Jan 12, 2018 in Political

Foreign Policy of China on the African Continent

1.1  Formation of Chinese-African relationships

The April of 1955 can be considered to be the starting point of the development of relationship between China and the African continent, when there was the conference of 29 countries of Africa and Asia in Indonesia. During this conference, the Chinese Prime-minister Zhou Enlai met with the heads of the African states (Ethiopia, Egypt, Lebanon, Sudan, and Ghana).

 ‘Actually, the Chinese first began giving aid to Africa in the late 1950s as a tool of diplomacy and solidarity with fellow socialist countries. When Chinese leaders gradually pulled the country into the market, China’s aid shifted to emphasize a mix of diplomacy and commerce. Chinese companies first began to win construction contracts in Africa in the late 1970s. The first investments by China’s state-owned companies started in the late 1980s’ (Brautigam 2010).

The further development of the relations of China with the African countries was interfered by the difficult international situation, which has developed at that time, and also by the Cultural Revolution beginning in the People’s Republic of China (1966-1976). China was in a condition of confrontation with the Western countries, and the relations with the USSR (so and with loyal to it modes) considerably worsened.

At the beginning of the 1960s, there were two significant events promoting the activization of the Chinese-African relations. Starting from December 1963 up to February 1964, there was a historical visit of the Prime Minister Zhou Enlai to 10 African countries. During this visit, 5 principles of development of the political relations of China with the African continent countries were stipulated:

1. To support the African people in their combat against colonialists, imperialists, and neo-colonialists for a gain and preservation of the national independence.

2. To support the policy of neutrality and peace of the African countries.

3. To sustain aspiration of the African countries to unity and solidarity by means chosen by the continental countries and to support their efforts on the settlement of disagreements by peace negotiations.

4. To demand the observance of the sovereignty of the African states from other countries of the African continent.

5. To struggle against aggressions.

The second significant event was the recognition of the People’s Republic of China by France in 1964; it allowed establishing the relations with a number of the French-speaking countries of the continent. In the 1960s, China established the diplomatic relations with 14 African countries, and with time, their total number reached 19.

The 1970s were recognized by some contradictions in the African policy of the People’s Republic of China. On the one hand, China went on rapprochement with the Western countries; on the other hand, it continued to remain the firm supporter of anti-colonialism. It allowed China to get support of regimes, loyal to the USA, and to win sympathies of those African states which were in the sphere of interests of the USSR in view of an anti-colonial orientation. It explains the situation: in Angola, the People’s Republic of China together with the USA supported the UNIT, and China gave military support to the front of the fight against apartheid in Tanzania and Zambia.

The 1990s were characterized by the considerable geopolitical changes in the world, due to which the People’s Republic of China made an active African direction of the foreign policy. In July, 1992, 6 new principles, defining relations of the People’s Republic of China with the countries of the continent, were formulated:

1. China sustains the African countries in their aspiration to keep the state independence and sovereignty in a struggle against the external intervention and for economic growth.

2. China supports the political system chosen by the African countries and a development way according to their national conditions.

3. China respects the African countries in their desire to support the African cooperation and to solve the conflicts by peace negotiations.

4. China sustains the efforts undertaken by the UAE for the maintenance of stability on the African continent and achievement of economic integration.

5. China respects the desire of the African countries to participate in the international affairs as equal members.

6. China is ready to develop economic cooperation with the African countries.

The relations with the Republic of South Africa were also established, and the relations with Guinea-Bissau were renewed. Though, the relations with several countries were broken off: Burkina Faso, Liberia, Senegal, Gambia, and Chad, which established the relations with Taiwan. The diplomatic relations with Swaziland and Malawi were not established. Thus, the People’s Republic of China maintained the diplomatic relations with 45 African countries out of 53.

At present, the establishment of the relations of the People’s Republic of China with the African countries continues to grow. Thus, the diplomatic relations with Liberia were restored on October 11, 2003; thus, at the moment only 7 out of 53 countries have no diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.

1.2 The driving forces of the Chinese investment into Africa

Within the previous 12 years, the Chinese-African cooperation roughly developed, continuously moved ahead, and progressively extended. It was extremely important both for China and Africa. China took an active part in the development of the African countries, in construction of irrigation canals, railways and highways, bridges, power lines, stadiums, oil refineries, schools, governmental buildings, and even headquarters of the African union in their territory. In addition, the Chinese party participated in the activity of groups of volunteers, medical groups, engineer crews, as well as in preparation of scientists and functioning of the humanitarian funds to small and medium-sized enterprises of the African states. All these facts testify that the Chinese-African cooperation does really develop.

What are the reasons of such a successful development of bilateral interaction?

Firstly, for the last 12 years, China has paid a special attention to the construction building of objects of infrastructure in Africa, making efforts on association of the countries of the continent by means of the development of transport connection and new technologies. Secondly, China has paid a great attention to its investments into Africa and mutual trade. In 2012, the volume of a bilateral commodity turnover reached $ 166.3 billion, the active balance of Africa in trade with China makes $ 20.1 billion. The volume of the FDI of the People’s Republic of China to Africa had increased up to $20 billion by March, 2013 (Brautigam, 2013).

The whole world knows that China respects the position of Africa and interacts with this continent on the basis of equality and friendship. It strikingly differs from the USA and European countries, which still perceive Africa as a patient, not a partner. After the termination of the Cold War, the western countries decided that the strategic value of Africa considerably decreased. Marginalization of this continent against the general globalization was promoted also by the fact that it is subject to various epidemics and also often suffers from droughts, hunger, and wars.

According to the western scientists Buckley (2009), Brautigam (2010), the Chinese businessmen, who have arrived to African, found huge potential opportunities during overcoming of difficulties. Moreover, the Chinese together with the African partners turned potential opportunities into reality, which is characterized by equality, mutual trust, cooperation and achievement of a mutual benefit for 12 years. At present, the developed states and economic subjects with arising markets put investments into Africa and consider it to be “the continent of great opportunities”; it is a merit of China in many respects. Thus, the Chinese-African cooperation did not only reintegrate the African continent in the globalization process, but also forced the world community to reconsider the ways of assistance to Africa. In recent years, the American and European scientists and officials urge to use the Chinese model.

Why did the Chinese-African cooperation yield effective results? The answer to this question is simple: China steadily promotes an independent development of Africa and makes efforts to help Africa to increase own abilities, thus opening even more opportunities for itself. For 12 years, China and Africa have had a political trust to each other. They have developed economic cooperation on the basis of the principle of a mutual benefit, carried out exchanges, and borrowed the experience of each other in the field of culture. They continuously deepen pragmatical cooperation in all spheres, and also comprehensively advance the Chinese-African strategic partnership of a new type. China and Africa, being the largest developing country and the continent with the greatest number of developing states, will help each other to seek for general prosperity and to make a contribution to the world development.

1.3. Foreign influence of China on the African continent

The modern world is an era of changes in which the People’s Republic of China surely moves to the status of the world economic leader. Creation of the powerful economy is not possible without the supported resource base, feeding the economy. It is worth noting that the People’s Republic of China is, first of all, energy carriers. Thus, if in 1999 China imported 15-20% of consumed oil; at present, this share is close to 80%. In search of available and cheap raw materials, the leadership of the People’s Republic of China paid attention to the black continent, taking the peripheral places in the world economy and world politics (Brautigam, 2010).

In recent years, the People’s Republic of China has made a breakthrough in the development of the African continent, having increased its presence by many times, using various mechanisms of cooperation. While leading world states argue what should be done for the creation of active political, economic and business connections with Africa, China persistently works in this direction. According to the fact how Beijing uses the natural resources of Africa but also purposefully creates the market of the goods and services, it is possible to speak of the priority of “the African direction” of the Chinese foreign policy.

Taking into account the fact that the People’s Republic of China gradually turns into “the world factory”, placing the most various productions on its territory, the need for the natural resources inevitably grows. Thus, in 2003 China became the world’s second consumer of oil after the USA. Thus, only a half is bought in the Middle East, the rest - in Africa, Southeast Asia, Russia, Kazakhstan, and South America. For the diversification of geography of deliveries, the People’s Republic of China is more and more present at the oil sector of the African countries. (Brautigam, 2010).

Thus, “black gold” is the main natural resource, which interests the People’s Republic of China in Africa. Its main suppliers are Angola, Congo, and Sudan; however, owning to the agreements signed during Hu Jintao’s African tour Algeria, Gabon and Egypt become large suppliers of oil, as well. In addition, the People’s Republic of China imports phosphates and cobalt (from Morocco), wood (from the Cote d’Ivoire and the countries of the Central Africa), coffee and cocoa (Cote d’Ivoire), cotton (the Central and the Western Africa, Egypt), and manganese (Gabon).

The Chinese consumer goods by their characteristics (a low price, simplicity in use, unpretentiousness, and durability) are practically ideally suited for the African market which, despite all peripetias of the African countries, grows, and the competition on it is insignificant, and local production usually is absent in general. According to the economist Theodore Levitt (1983), the growth rate of the African economy (and respectively a consumer demand) will be not less than the demographic growth in these countries.

On the other hand, as compared with the African companies, the Chinese are rather hi-tech. It is a question of such key branches of the economy as construction, irrigational works, power, textile industry, etc. Owning to delocalization, the Chinese people find rather effective and favorable appendix to the technologies. After all, there are the whole branches processing the industries, and the majority of investments (including technological) give quite good return in many of the African countries.

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