer term, it has not led to seriouscompetition. Oil is a fungible product and the fact that both China and the United States purchase largequantities in Africa has not resulted in significant Chinese-American competition. On the other hand,there is some U.S.-China competition for African political support on issues related to human rights,democratization and economic reform.Both the United States and China tend to support political stability and the status quo in Africa.With some exceptions, such as Chinese support for authoritarian governments in Sudan and Zimbabwe,this actually offers an arena for collaboration. For example, the United States and China have workedtogether to support the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia and seem to be following a similarpolicy following the presidential election crisis in Cote dIvoire.In percentage terms, Africa remains such a small market for Chinese exports (about 3 percent of global exports) and American exports (about 2 percent) that it has not resulted in serious competition.This could change if Africa becomes a more important market for American and Chinese imports. Chinaand the United States also cooperate on UN peacekeeping operations and the anti-piracy operation inthe Gulf of Aden. Should China decide to expand its bilateral security engagement in Africa, thepossibility for friction will increase.
1
For a more detailed discussion of U.S. and Chinese interests in Africa, see David H. Shinn, Africa: The UnitedStates and China Court the Continent,
 Jo
urnal 
of 
Internati 
o
nal A
 ff 
airs
, vol. 62, no. 2 (Spring/Summer 2009), pp.39-40.
 
3Bush Administration Policy on China-Africa RelationsOnce the Bush administration belatedly began to focus in 2005 on the growing importance of Chinas role in Africa, it followed a generally constructive policy. Secretary of State Condoleezza Riceasserted in 2005 that America has reason to welcome the rise of a confident, peaceful, and prosperousChina. We want China as a global partner, able and willing to match its growing capabilities to itsinternational responsibilities.
2
Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick subsequently called on Chinato become a responsible stakeholder in the system.
3
 During congressional testimony in 2005, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs,Michael Ranneberger, commented that Chinas growing presence in Africa can increase the potential forcollaboration between the United States and China as part of a broader, constructive bilateralrelationship.
4
He added that the future of U.S.-China relations in Africa has yet to be charted, but afocused, direct dialogue is an essential starting point. The administration will continue to advance U.S.interests in Africa actively and to engage China directly, at all appropriate levels, to seek to develop newconcepts of cooperation that can advance our common interests.
5
 Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi Frazer, began in 2005 the first of threerounds of bilateral discussions with her Chinese counterpart. The first meeting was perfunctory,although Frazer stated that the United States did not believe Chinas engagement in Africa was in directcompetition to the United States. The second round in 2007 dealt more specifically with debtsustainability, peacekeeping operations and conflict resolution in the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakesregion, Chinese companies reputational risks in Africa and transparency in the extractive industries. Itparticularly covered the situation in Darfur, a subject of considerable Chinese-American dialogue with avariety of officials.
6
 The third and final round of United States-China meetings on Africa during the Bushadministration took place in Beijing in 2008. Frazer said that there may be opportunities for the twocountries to cooperate in building Africas infrastructure and its agriculture and health sectors. Sheadded that coordinating American and Chinese aid would prevent overlapping projects and lead to moreefficient use of resources. While expressing concern about Chinese lending practices and Chinas failureto endorse the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative for Africa, she praised Chinas efforts thatencouraged the government of Sudan to cooperate on peace talks on Darfur.
7
 
2
Rice remarks at Sophia University Tokyo on 19 March 2005.
3
Zoellick remarks before the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations on 21 September 2005.
4
Ranneberger testimony before the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights, and International Operationsof the Committee on International Relations, House of Representatives, 28 July 2005.
5
Ibid.
6
David H. Shinn, Chinas Engagement in Africa, in
U.S.
A
 f 
rica P
o
licy bey 
o
nd the Bush Years
, eds. Jennifer G. Cookeand J. Stephen Morrison (Washington: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2009), 148-149. Shinn,China and the Conflict in Darfur,
The Br 
ow 
n
 Jo
urnal 
of 
o
rld A
 ff 
airs
, vol. 16, issue 1 (Fall/Winter 2009), pp. 90-94.
7
Shinn, Chinas Engagement in Africa, pp. 149-150.

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