AFRICA in CHINA'S FOREIGN POLICY - YUN SUN - April 2014 - Brookings Institution

 
AFRICA in CHINA'S FOREIGN POLICY - YUN SUN - April 2014 - Brookings Institution
AFRICA in CHINA’S
FOREIGN POLICY
      YUN SUN

       Apr il 2014
Yun Sun is a fellow at the East Asia Program of the
                                                          Henry L. Stimson Center.

Note:

This paper was produced during the author’s visiting fellowship with the John L. Thornton China Center
and the Africa Growth Initiative at Brookings.

About the John L. Thornton China Center:

The John L. Thornton China Center provides cutting-edge research, analysis, dialogue and publications
that focus on China’s emergence and the implications of this for the United States, China’s neighbors and
the rest of the world. Scholars at the China Center address a wide range of critical issues related to China’s
modernization, including China’s foreign, economic and trade policies and its domestic challenges. In 2006
the Brookings Institution also launched the Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy, a partnership
between Brookings and China’s Tsinghua University in Beijing that seeks to produce high quality and high
impact policy research in areas of fundamental importance for China’s development and for U.S.-China
relations.

About the Africa Growth Initiative:

The Africa Growth Initiative brings together African scholars to provide policymakers with high-quality
research, expertise and innovative solutions that promote Africa’s economic development. The initiative also
collaborates with research partners in the region to raise the African voice in global policy debates on Africa.
Its mission is to deliver research from an African perspective that informs sound policy, creating sustained
economic growth and development for the people of Africa.

Acknowledgments:

I would like to express my gratitude to the many people who saw me through this paper; to all those who
generously provided their insights, advice and comments throughout the research and writing process; and
to those who assisted me in the research trips and in the editing, proofreading and design of this paper.

I would like to thank Erica Downs and Mwangi Kimenyi. Without your guidance, this research project
would not have been possible. Kevin Foley and Andrew Westbury, you are the best guardians and program
managers any researcher could ever ask for. Mao-Lin Shen and Christina Golubski, thank you for your rich
input, editing and encouragement along the way. Above all, I thank the John L. Thornton China Center,
the Africa Growth Initiative and the President’s Office of the Brookings Institution, whose generous sup-
port made this project such a wonderful learning experience.

                                       Africa in China’s Foreign Policy
                          John L. Thornton China Center and Africa Growth Initiative
                                                      ii
Contents

Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

China’s Interests in Africa  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

       Political interests  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

       Economic interests . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

       Security interests . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

       Ideological interests . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

Africa in China’s Foreign Policy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

The Making of China’s Africa Policy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

       China’s foreign policymaking  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

       Where Africa fits in policymaking . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19

       Political relations with Africa  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

       Economic relations with Africa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

       China’s security policy in Africa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23

Challenges in China’s Africa Policy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26

       Narrow economic pursuits and the absence of a grand strategy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26

       Internal bureaucratic conflicts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27

       Proliferation of business actors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28

       Government deficiencies in managing economic ties  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29

Looking Ahead . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30

Endnotes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31

References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39

                                                 Africa in China’s Foreign Policy
                                    John L. Thornton China Center and Africa Growth Initiative
                                                               iii
Introduction

D
          uring the past decade, China’s rapidly         agenda is yet to be thoroughly explored. As China
          growing presence in Africa has increas-        becomes a global economic and political power, a
          ingly become a topic for debate in the         simplistic perception of Africa as China’s suppli-
international media and among economists and             er of raw materials inevitably neglects other key
policy analysts. While China’s unique economic           aspects of Africa within China’s global strategy.
approach to Africa meets the African countries’          Furthermore, even as China’s goals and policies
need for funding and infrastructure projects, the        have become more diversified, little effort has been
model has been widely criticized. In particular,         spent examining China’s internal bureaucratic pro-
China’s natural resource-backed loans raise ques-        cesses by which political, economic and security
tions about the continent’s future and its capacity      decisions are made regarding its Africa policy. This
for sustainable development.                             paper seeks to examine these largely unexamined
                                                         basic, internal elements of China’s Africa policy.
Studies of China’s Africa strategy (or lack there-
of ) have been overwhelmingly focused on China’s         China seeks to satisfy four broad national inter-
economic interests in Africa, the role played by         ests in its relations with the continent. Political-
Chinese government and companies, and the eco-           ly, China seeks Africa’s support for China’s “One
nomic and social impacts of such activities on the       China” policy and for its foreign policy agendas in
ground. With a few exceptions, there is a strong         multilateral forums such as the United Nations.
tendency to assert moral judgments in the assess-        Economically, Africa is seen primarily as a source
ment: China’s activities in Africa are often charac-     of natural resources and market opportunities to
terized as “evil” when they are seen as representing     fuel China’s domestic growth. From a security
China’s selfish quest for natural resources and dam-     standpoint, the rising presence of Chinese com-
aging Africa’s fragile efforts to improve governance     mercial interests in Africa has led to growing secu-
and build a sustainable future. However, they are        rity challenges for China, as the safety of Chinese
characterized as “virtuous” when they are seen as        investments and personnel come under threats
contributing to a foundation for long-term eco-          due to political instability and criminal activities
nomic development through infrastructure proj-           on the ground. Last but not least, China also sees
ects and revenue creation.                               an underlying ideological interest in Africa, as the
                                                         success of the “China model” in non-democratic
While economic issues are important to the strate-       African countries offers indirect support for Chi-
gic positioning of Africa in China’s overall foreign     na’s own political ideology and offers evidence that
policy, Africa’s broader role in China’s international   Western democratic ideals are not universal.

                                       Africa in China’s Foreign Policy
                          John L. Thornton China Center and Africa Growth Initiative
                                                      1
The popular focus on China’s vast economic en-                                   Chinese military plays a significant role in coor-
deavors in Africa (especially in the extractive in-                              dination with MFA and MOFCOM. On issues
dustries) seems to suggest that Africa is somehow                                under the mandate of specific government agen-
“critical” for China. In reality, Africa accounts                                cies, such as Chinese medical, agricultural or tech-
for only a tiny percentage of China’s overall for-                               nical assistance to Africa, the policy is coordinated
eign economic activities: China’s investment in                                  among MFA, MOFCOM and the agency directly
and trade with Africa represents 3 percent and 5                                 involved.
percent of its global investment and trade, respec-
tively. Politically, the continent is of small impor-                            China’s Africa strategy is not free of problems or
tance to China’s foreign policy agenda, with Africa                              controversies. The most vocal criticism inside the
playing a largely supportive role in China’s overall                             Chinese policy community is that China funda-
international strategy. Rather than being seen as                                mentally lacks an Africa strategy and commercial
“key” or a “priority,” Africa is seen to be part of the                          interests have overtaken (and even undercut) other
“foundation” on which China’s broader strategic                                  national interests. There is a constant tension be-
ambitions are built.i Compared with the “struggle”                               tween the narrow, mercantilist pursuit of econom-
with big powers or China’s strenuous relationship                                ic interests in Africa and that pursuit’s impact on
with its neighbors, Sino-African relations have                                  the overall health of the Sino-African relationship
been relatively smooth and free of major distur-                                 and China’s international image. Bureaucratically,
bances, thanks to a shared sense of historical vic-                              this partly contributes to the abrasive competition
timization by Western colonial powers and a com-                                 between MFA and MOFCOM for the leading role
mon identity/affinity as developing countries. The                               in China’s policy toward Africa. This conflict is
nature of Sino-African ties is largely transactional                             most evident on the issue of China’s foreign aid
and reciprocal.                                                                  to Africa.

Given the general low priority of Africa in Chi-                                 Meanwhile, the proliferation of China’s commer-
na’s foreign policy agenda, Africa issues rarely                                 cial actors in Africa in recent years has made gov-
reach the highest level of foreign policy decision                               ernment supervision and management particularly
making in the Chinese bureaucratic apparatus. In                                 challenging. Beijing’s inability to cope with the
practice, policymaking specific to Africa happens                                rapidly expanding Chinese presence in Africa is
mostly at the working level and is divided among                                 exacerbated by the lack of political risk assessment
several government agencies, with the Ministry of                                and the absence of a comprehensive commercial
Foreign Affairs (MFA) and the Ministry of Com-                                   strategy for Africa. The resolution of these issues
merce (MOFCOM) taking the lead on political                                      will determine the nature and content of China’s
affairs and economic affairs, respectively. On secu-                             future policy toward Africa while exerting critical
rity issues such as U.N. peacekeeping operations,                                influence over the future development of the con-
naval escort missions and evacuation missions, the                               tinent.

i
     ccording to China’s “all-round/all-directional” foreign policy principle, its foreign affairs are categorized as “Big powers are the key; China’s
    A
    periphery is the priority; developing countries are the foundation; multilateral platforms are the stage.” (大国是关键,周边是首要,发展中
    国家是基础,多边是重要舞台.)

                                                   Africa in China’s Foreign Policy
                                      John L. Thornton China Center and Africa Growth Initiative
                                                                  2
China’s Interests in Africaii

C
         ontrary to the conventional perception                               constant theme in Beijing’s relationship with Africa.
         that China is interested only in Afri-                               In its pursuit of friends in the bipolar Cold War in-
         ca’s natural resources, China’s interests                            ternational system, Beijing identified Africa’s new-
in Africa include at least four dimensions of na-                             ly independent nations as a key group with which
tional interest: political, economic, security and                            to unite.1 China saw natural common ground and
ideological. China seeks Africa’s support for the                             bore a sense of empathy with Africa as a result of
Chinese Communist Party’s domestic political                                  their shared historical experiences: Africa and China
legitimacy and for China’s foreign policy agenda                              were both victims of “colonization by the capitalists
internationally, especially in multilateral forums,                           and imperialists” and faced the same task of nation-
given the size of the African voting bloc. Africa’s                           al independence and liberation after World War II.2
rich natural resources and underdeveloped mar-                                Furthermore, as a member of the socialist camp,
ket potential create abundant business potential                              China perceived the neutral position of most Afri-
for Chinese business players. Enhanced Chinese                                can countries between capitalist and socialist blocs
economic presence on the ground creates a chal-                               as conducive to China’s interests because Africa
lenge in protecting booming Chinese investment                                “would be against the invasion and war plans of the
and personnel in Africa. By far, this has been the                            imperialists.”3 Under these principles, during Chi-
primary security concern of China in the conti-                               na’s first official encounter with Africa at the 1955
nent. As China pushes for “democratization of in-                             Bandung Conference, Zhou Enlai actively engaged
ternational relations,”iii the success of the so-called                       the leaders of six African countries (Egypt, Ethiopia,
China Model and relations with non-Western and                                Ghana, Liberia, Libya and Sudan), with special pri-
non-democratic African countries have become an                               ority given to the courting of Egypt’s Nasser given
increasingly important goal for China, both for                               his regional prestige and influence.4
domestic and foreign policy purposes.
                                                                              In the 1960s, due to the enhanced efforts by the
Political interests                                                           United States and the Soviet Union to engage Af-
                                                                              rica, as well as China’s rising conflict with the So-
Since the early days of the People’s Republic of Chi-                         viets, the competition for Africa was heightened in
na, political interests have been the anchor of and                           China’s foreign policy agenda. Between 1963 and

ii
    “ China” is a term that could be used to describe the nation, the state, the regime or the people. For the purposes of this paper, “China” means
     the regime dominated by the Chinese Communist Party. For example, the legitimacy issue discussed here is about the legitimacy of the Chinese
     communist government.
iii
      Democratization of international relations in China’s perspective emphasizes the diversity of countries’ political systems, the opposition to
       power politics and unilateralism.

                                               Africa in China’s Foreign Policy
                                  John L. Thornton China Center and Africa Growth Initiative
                                                              3
1964, Zhou Enlai visited 10 African countries and                                 Therefore, in terms of Africa’s political importance,
issued the well-known “Eight Principles of Foreign                                China’s overarching goal historically has been dip-
Economic and Technological Assistance.”iv These                                   lomatic recognition from African nations and the
aid principles were designed to compete simulta-                                  establishment of official ties that strengthen the
neously with the “imperialists” (the United States)                               political legitimacy of the communist regime.
and the “revisionists” (the Soviet Union) for Afri-                               Throughout the 1960s, the period when China was
ca’s approval and support, as China used its foreign                              “striking with both fists” (in two directions: toward
aid to Africa as an instrument to advance China’s                                 the United States and the Soviet Union), its sup-
political interests.v                                                             port for African countries greatly reduced the pres-
                                                                                  sure on China brought about by the international
During the Cultural Revolution, under the in-                                     isolation imposed by the two major powers.11 The
fluence of radical revolutionary ideology, China                                  emotional affinity of China toward Africa has since
provided large amounts of foreign aid to Africa,                                  then been a constant factor in the relationship.
despite China’s own domestic economic difficul-
ties.5 This included the famous Tanzania-Zambia                                   Second, China relies heavily on diplomatic sup-
Railway: China supplied a zero-interest loan of                                   port and cooperation from African countries on
988 million yuan (¥), and the railway remains one                                 key issues in the international arena and at multi-
of the largest foreign aid projects to date that Chi-                             lateral forums. Currently, the 54 African states ac-
na provides to Africa.6 Such foreign aid projects                                 count for more than one-quarter of U.N. member
contributed to the establishment of diplomatic re-                                states and votes. China has relied on African coun-
lations between a group of African countries and                                  tries’ support at the U.N. for its political agenda.
China.7 Nineteen countries established diplomat-                                  In 1972, China learned of Africa’s very real polit-
ic ties with China during the Cultural Revolution.                                ical importance and value when 26 African coun-
These include: Equatorial Guinea (1970), Ethiopia                                 tries voted for the People’s Republic of China to
(1970), Nigeria (1971), Cameroon (1971), Sierra Le-                               resume its seat at the United Nations. African votes
one (1971), Rwanda (1971), Senegal (1971), Mauri-                                 represented more than one-third of the countries
tius (1972), Togo (1972), Madagascar (1972), Chad                                 who supported the resolution.12 In the aftermath
(1972), Guinea-Bissau (1974), Gabon (1974), Niger                                 of the Tiananmen Square event of 1989, Beijing
(1974), Botswana (1975), Mozambique (1975), Co-                                   was faced with serious international isolation and
moros (1975), Cape Verde (1976) and Seychelles                                    Western sanctions. Again, it was six countries in
(1976).8 By the mid-1980s, Beijing’s political and                                southern Africa (Botswana, Lesotho, Zimbabwe,
aid efforts had won it diplomatic ties with 44 Afri-                              Angola, Zambia and Mozambique) that stepped
can countries.9 Among the ¥256.29 billion cumu-                                   up and saved China from the quagmire by inviting
lative foreign aid China had given by the end of                                  Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen to visit in
2009, 45.7 percent had been to Africa.10                                          August 1989.vi The first head of state and foreign

iv
     e principles include: China always bases itself on the principle of equality and mutual benefit in providing aid to other nations; China never
    Th
    attaches any conditions or asks for any privileges; China helps lighten the burden of recipient countries as much as possible; China aims at help-
    ing recipient countries to gradually achieve self-reliance and independent development; China strives to develop aid projects that require less
    investment but yield quicker results; China provides the best-quality equipment and materials of its own manufacture; in providing technical
    assistance, China shall see to it that the personnel of the recipient country fully master such techniques; the Chinese experts are not allowed to
    make any special demands or enjoy any special amenities. See “Zhou Enlai Announced Eight Principles of Foreign Aid,” China Daily, August
    13, 2010. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2010-08/13/content_11149131.htm.
v
   “Our assistance to Asian and African countries is keenly important for our competition with the imperialists and revisionists for the middle
    strip. This is a critical link. It is the material assistance. It will not work without material (assistance).” “Zhou Enlai’s Report on the Visits to 14
    Countries in Asia, Africa and Europe,” [周恩来关于访问亚非欧十四国报告], March 30 and 31, 1964.
vi
    One month later, Qian Qichen also visited Egypt and Tunisia in September 1989. Luo Jianbo, “Why Is Sino-African Relationship Important,”
     [中非关系为什么重要], The Study Times, April 1, 2013 and Qian Qichen, “Ten Episodes on China’s Diplomacy,” [外交十记], January
     2006, Ch. 8, http://www.99csw.com/book/626/20056.htm.

                                                 Africa in China’s Foreign Policy
                                    John L. Thornton China Center and Africa Growth Initiative
                                                                4
minister who visited China after the Tiananmen           from some African countries, such as São Tomé
Square protests in 1989 were also from Africa. In        and Príncipe (1997, a $30 million loan), Niger
appreciation for this tremendous political favor,        (1992, $50 million loan) and Chad (1997, a $125
China has reciprocated by making Africa the first        million loan).19 Today, however, with the substan-
destination of Chinese foreign ministers in the          tial financial resources now at Beijing’s disposal,
new year every year since 1991.13                        China has been winning the diplomatic battle and
                                                         has gradually edged Taiwan out of Africa. In 1996,
As the 54 African countries account for more than        2006 and 2007, Niger, Chad and Malawi, respec-
one-quarter of U.N. member states, China has relied      tively, severed their diplomatic ties with Taiwan
on their support at the U.N. for its political agen-     to build formal relationships with China.20 Since
da.14 In 2008, before the Beijing Olympics, the issue    2008, there has been a de facto truce between Bei-
of Tibet became a controversial sore spot for China      jing and Taipei on gaining diplomatic recognition
at the U.N. Human Rights Council. China relied on        of foreign countries. This is the result of the im-
African countries to remain silent or issue statements   proved cross-strait relations after the Kuomintang
supportive of China’s Tibet policy in order to defuse    (KMT) government came into office in 2008. The
and preempt hostile discussions or actions.15 Today,     KMT government has adopted a much more mod-
on issues ranging from human rights to U.N. re-          erate position on the issue of Taiwan independence
form, from regional security to China’s core national    than that of the DPP (Democratic Progressive Par-
interests, China looks to Africa to be on its side.      ty) government of the previous eight years.

Another of China’s key political aspirations in its      Economic interests
relationship with Africa is to end Taiwan’s diplo-
matic presence on the continent. For Beijing, it         There is a debate inside China on whether politi-
is a matter of fundamental regime legitimacy that        cal interests or economic interests should represent
Africa embraces the One China policy and accepts         China’s top priority in its overall Africa strategy.
Beijing rather than Taipei as the only lawful repre-     Chinese officials have consistently emphasized
sentative of China. The tug-of-war between Bei-          that, for the majority of the past six decades, Chi-
jing and Taipei over diplomatic ties with African        na’s goal in Africa has never been the economic
countries has lasted more than six decades since         benefits: In 2011, China’s then-Premier Wen Jia-
the founding of the People’s Republic of China.          bao proudly stated that “China had selflessly as-
Currently, three African countries maintain diplo-       sisted Africa when itself was the poorest. We did
matic ties with Taiwan: Burkina Faso, Swaziland,         not exploit one single drop of oil or extract one
and São Tomé and Príncipe.16 The Gambia, which           single ton of minerals out of Africa.”21 This seems
established diplomatic relations with China in           to suggest that Beijing views Africa first and most
1974, restored relations with Taipei in 1995 but         keenly through the lens of political ties rather than
severed such ties in November 2013.17 It is yet to       economic benefits. Since China’s political agenda
normalize diplomatic relations with Beijing as of        has been a constant theme of Beijing’s Africa strat-
January 2014. Burkina Faso established diplomat-         egy, some Chinese analysts firmly argue that, with
ic relations with China in 1973 but switched to          or without the economic benefits, Africa invariably
Taiwan in 1994; and São Tomé and Príncipe es-            would have been important for China.22
tablished diplomatic ties with Beijing in 1992 and
switched to Taiwan in 1997.18                            However, the counterargument is that, despite Af-
                                                         rica’s political importance, China has elevated eco-
Taiwan’s “checkbook” diplomacy since the 1990s           nomic considerations to a much higher level in its
had, in the past, succeeded in winning recognition       domestic and foreign agenda since the beginning

                                       Africa in China’s Foreign Policy
                          John L. Thornton China Center and Africa Growth Initiative
                                                      5
of the reform and opening up. This is the imme-                                  reserve, whereas the exhaustion of domestic ener-
diate result of Beijing’s strategy to diversify and                              gy and natural resources was becoming a growing
consolidate its legitimacy through the delivery of                               constraint on economic development.27 Second,
economic development to the general population.                                  China’s vigorous cultivation of African countries
According to Chinese analysts, the six decades of                                in the previous decades had resulted in relatively
Sino-African economic relations could roughly                                    good relationships, making Africa a friendly, de-
be divided into three stages: From 1949 to 1979,                                 sirable partner compared to the challenging states
China’s economic activities in Africa were primar-                               it encountered in other parts of the world. As the
ily motivated by China’s political agenda and were                               government mouthpiece Global Times elaborat-
focused on providing economic assistance to newly                                ed during President Xi Jinping’s visit to Africa in
independent African nations so as to build diplo-                                2013, as the U.S. limited China’s geographical op-
matic relations, to support Africa’s “anti-imperial-                             tions in Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia, South Asia
ism, anti-colonialism struggle,” and to gain their                               and the Middle East, “Africa, which is generally
support for the People’s Republic of China interna-                              friendly toward China, became the top choice for
tionally.23 From the beginning of reform and open-                               China’s ‘Going Out’ strategy.”28
ing up in 1979 to the mid-1990s, the focus of Chi-
na’s foreign policy shifted to supporting domestic                               Meanwhile, China also had it eyes on Africa for its
economic development. This shift directly resulted                               market potential. Chinese manufacturing industries
in the gradual adjustment of China’s priorities for                              enjoy the unique advantage of producing textiles,
its Africa policy from extracting political favors to                            electronics and other products at a relatively low
“mutually beneficial economic cooperation,” and                                  price, which fits the market demand of the less-de-
from providing assistance to promoting “service                                  veloped African countries.29 Africa’s importance as
contracts, investment, and trade.”24 Beginning in                                a market for China was significantly enhanced as a
the mid-1990s, the theory of “utilizing both do-                                 result of the 2008 international financial crisis and
mestic and international markets and resources”                                  its dire effect on China’s export industries.30 When
began to prevail in China’s foreign economic re-                                 the demand for Chinese goods shrank from stag-
lations.vii This change led to a boom in China’s in-                             nant Western economies, China’s export industries
ternational economic cooperation and the initial                                 had to resort to alternative markets to fill the void.
introduction of the “Going Out” strategy in 1996                                 Some analysts therefore attribute the internation-
by then-President Jiang Zemin after his trip to six                              al financial crisis to the fact that China surpassed
African countries.25 The strategy was then endorsed                              the U.S. as Africa’s largest trading partner during
by the Politburo in 2000 as a national strategy and                              the same period. Furthermore, as China seeks to
has remained in effect ever since.26                                             upgrade its industrial economy and move up in
                                                                                 the global supply chain, Africa, with its vast and
Africa fits perfectly in China’s Going Out strategy                              untapped labor resources, is identified as the ide-
for several reasons. First of all, Africa’s rich energy                          al location for China’s labor-intensive industries.31
reserves, minerals and raw materials directly fuel                               By relocating low-skilled jobs and labor-intensive
China’s quest for natural resources to boost its                                 industries to Africa, China seeks more capital-in-
domestic economic growth. By the early 2000s,                                    tensive, high-tech industries and jobs to improve its
China had accumulated a large foreign exchange                                   own development model and quality.

vii
      I n 1993, the 3rd Plenary Meeting of the 14th Party’s Congress defined China’s foreign economic agenda as “fully utilize the two markets- in-
       ternational and domestic and the resources of them.” Chen Yangyong, “ The Forming of Jiang Zemin’s ‘Going Out’ Strategy and Its Impor-
       tance”, [江泽民“走出去”战略的形成及其重要意义], Website of People’s Daily, November 10, 2008, http://theory.people.com.cn/
       GB/40557/138172/138202/8311431.html.

                                                   Africa in China’s Foreign Policy
                                      John L. Thornton China Center and Africa Growth Initiative
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The implementation of the Going Out strategy                                 to $2.11 billion in 2010 and then $3.17 billion
substantially increased China’s economic ties with                           in 2011.38 Despite this growth, Africa constitutes
Africa. This is most clearly reflected in China’s                            only a small fraction of China’s total global in-
trade with Africa. Compared with 1950, when                                  vestment. In 2011, China’s investment in Africa
Sino-African trade totaled only $121 million, by                             was merely 4.3 percent of its global total, signifi-
2000 Sino-African trade passed the threshold of                              cantly less than China’s investment in Asia (60.9
$10 billion and has been growing 30 percent an-                              percent), Latin America (16 percent) and Europe
nually since then.32 In 2012, China’s trade with                             (11.1 percent).39
Africa reached $198.5 billion, with 42 percent in
exports, 58 percent in imports and a trade defi-                             It is a common speculation among observers that
cit of $27.9 billion.viii China surpassed the United                         China’s official statistics underreport China’s in-
States as Africa’s largest trading partner in 2009.33                        vestment volume in Africa. According to a report
The gap between Sino-African trade and U.S.-Af-                              released by the U.S. Government Accountability
rican trade has been growing exponentially since                             Office in early 2013, “Chinese foreign direct in-
then.ix In 2012, U.S. total trade with Africa was                            vestments in sub-Saharan Africa are likely under-
only $99.8 billion, approximately 50 percent of                              reported. … Chinese firms set up subsidiaries, in
Sino-African trade that same year.34 In terms of                             places such as Hong Kong and the British Virgin
composition, China’s imports from Africa pri-                                Islands that can be used to make investments in
marily focus on energy and natural resources. In                             sub-Saharan Africa. Such investments are not cap-
2011, more than 80 percent of China’s $93.2 bil-                             tured by China’s data on foreign direct investment
lion in imports from Africa consisted of crude oil,                          and may be a significant source of underreporting.
raw materials and resources.35 Africa has become                             In addition, many small- and medium-sized en-
the second-largest supplier of crude oil for China                           terprises may not register their foreign direct in-
(the top African suppliers are Sudan and Angola),                            vestments, which therefore may not be reflected in
ranked behind the Middle East. Chinese exports                               China’s data.”40 The underreporting may not have
to Africa are primarily finished products such as                            been an intentional design of the Chinese govern-
machineries, textiles and electronics.36                                     ment, but it does reflect some fundamental defi-
                                                                             ciencies in its management of Chinese actors’ com-
The Going Out strategy also promotes the growth                              mercial activities in Africa. (This topic is discussed
of China’s investment in Africa. According to sta-                           in the last section of this paper.)
tistics from the Ministry of Commerce, China’s
investment in Africa grew from $1.57 billion in                              The Chinese government actively promotes invest-
2007 to $5.49 billion in 2008.37 The growth was                              ment in Africa through concessional loans, com-
disrupted by the international financial crisis in                           mercial loans, and regular and preferential export
2009 (down to $1.44 billion) but climbed back                                buyer’s credits. From 2009 to 2012, China provided

viii
     I t’s worth noting that, country-wise, China’s imports and exports to Africa are rather unbalanced. A large percentage of China’s imports
      from Africa comes from resource-rich countries while better developed African countries (such as Kenya and Egypt) import more Chinese
      products than the less-developed ones. “Ministry of Commerce: Sino-African Trade Reached New High and Gradually Reducing Trade
      Deficit,” [商务部:中非贸易额创新高 正逐步改变逆差过多], China.com.cn, April 18, 2013, http://finance.china.com.cn/news/
      gnjj/20130418/1397454.shtml.
ix
   In 2010, U.S.-Africa trade was $113 billion, 88.9 percent of China’s 127 billion trade with Africa. In 2011, U.S. trade with Africa was $125.8
    billion, 75 percent of the 166.3 billion Sino-African trade. See: “Trade in Goods with Africa,” U.S. Census Bureau, http://www.census.gov/
    foreign-trade/balance/c0013.html; “Sino-African Trade Increased 83% from 2009 to 2011,” [2011年中非贸易额比2009年增长了83%],
    Chinese Ministry of Commerce, July 17, 2012, http://finance.sina.com.cn/china/20120717/102712587144.shtml; and David H. Shinn,
    “China’s Growing Role in Africa: Implications for U.S. Policy,” Testimony before Subcommittee on African Affairs, U.S. Senate Committee on
    Foreign Relations, Washington, D.C., November 1, 2011, www.foreign.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/David_Shinn_Testimony.pdf.

                                               Africa in China’s Foreign Policy
                                  John L. Thornton China Center and Africa Growth Initiative
                                                              7
$10 billion in financing to Africa in the form of        Angola and Ghana before the Export-Import Bank
“concessional loans.”41 During Chinese President         of China (China Eximbank) and Angola completed
Xi Jinping’s first overseas trip to Africa in March      the first oil-backed loan in March 2004. (China was
2013, this commitment was renewed and increased          once on the receiving end of commodity-backed
to $20 billion during the three years between 2012       loans historically—Japan used the same model to
and 2015.42 Sometimes these investments are min-         provide a large line of credit to China several decades
gled with foreign aid to maximize feasibility and        ago when China was not credit worthy.)47 Howev-
flexibility.43 This has created confusion, both in-      er, the Chinese built it to scale and applied it using
side and outside China, about how to distinguish         a systematic approach. In Angola in 2006, this ap-
between foreign aid and investment. The $20 bil-         proach probably helped Chinese oil companies win
lion committed by Xi was perceived to be “foreign        the exploitation rights to multiple oil blocks through
aid” to Africa by some Chinese scholars and media,       $4 billion in loans.48 In 2010, Sinopec’s acquisition
while the Chinese authorities consciously chose          of a 50 percent stake in Block 18 coincided with
not to make a clear distinction.44                       the disbursement of the first tranche of China Ex-
                                                         imbank funding, and in 2005, Sinopec’s acquisition
China’s policy actively contributes to the confusion.    of Block 3/80 coincided with the announcement of
Beijing encourages government agencies and com-          a new $2 billion loan from China Eximbank to the
mercial entities to “closely combine foreign aid,        Angolan government.49 In 2008, the China Railway
direct investment, service contracts, labor cooper-      Group used the same model to secure the mining
ation, foreign trade, and export,”45 which further       rights to the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s
blur the distinction between aid and investment.         (DRC) copper and cobalt mines under the slogan
For example, China’s “tied aid” on infrastructure        “[Infrastructure] projects for resources.”50 According
usually favors Chinese builders and laborers, while      to Debra Brautigam, a top expert on China-Africa
Chinese loans are in many cases backed by African        relations, between 2004 and 2011, China reached
natural resources, which would count toward trade        similar unprecedented deals with at least seven re-
or export. Whether defined as aid or investments,        source-rich African countries, with a total transac-
Chinese loans to Africa aim to be mutually ben-          tion volume of nearly $14 billion.51
eficial: natural resources and service contracts for
China and financing and infrastructure for Africa.       In addition to securing Africa’s natural resources,
                                                         China’s capital flows into Africa also create business
Much of Chinese financing is associated with se-         opportunities for Chinese service contractors, such
curing Africa’s natural resources. Using what is         as construction companies. In the case of Chinese
sometimes characterized as the “Angola Model,”           assistance to Africa for infrastructure development,
China uses resource-backed financing agreements          this is essentially “tied aid.” According to Chinese
to reach deals with recipient nations that rely on       analysts, Africa is China’s second-largest supplier of
commodities, such as oil or mineral resources, to se-    service contracts, and “when we provide Africa as-
cure low-interest loans from China.46 In these cases,    sistance of ¥1 billion, we will get service contracts
the recipient nations usually suffer from low credit     worth $1 billion from Africa.”52 In exchange for
ratings and are not regarded as creditworthy. These      most Chinese financial aid to Africa, Beijing requires
nations have great difficulty obtaining funding from     that infrastructure construction and other contracts
the international financial market; China makes fi-      favor Chinese service providers: Seventy percent of
nancing relatively available and acquirable—with         them go to “approved,” mostly state-owned, Chi-
certain conditions. Commodity-backed loans were          nese companies, and the rest are open to local firms,
not created by China. Leading Western banks were         many of which are also joint ventures with Chinese
making such loans to African countries, including        groups.53 In this sense, China’s financing to Africa

                                       Africa in China’s Foreign Policy
                          John L. Thornton China Center and Africa Growth Initiative
                                                      8
creates businesses for Chinese companies and em-              •   Politically motivated attacks on the Chinese as
ployment opportunities for Chinese laborers, a crit-              a retaliation for China’s cooperation with lo-
ical goal of Beijing’s Going Out strategy.                        cal governments and/or exploitation of local
                                                                  resources:
Security interests
                                                                  o    January 2007, two Chinese workers
Given the vast geographical distance, Africa pos-                      were kidnapped by the anti-government
es hardly any direct physical threat to China’s                        “Movement for the Emancipation of the
immediate national security or the security of its                     Niger Delta” in southern Nigeria as a threat
periphery. However, as China’s economic activities                     against Chinese companies’ exploitation of
and personnel presence expand rapidly on the con-                      crude oil in the Niger Delta.63
tinent, the physical security of Chinese investments              o    pril 2007, the exploration site of Zhong
                                                                       A
and nationals has become the top challenge for Bei-                    Yuan Oil Field was attacked by the an-
jing.54 According to incomplete data, there are at                     ti-government Ogaden National Libera-
least 1 million Chinese living in Africa as of October                 tion Front in Ethiopia, with nine Chinese
2012.55 These people are subject to numerous secu-                     workers killed. The attack was against
rity threats at the local level as well as the state level             “any investment in Ogaden that benefits
as a result of the volatile political situations in Africa.            the Ethiopian government.”64

There are several types of security threats for Chi-              o    July 2007, the representative of China
nese nationals on the ground. They include:                            National Nuclear Corporation’s uranium
                                                                       project in Niger was kidnapped by Niger
•   Criminal attacks such as robbery and kid-                          Movements for Justice in protest of the
    napping. This is the most common and most                          “negligence of the region by the Niger
    damaging type of security threat for Chinese                       government, lack of local control over the
    in Africa.56 Some prominent examples include:                      mineral resources, and labor disputes.”65

    o     
          January 2007, nine Chinese workers were                 o    January 2012, SinoHydro’s construction
          kidnapped in southern Nigeria.57                             site was attacked by anti-government Su-
                                                                       dan People’s Liberal Movement; 29 work-
    o     
          June 2007, Shandong Qingrun China                            ers were kidnapped.66
          Eximbank’s branch was robbed in Togo.58
                                                              •   Attacks on Chinese projects due to labor dis-
    o     
          August 2007, four Chinese were robbed in                putes and illegal activities by Chinese companies:
          Nigeria, including one killed.59
                                                                  o     ctober 2010, unrest at Collum Coal
                                                                       O
    o     
          October 2008, nine China National Pe-                        Mine in Zambia led to 11 local mining
          troleum Company (CNPC) workers were                          workers being shot and wounded by Chi-
          kidnapped in Sudan, five died.60                             nese managers and three Chinese being
    o     
          December 2009, a Chinese national was                        injured.67
          robbed and shot to death in South Africa.61             o    ugust 2012, a Chinese mine manager
                                                                       A
    o     
          October 2012, a Chinese cook with                            was killed following a pay dispute at the
          China’s Geo-Engineering Construction                         Collum Coal Mine in Zambia.68
          Company was killed in Nigeria’s north-                  o     ctober 2012, more than 100 Chinese
                                                                       O
          eastern Borno State.62                                       illegal miners were detained in Ghana

                                          Africa in China’s Foreign Policy
                             John L. Thornton China Center and Africa Growth Initiative
                                                         9
with one Chinese national killed during         At the state level, domestic political turmoil and
        the government’s crackdown on illegal           regime changes inside African countries have cre-
        mining.69                                       ated the most serious threat to the safety of Chi-
                                                        nese investments and nationals. The protection of
    o   
        June 2013, the Ghanaian government              Chinese nationals in Africa is linked to the Chi-
        swept local gold mines, detaining 169 il-       nese government’s legitimacy in that a failure to
        legal Chinese miners.70                         provide such protection would undercut the Chi-
•   Chinese vessels attacked by Somali pirates:         nese Communist Party’s internal and international
                                                        prestige. The Chinese government and companies
    o   November 2008, the Chinese fishing ves-         learned this lesson the hard way during the military
        sel Tianyu No. 8 was seized by Somali pi-       coup of Liberia in 2003, when Chinese embassies
        rates while fishing off the coast of Kenya.71   had to assist 36 overseas Chinese to evacuate.77 Al-
        The ship was released on February 8, 2009,      though no casualties occurred, Chinese media and
        with 24 crew members safely on board.           analysts emphasized “major financial losses” due to
                                                        the political turmoil.78 More recently, during the
    o   December 2008, the Chinese fishing boat
                                                        civil war in Libya in 2011, China was forced, in
        Zhenhua 4 was hijacked on the way back
                                                        part by domestic public opinion, to mobilize sig-
        to Shanghai. The 30 crew members fought
                                                        nificant military and diplomatic resources to evac-
        for four hours after nine pirates armed
                                                        uate more than 30,000 Chinese nationals based in
        with rocket launchers and heavy machine
                                                        Libya.79 The Chinese People’s Liberation Army dis-
        guns boarded the ship. A Malaysian war-
                                                        patched four military aircraft and one navy vessel
        ship and Malaysian military helicopter ar-
                                                        for the mission.80 Nevertheless, the regime change
        rived and fired on the pirates, who fled the
                                                        resulted in total losses as high as $20 billion for
        scene. No crew members were injured.72
                                                        Chinese companies on the ground, due to uncom-
    o   October 2009, a Chinese bulk carrier            pleted contracts originally made with the Gadhafi
        owned by COSCO Qingdao was cap-                 government.81
        tured 700 miles east of the Somali coast-
        line in the Indian Ocean.73                     Thus, China’s security interests in Africa are mostly
                                                        defensive and aimed at protecting its existing eco-
    o   June 2010, the Singapore-flagged Chi-           nomic interests and citizens. The failure to protect
        nese-chartered chemical tanker MV Golden        the former jeopardizes China’s economic benefits
        Blessing was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden,      from Africa, which China needs to fuel domestic
        and 19 Chinese crew members were taken          growth. The inability to protect the latter under-
        hostage. The ship reportedly was released in    cuts the government’s prestige (even legitimacy)
        November 2010 on payment of $2.8 mil-           at home. Both entail significant consequences for
        lion.74                                         Beijing. Chinese investments and nationals are
                                                        particularly vulnerable in less-developed, politi-
    o   November 2010, the Chinese vessel Yuan
                                                        cally unstable areas. So far, Beijing has primarily
        Xiang was captured in the Arabian Sea and
                                                        relied on its embassies to provide consular pro-
        was released 207 days later.75
                                                        tection to Chinese nationals and investments.
    o   May 2011, the Chinese-owned bulk car-           However, the Chinese consular service is severely
        rier MV Full City was attacked by Somali        understaffed: On average, each Chinese consular
        pirates with 24 crew members on board.          officer serves 130,000 overseas Chinese nationals.82
        The attack was successfully thwarted by         Furthermore, since the consular sections of Chi-
        Indian naval warships and aircraft.76           nese embassies in Africa also need to rely on local

                                      Africa in China’s Foreign Policy
                         John L. Thornton China Center and Africa Growth Initiative
                                                    10
governments to provide protection, the inefficien-        has demonstrated an increasing interest in bilateral
cy and incompetence of local African governments          solutions, with Beijing taking a series of measures to
usually make consular protection more symbolic            deepen cooperation with the African Union (AU)
than effective or substantial.83                          and African countries on peace and security issues.
                                                          During the 5th Ministerial Meeting of Forum on
Beyond consular protection, the military capaci-          China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Beijing in
ty of Chinese government to provide protection            July 2012, then-President Hu Jintao launched the
to overseas Chinese is limited for several reasons.       Initiative on China-Africa Cooperative Partner-
China strictly follows the principle of no overseas       ship for Peace and Security. Aside from support-
deployment of Chinese troops84 and is yet to adopt        ing the AU’s own peacekeeping operations inside
the practice of hiring private Western security com-      Africa, China made the commitment to provide
panies to protect local assets.85 Local private securi-   financial support to the AU standing army and to
ty companies are seen as unreliable. There are major      train security officials and peacekeepers.91 During
political and legal barriers to hiring Chinese private    Xi Jinping’s first overseas trip to Africa, the new
security companies, such as their employment sta-         Chinese leader also promised to “constructively
tus in foreign countries and their authority to carry     participate in Africa’s peace and security affairs.”92
firearms.86 The hiring of Chinese private security        These moves suggest two main policy conclusions
firms also poses a fundamental challenge to Chi-          by China: 1) China sees the AU as a promising sta-
na’s principle of “non-interference of other coun-        bilizing force in Africa to protect Chinese security
tries’ internal affairs,” since any security activities   interests; and 2) China is willing to assist the AU
they might undertake would collide with the law           in developing such capacities to defuse and fight
enforcement and sovereignty of the host country.          security threats in Africa.

Since 2005, security threats to Chinese invest-           Ideological interests
ments and nationals in Libya and other countries
have served as a wake-up call to Beijing that inter-      Historically, during the Cold War and before Chi-
nal instability in African nations is also intrinsical-   na’s reform and opening up, ideology had been a
ly China’s problem.87 In the past, China has relied       main factor determining China’s policy towards
primarily on multilateral institutions, especially        African countries.93 During this period, the cor-
the UN, for security and missions inside Africa, in-      nerstone philosophy of China’s policy towards Af-
cluding peacekeeping missions.88 China also began         rica was that China should be the front-runner in
to dispatch PLA naval escort missions to the Gulf         the developing world against colonialism, imperi-
of Aden before the end of 2008 under authoriza-           alism and revisionism.94 The emphasis on ideology
tion by UN Security Council Resolutions 1816,             originated from the hostile external environment
1838, 1846, and 1851 (resolutions about effec-            that forced China to seek friendly diplomatic space
tively rallying international efforts to battle Somali    to ensure its survival.95 This ideology-driven poli-
piracy).89 (Because of the U.N. mandate, this does        cy resulted in massive aid to Africa despite Chi-
not conflict with China’s “no troop abroad” prin-         na’s own economic difficulties and was gradually
ciple.) Since then, China has dispatched 16 fleets        abandoned after 1979. Since then, China no lon-
to escort 5,300 Chinese and foreign ships, and the        ger uses ideology (communism, socialism or cap-
missions remain active.90                                 italism) to determine its relationship to political
                                                          parties and countries in Africa.96 Instead, it has de-
Since China is unable to provide security protec-         veloped broad relations with all African countries
tion to Chinese assets and nationals due to mil-          that embrace the One China policy. As explained
itary, foreign policy and legal constraints, China        in the previous section, the non-discriminative

                                        Africa in China’s Foreign Policy
                           John L. Thornton China Center and Africa Growth Initiative
                                                      11
nature of China’s relationship with all African                             statists, protectionists, and thugs alike to ‘prove’
countries is primarily driven by economic inter-                            that keeping the state’s grip on companies, trade,
ests and practical political considerations, such as                        and political freedoms need not stop a country
garnering international supporters, legitimacy and                          growing by 8%-plus a year.”100 From Beijing’s per-
support for the Chinese government.                                         spective, the popularity of the China Model is the
                                                                            best way to validate the viability of the Chinese
However, as the largest and perhaps the most                                system.xi A senior Chinese analyst at the People’s
successful authoritarian regime in the world, it is                         University, Tao Wenzhao, wrote publicly that the
inevitable that Beijing’s foreign policy strives to                         “China Model has substantial influence in Africa,
serve domestic political purposes. As many Chi-                             which is an indispensable soft power for China to
na analysts would argue, given the country’s lack                           become a great power in the world.”101 Incidental-
of democratic elections, the Chinese Communist                              ly, the same model also continues to support the
Party’s (CCP) most fundamental need is to estab-                            legitimacy of the CCP at home.
lish and preserve legitimacy.97 Domestically, the
CCP proves its legitimacy by “making China in-                              In this sense, China’s ideological interest in Africa
dependent” with the founding of the new China,                              did not disappear as a result of the nation’s shifting
and by “making Chinese people rich” with reform                             its priorities to economic development. Instead, it
and opening up.98 Calls for democracy are muffled                           has taken a different, subtler form, one that sup-
by and subject to the higher need for “stability”                           ports Beijing’s legitimacy through spreading and
to foster further economic development.x Interna-                           popularizing China’s development model. The
tionally, foreign governments’ recognition of the                           more countries identify with and adopt Beijing’s
CCP’s successful political and economic policies is                         approach, the less isolated China feels. Beijing
seen as a powerful reinforcement of CCP’s legiti-                           would like to see non-Western, non-democratic
macy at home.                                                               governments grow and prosper in Africa, simply
                                                                            because they help validate China’s political system
This is where the China Model, or Beijing Con-                              and mitigate its international isolation by showing
sensus, plays an important role. China uses its own                         that Western democracy is not a universal value,
development model, which combines political au-                             and that the Western democratic system doesn’t
thoritarianism and economic capitalism, to prove                            have to apply in every country. Therefore, any suc-
to some African countries that economic develop-                            cess of authoritarian governments in Africa, such
ment and political stability can triumph over the                           as Sudan, Zimbabwe and the DRC are in and of
need for a sound democratic system.99 In many                               themselves seen as constituting support for the le-
countries, “China’s economic progress is cited by                           gitimacy of the CCP.102

x
    s Deng Xiaoping put it, “stability overrules everything.” Chen Junhong, “Comrade Deng Xiaoping Raised: The Predominant Issue of China
   A
   is the Need for Stability”, [邓小平同志提出,中国的问题,压倒一切的是需要稳定],Website of People’s Daily, http://theory.people.com.
   cn/n/2012/1026/c350767-19398927.html.
xi
    A senior Chinese analyst at the People’s University, Tao Wenzhao, wrote publicly that the “China Model has substantial influence in Africa,
     which is an indispensable soft power for China to become a great power in the world.” See Tao Wenzhao, “The Africa Effect of China Model,”
     [中国模式的非洲效应], Guo Ji Wen Ti Yan Jiu, June 21, 2011, http://www.cssn.cn/news/374420.htm.

                                               Africa in China’s Foreign Policy
                                  John L. Thornton China Center and Africa Growth Initiative
                                                             12
Africa in China’s Foreign Policy

D
          uring the Hu Jintao administration              tions, such as China’s relationship with the United
          (2003–2012), China began to adopt               States, are naturally important because “they have
          the principle of an “all-round/all-di-          most impact over China’s national interests.”108
rectional” foreign policy that theoretically does         In comparison, the developing country category,
not differentiate among geographical regions or           to which African nations belong, constitutes the
countries.103 According to senior Chinese analysts,       “foundation” of China’s foreign policy, a means
“Chinese foreign policy is not about relationship         rather than an end to China’s relationship with
with a particular region/country. China empha-            more important parts of the world. As Lu Shaye,
sizes balanced diplomacy and seeks to develop ties        the director of the Africa Department at the MFA
with all important powers in the world.”104 Un-           elaborated before Chinese President Xi Jinping’s
der this principle, China has designed a specific         trip to Africa, “the strengthening of solidarity and
strategic mapping for all regions/countries in the        cooperation with broad developing countries in-
world: “Big powers are the key; China’s periph-           cluding African countries reflects a consistent prin-
ery is the priority; developing countries are the         ciple of China’s foreign policy. This is the foun-
foundation; multilateral platforms are the stage.”        dation of China’s foreign policy.”109 That is to say,
(大国是关键,周边是首要,发展中国家是基                                      since Africa is not in China’s periphery and does
础,多边是重要舞台.)105                                            not constitute a big power, its key importance lies
                                                          in forming the basis for Beijing’s relationship with
Although the wording seems to suggest that all re-        the world. For China’s foreign strategy, Africa is a
gions are important, not all countries are created        means rather than an end.
equal. In reality, China does differentiate among
them, and China’s neighbors and the big powers            One of the implied assumptions of Africa being
are treated as more critical areas for China’s foreign    part of the foundation is that China already has
policy.106 According to Luo Zhaohui, the director         a relatively stable and positive relationship with
of the Department of Asian Affairs at the Chinese         the continent; therefore, it requires less attention
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “for China to have a         and effort on China’s part.110 Indeed, compared to
global aspiration, it needs to first prioritize the pe-   China’s periphery (infested with territorial disputes
riphery … because China has closest relations with        among China’s neighbors and infused with strate-
its neighbors as well as most concentrated nation-        gic anxiety), and compared to the great powers
al interests and most direct impact in its periphery      (where China sees intrinsic structural conflicts—
[emphasis original].”107 Meanwhile, big power rela-       mostly with the U.S.), Africa is a region with

                                        Africa in China’s Foreign Policy
                           John L. Thornton China Center and Africa Growth Initiative
                                                      13
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