US-China rivalry over Africa

2012.08.24 13:26:44

US-China rivalry over Africa

 Frank Ching

Africa has become a major theater in the global rivalry between China and the United States. This was evident during Hillary Clinton’s visit to the continent, during which she spread the message of democracy and warned Africans against unnamed “outsiders” coming to “extract the wealth of Africa for themselves, leaving nothing or very little behind.” 

While the American secretary of state did not name any country, Beijing was quick to respond. It accused the United States of seeking to
sow discord between China and Africa while keen to reap benefits for itself from the booming continent. 

During Clinton’s tour of Senegal, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa and Ghana, she explained Washington’s new Africa strategy of promoting development by stimulating economic growth, advancing peace and security and strengthening democracy. The American official acknowledged that, historically, “Western powers had too often seen Africa as a source of resources to be exploited or as a charity cause.” As for the United States, she acknowledged that, in the past, “Our policies did not always line up with our principles.”

Those days are over, she said, and today “the United States will stand up for democracy and universal human rights, even when it might be easier or more profitable to look the other way, to keep the resources flowing. Not every partner makes that choice, but we do and we will.”

What Washington wants today, she said, is a sustainable partnership that “adds value rather than extracts it.” As Clinton acknowledged, democracy is hardly
entrenched in Africa. “The number of electoral democracies in sub-Saharan Africa,” she said, has “fallen from 24 in 2005 to just 19 today.”

@entrench: if something such as power, a custom, or an idea is entrenched, it is firmly established 

China, which considers itself a special friend of Africa’s, was evidently stung by Clinton’s remarks. The
allegation that China has been extracting Africa’s wealth for itself is “utterly wide of the mark,” declared Xinhua, the state press agency. It said the “U.S. plot to sow discord” between China and Africa “is doomed to fail.”

@allegation: a statement saying that someone has done something wrong

Xinhua published an article headlined “Clinton visit won’t affect China-Africa relations: expert.” It quoted a South African academic, Sabelo Ndlovu Gatsheni, as saying that China stands a better chance in Africa than the United States.

"The advantage of China is that its aid to Africa has no strings attached and most African countries tend to prefer Chinese aid because it does not come with conditions on human rights, democracy as well attempting to influence the culture of the country like the West," Professor Gatsheni of the University of South Africa reportedly said. 

While this may well be true, it is also common practice for China to cite foreign authorities in support of its position. Gatsheni was also quoted as saying, “It seems the United States does not want to let China occupy its previous place of dominance on the African continent."

The online edition of the official People’s Daily newspaper asked rhetorically, “Is China an irresponsible friend of Africa?” It answered its own question by saying, “China’s investment in Africa is based on respecting the will of Africa, listening to the voice of Africa and caring about the concerns of Africa, thus earning the trust of most African countries.”
It said that Clinton’s words “showed her anxiety about China’s rising influence in Africa on the one hand and on the other hand she hoped to make up for the United States’ neglect of Africa before and readjust its economic interests in Africa.”
The official English-language China Daily newspaper quoted Cheng Tao, an expert on African studies with the China Foundation for International Studies: “China respects African countries’ sovereignty and never intervenes in their internal affairs, which forms a sharp contrast with the colonialism that has been practiced by western countries.” 

The Global Times, a newspaper
affiliated with the People’s Daily, discerned another possible motivation for Clinton’s actions, saying that the emphasis on Africa “may be aimed at wooing African-American voters for the upcoming election.”

@affiliate: form a close connection with the larger organization

For years, the United States has been saying that China’s advances in Africa do not pose a threat to American interests. However, as a rising power, China inevitably bumps against American interests in all parts of the world. China’s replacement of the United States as Africa’s main trading partner three years ago underlined Beijing’s progress. 
It is certainly good for Africa to be
wooed simultaneously by both China and the United States. It is also good for China and the United States to be challenged by one another, thus keeping both on their toes, with each knowing that the world is watching what they are doing in Africa.

@woo: try to encourage people to help you