China and United Nations Peacekeeping Operations in Africa

Article excerpt

China comes to Africa in the 21st century with not only a need for natural resources but also with the financial resources and political influence to pursue its objectives vigorously. China has altered the strategic context in Africa.


In February 2007, President Hu Jintao of the People's Republic of China completed a much-publicized visit to Africa. The trip fulfilled a promise made at an Africa-China summit in Beijing in November 2006, where forty-eight African heads of state heard him pledge to double aid to Africa by 2009 and create an investment fund of five billion dollars over the next three years. This 2007 tourwhich included Cameroon, Liberia, Sudan, Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, and the Seychelles-was the third such high-visibility visit to Africa President Hu has made since 2000, and it reflects China's growing interest and influence in that continent.

Indeed, China has developed for Africa a comprehensive strategy reflecting its own wide-ranging economic, diplomatic, political, and military engagement there. Beijing's burgeoning presence in Africa has been fueled by a combination of its own economic growth, its need for resources, more sophisticated leadership, better scholarship on Africa, and a domestic public more confident in China as a global actor. Additionally, China has notably enhanced its international standing with a dramatic increase in participation in United Nations peacekeeping missions from Haiti to East Timor, and as part of this larger engagement it has become a significant contributor to UN peacekeeping missions in Africa. This peacekeeping presence represents just one, but nevertheless important, facet of growing Chinese influence in Africa, which needs to be understood and appreciated by American policy makers.


China's pervasive influence in Africa is manifest not only in its burgeoning economic trade with the continent, forecast to surpass $100 billion by 2010, but in its energy strategy, its diplomatic presence, its cultural exchanges, and its growing military presence and security cooperation. Over seven hundred Chinese companies operate in forty-nine African countries, in markets ranging from textiles to fishing to extractive industries. It has established seven regional trade and investment centers throughout Africa to seek new economic and infrastructure-development opportunities. China, currently the world's secondlargest net importer of oil, imports from Africa 25 percent of its oil (forecast to increase to 40 percent within the next decade). Not only President Hu but other top Chinese leaders have visited Africa extensively since 2000, and Chinese diplomatic representation to African regional organizations is growing exponentially. China has sharply increased its foreign aid and floated multibillion-dollar loans, at low or no interest, to a variety of countries. It has aggressively promoted cultural and educational exchanges involving Chinese universities and tens of thousands of African students. It has also increased its military presence in Africa, selling small arms and fighter aircraft to several nations, increasing its number of military advisers, and building small-arms factories in Sudan and other countries.

At the November 2006 China-Africa Economic Forum, hosted by Beijing and attended by forty-eight African nations, President Hu promised that China would double economic aid to the continent by 2009, increase trade and infrastructure development, train fifteen thousand African professionals, provide scholarships to four thousand African students, and develop increasingly closer ties over the succeeding decade. This forum and China's actions with respect to Africa send a loud and clear message-that China has seized the initiative in Africa, altering the continent's strategic landscape.

China has used what it calls an "independent foreign policy" (a term by which Beijing connotes independence from American power) to achieve its considerable influence in Africa, seeking diplomatic, military, and economic influence in exchange for unconditional foreign aid, whatever the human rights record or political practices of countries that benefit. …