China’s Foreign Policy Towards Africa

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China’s Foreign Policy towards Africa
Author: Chenchen Wu (the School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University)

As global demand for energy increases, major players like the United States, the European Union, and Japan are facing competition from a new source as China struggles to meet its need for long-term energy supply. China-Africa cooperation has particularly been put in the spotlight. Some international observers accuse Chinese foreign policy towards African countries of undermining international efforts to increase transparency and good governance. Others describe a policy of ‘an aid for oil strategy’ or even a ‘neo-colonial policy’. On the African side, some blame on Chinese enterprises of underbidding local firms, especially in the textile industry, or of failing to hire Africans. In Beijing, the Chinese government insists on its ‘non-interference’ policy and refuses to link business with the human rights issue. The Beijing Summit in 2006 accelerated the interaction between China and Africa even further, as the two sides decided to accelerate cooperation, especially in joint resources exploration and exploitation.

This research paper, divided in two parts, aims to provide insights into the status of the Sino-Africa relationship and gives a relatively objective conclusion. Part one considers the policy level, examining the past relationship from the ‘Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence’ in the Bandung Conference in 1955, to ‘Four Principles of Chinese Cooperation with Africa’ in 1982, to ‘a New Strategic Partnership’ in 2006. This concludes that China’s policy towards African has moved away from unconditional assistance so that ‘mutual-benefits’ has become the priority. Part two examines the motivation level. Here I argue that China’s policy to Africa is not only driven by oil and other resource needs, but also the strategic importance of the African continent, which lies in three considerations, with commercial factors and diplomatic issues standing alongside the resource imperative. Some African countries like Nigeria, Angola, Sudan, have gradually become critical oil-exporters for China as extreme instability of the Mid-East supply has increased. In particular, since China and African countries are still developing areas, political cooperation in international affairs is necessary as well as important to secure their shared interests. Finally, I conclude that the cooperation between China and African countries is on the basis of complementary trade, mutual-respect, and a concern for increased influence for the developing world in international affairs, including the global political economy. Nevertheless, as a ‘responsible and rising power’, which is what China claims to be, China should take more actions in certain scenarios to stand with, and eventually contribute to the leadership of the international community.

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2 Part I the Policy level

This section debates the evolution of China’s African policy from the founding of New China to the contemporary era, by means of three turning points: in 1955, 1982, and 2006.

i) ‘Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence’ in the Bandung Conference in 1955

China’s relation with Africa may be traced back to six centuries ago. In 1415, Chinese explorers visited the East African coast and brought shiploads of Chinese commodities. Kenya provided many local gifts as return. But the interaction in the modern time started from the Bandung Conference held in the year 1955, which was widely regarded as a seminal event in Sino-African history. The conference was expected to enhance economic and cultural cooperation of the two continents and promoted the anti-imperialist and anti-colonial struggle. Of the 29 states that participated in the conference, six were African, such as Egypt, Libya and so on. The Former Premier, Zhou Enlai, attended the conference and presented the Five Principles of ‘Peaceful Coexistence’,...
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