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IN DEPTH: China’s Presence in Africa. A “New Deal” for African Countries? An Introduction to Contemporary China-Africa Relations
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China’s Presence in Africa

A “New Deal” for African Countries?

An Introduction to Contemporary China-Africa Relations

By Harold Murphy

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      就在今年的2月17日,我国外交部长王毅在德国波恩出席二十国集团(G20)外长会时,就对非伙伴关系议题发言时指出:对非伙伴关系要取得成效,一是要坚持和平与发展并重,二是遵循“非洲提出,非洲同意,非洲主导”原则,三是采取举措支持和帮助非洲。中国在国际舞台上频频就中非关系相关立场发声,不仅是基于目前中非良好的合作基础,也是为打消一些国家所谓“中国殖民”不必要的担心。

      其实,中非关系可以说是源远流长,明代郑和下西洋,主要的目的地之一就是非洲大陆。当时走的不是后来西方发达国家的殖民主义道路,郑和带去的全部是珍贵的友谊。从上个世纪50年代到21世纪的今天,中国已与54个非洲国家建立了外交关系。这个数量占到所有非洲国家总数的80%,从新中国成立得到广泛非洲国家的支持,到从不结盟运动的兴起,以至后来为恢复中国在联合国的合法地位而进行的非洲国家的工作,到与台湾建立所谓的外交关系极少数非洲国家的博弈,中非关系高度引发国内外关注:新中国成立以后,中国为坦桑尼亚和赞比亚援建了“坦赞铁路”,此后通过联合国2758号决议,中国恢复了在联合国的合法席位。在2000年成立的中非合作论坛上,中非各国充分交流并达成多项合作,为此后双方十多年的发展奠定了良好基础。中方响应非洲各国需要,大力开展减贫惠民、公共卫生和教育培训合作,多次减免了非洲国家债务。中方为非洲国家援助和融资修建的铁路、公路均已超过5000公里,援建学校200多所,医院近百个,还为非洲培训人才16万多人。中国在非42个国家派驻了43支医疗队,累计诊治2.8亿非洲病患。中方在中非合作论坛框架下实施“十大合作计划”,并在主办二十国集团杭州峰会期间发起制订《支持非洲和最不发达国家工业化倡议》,得到各方积极支持。

      在此期间,非洲也向我国出口了大量能源和矿产资源,中国近年来的发展离不开非洲的支持。现如今,中非合作已经不仅限于能源矿产和交通建设,更是深入到通信、农业、生产制造业等多重领域。在深入合作和交流的发展趋势下,相信中非关系将愈加紧密,中非各国的明天也会更加美好!

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China’s economic growth over the past few decades has helped the country to expand its economic and political interests far away from the Chinese borders. It’s rapid industrialization and expanding middle class increased the need for various resources tremendously. This is where Africa comes into play. Being rich in oil, minerals and other natural resources, it is no wonder that China has tried to increase its presence on the continent. With investments in African countries worth billions of dollars, China has managed to take advantage of its position and negotiate favorable trade deals. Today, Chinese companies are not only active the oil and mining industries, but are also increasingly investing in other sectors like telecommunications, agriculture and infrastructure.
 

The notorious Tazara railway, requested by Zambia and Tanzania and built in the period from 1970 to 1975, found its place among the most famous Chinese infrastructure projects in Africa.

China is also a major source of financing for many African countries. Chinese banks and the government loaned around $85 billion between 2000 and 2014, with Angola, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Kongo being the top recipients. However, these developments are also raising concerns about the debt loads of African countries and the potential for an African debt crisis.
 

The Historical Context of China-Africa Relations

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While the first China-Africa relations can be linked to the Ming Dynasty and its expeditions to East Africa, it was not before the founding of the People’s Republic of China when the first political relations with an African country were established. This event also coincides with the first colonized nations in Africa getting independence, a process where China had an important role in Africa. Another major historical event also influenced China’s foreign policy with Africa and Asia – forming of the Non-Aligned Movement, where newly independent African states proposed an alternative to a world dominated by superpowers. African countries have also helped China to secure a permanent seat in the UN Security Council in 1971, backed with votes of 26 states from Africa, representing 34% of the General Assembly votes.

hl in depth2China has established diplomatic relations with 54 African countries so far, with Egypt being the first state to officially establish relations with China in 1956 – and South Sudan being the most recent in 2011. Under the Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang and the African tour in the early eighties, China articulated the “Four Principles on Sino-African Economic and Technical Cooperation” and stated that the foundation of all relations between China and African states will be based on “mutual interest”.
 

However, it was not until 1995 when China National Petroleum Corporation invested in Sudan’s oil industry, which transformed Sudan from a net importer into a net exporter of oil in 1997, when the first Chinese ship with 600,000 barrels of crude oil left for Singapore. Since then, cooperation in the oil sector has been the driving force of the Sino-Sudanese relations, with Chinese companies now controlling around 75% of the Sudanese oil investments.
 

Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC)

With the dynamic of China-African relations rising, the need for a new high-level dialogue platform has emerged, called the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).

The Forum on China Africa Cooperation was officially launched in autumn 2000 in Beijing, with meetings hosted every three years on Chinese and African soil. The next meeting scheduled for 2018 will be hosted in Beijing, China.
 

in depthThe sixth FOCAC, hosted in Johannesburg, South Africa, has seen a shift in focus from commodities, infrastructure and trade, to more social concerns including the health system, agriculture, environmental and wildlife protection. This shift in topics of interest came parallel with the slowing down of China’s economic growth and the worldwide fall in commodity prices, which lowered the value of trade and investments between China and Africa.

hl in depthChina’s Role in Industrialization of Africa

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The recent FOCAC meeting also put special attention on the industrialization of African countries, as a part of China’s “Belt and Road” strategy, where industrialization has an equal importance to infrastructure.
 

At the FOCAC meeting in Johannesburg, Xi Jinping announced in his opening speech the “China-Africa Industrialization Program”, with the task to help African countries on their way to becoming industrialized economies, especially as the fall in commodity prices put downward pressure on the export-value of African natural resources.
 

The Program will include “Chinese investment, building and upgrading industrial parks in Africa, as well as helping further educate 200,000 African specialists and a quota of 40,000 trainees in China,” as reported by Xinhua.
 

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Africa and China’s Increasing Energy Needs

With an annual growth rate which averaged 10% for the last three decades, China requires vast amounts of energy to fuel its increasing economy. The country became a net importer of oil 1993, with the International Energy Agency predicting that China is on its way to become the largest consumer of oil in the next 15 years.
 

Today, China’s largest source of oil after the Middle East is Africa, with a reported export of 1.4 million barrels per day or 22% of China’s overall oil imports. The largest African oil exporters to China include South Sudan, the Republic of Congo and Angola – with Angola being China’s third-largest oil supplier in 2016.
 

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Summary

Many African countries view China’s presence and influence on the continent favorably. According to a 2016 poll conducted by Afrobarometer, which included 36 African countries, on average 63 percent of their population view China as a very positive factor in Africa, which contributes to the economic and infrastructural development of the continent. However, some countries feel uncomfortable with China’s rising influence, with concerns about unfair business practices as well as poor compliance with safety and environmental standards.
 

China’s influence in Africa is something that cannot be neglected any more. African countries need to be aware of China’s pivotal role in the development of the continent, and take the implications of China’s involvement into consideration on a regular basis. Now that China is seen as a key partner by many African countries, not many leaders are eager to comment on China’s presence in a negative context. However, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, former governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank, stated in 2013 an opinion which might be interesting to other African countries as well: “We must see China for what it is: a competitor … Africa must recognize that China - like the U.S., Russia, Britain, Brazil and the rest - is in Africa not for African interests but its own.”
 

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