Academic journal article African Studies Quarterly

China-Africa Relations: Political and Economic Engagement and Media Strategies

Academic journal article African Studies Quarterly

China-Africa Relations: Political and Economic Engagement and Media Strategies

Article excerpt

Introduction

The relationship between China and Africa has grown exponentially in the last decade resulting in China being the continent's largest trading partner, displacing Europe and the United States. The status and evolving relationship is one of the most critical developments in international affairs. The growth of China as a world power and its engagement on the continent, which is manifested in various ways, including state level and private investments involving variegated actors, has not been without controversy. An estimated one million Chinese migrants resided in Africa by 2014. (1) Chinese President Xi Jinping declared at the 2015 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Johannesburg, South Africa, that the China-Africa relations had reached a stage of growth "unmatched in history." (2) The announcement came with a major aid package, a manifestation of China's skillful use of hard, soft, and smart power that included $60 billion in various loans, grants, and special funds, various assistance in industrialization, agricultural modernization, infrastructure, financial services, trade and investment facilitation, poverty reduction, and peace and security. It also included the training of 200,000 African technicians, 1,000 media professionals, 40,000 opportunities for Africans in China, 2,000 degree or diploma opportunities, and 30,000 government scholarships. China also promised to establish regional vocational education centers and several capacity-building colleges in Africa.

On security cooperation, President Xi announced that China would provide $60 million in free assistance to the African Union (AU) to support the building and operation of the African Standby Force and an African Capacity for the Immediate Response to Crisis, adding: "China will continue to participate in UN peacekeeping missions in Africa and support African countries' capacity building in areas such as defense, counter-terrorism, riot prevention, customs and immigration control." (3) China, however, has been willing to work with any type of government whether it is democratically elected or authoritarian as in the case of Zimbabwe. It has also provided arms to dictatorships and refused to be engaged in the internal conflicts of the countries. Clearly the increase in security is mainly to safeguard China's economic interests and its citizens, particularly in countries where China has both peacekeepers and major commercial interests such as Sudan and South Sudan (oil) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (minerals).

The State of Current China-African Relations

China's largesse serves as an interesting introduction to this special issue of the African Studies Quarterly, as it provides a manifestation of the positive side of the China-Africa engagement. China is often portrayed in two extremes--either very positively, bringing development and a supposedly win-win transformative experience; or negatively as imperialistic, exploitative, and individuals to download articles for their own personal use. Published by the Center for African Studies, ruining the environment. These simplistic views, however, obscure a more analytical understanding of China's role and its implication for the continent. While there are some truths to both sides of the argument, as the articles in this special issue convey, the growing ChinaAfrica engagement raises the critical questions about how African countries are managing this relationship and whether it is translating into a positive and lasting benefit for Africa. China is coherent and strategic about its objectives, which have been spelled out in its policies including the Africa White paper of 2006 and enunciated in the subsequent tri-annual FOCAC meetings and at its sixth ministerial FOCAC conference in Johannesburg in 2015. It also published a Second Africa Policy Paper in 2015. China's engagements, which crystallize in its usage of hard power, soft power, and smart power, have provoked diverse views of its intentions. …

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