There have been times where China has followed the U.S. and Europe’s priorities in Africa, such as enabling UN peacekeeping and development, and providing modest disaster relief funds. But China is also selling arms to unstable and autocratic, militant nations such as Sudan, Somalia, and Zimbabwe. So why the seemingly counter-effective strategies? Because China still does what is in its best interest. China’s security policy is not focused on the developing world, it is still caught up with Russia, the United States, and the EU. Thus on the international level China often follows Western agendas, including offering aid or UN military assistance. But let’s not forget, China has an agenda too. Africa is developing quickly with many contracts opening up to foreign providers. It has lots of oil reserves, and numerous other natural intermediate resources that China is looking for. And China is willing to negotiate with any sort of government, while most of the Western world only legitimately recognizes democracies. Because China’s first priority is not on transitioning Africa’s authoritative regimes or ending civil wars in Africa, it can freely operate in ways that are harmful to citizens of African nations but benefit the Chinese economy.
At a conference in Ottawa, Canada, David H. Shinn gave the following briefing on China’s security issues in Africa. Shinn just recently finished a book on China-Africa relations entitled China and Africa: A Century of Engagement. From an international affairs perspective,iIt is interesting to see how this pairing of a strong, communist government and a largely dependent, resource-heavy continent will interact in the future, and who the relationship will ultimately benefit.