Yet for all the fanfare, the relationship between China and Africa is under strain. That is why Beijing must now rethink its engagement with the continent, focusing less on the size and number of commitments it offers and more on sustainability, with an approach that goes beyond government-to-government initiatives.
First, the plusses. In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping signaled Africa’s importance to Chinese foreign policy by visiting the Republic of Congo,South Africa, and Tanzania on his first presidential trip overseas. African governments have welcomed China’s “no-strings attached” political approach, which broadly gives Africa an alternative to conditional aid from Western donors and allows China to leverage its economic position on the continent.
In a remarkable 22-fold increase, trade between Africa and China has risen from $10 billion in 2000 to $220 billion in 2014. African oil and mineralsmake up nearly half of the total trade with China, but Beijing has also singlehandedly revitalized Africa’s infrastructure network by financing and building sorely needed roads, bridges, and telecommunication infrastructure. Chinese firms are also slowly moving some of their manufacturing capacity to lower-cost African destinations, including to aspecial economic zone outside Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.
Source: Foreign Affairs/ Luke Patey and Zhang Chun