News / Africa

Xi Tries to Ease African Concerns About China's Influence

China's President Xi Jinping (L) and his Tanzanian counterpart Jakaya Kikwete (R) attend official talks on bilateral issues at the State House in Dar es Salaam, Mar. 24, 2013
China's President Xi Jinping (L) and his Tanzanian counterpart Jakaya Kikwete (R) attend official talks on bilateral issues at the State House in Dar es Salaam, Mar. 24, 2013
Chinese President Xi Jinping has promised to cooperate with African nations on the basis of equality, a pledge aimed at easing African concerns about Beijing's growing influence on the continent.

In a keynote speech to Africans in Tanzania's economic hub of Dar es Salaam Monday, Xi said China insists on "equality among all countries irrespective of their size and strength." He also expressed opposition to what he called the practice of "the big bullying the small and the strong lording over the weak."

Prioritizing Africa

Xi arrived in Tanzania the previous day at the start of a three-nation African tour, part of his first overseas trip since assuming the Chinese presidency earlier this month. He began the trip in Russia before heading to Africa.

In the speech to prominent Tanzanians, Xi vowed to boost relations with African nations, and he renewed a Chinese offer to provide them with $20 billion in loans over the next two years. But he also downplayed China's role in Africa, saying the continent "belongs to the African people."

Xi has visited Africa five times before. He left Tanzania later for South Africa, where he will attend a summit of emerging economics known as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). The Chinese president is due to end his regional tour in the Republic of Congo.

China's interests

Analyst J. Peter Pham of the Atlantic Council said Xi is trying to build on the Africa legacy of his two predecessors.

"Jiang Zemin began modern China's re-engagement with Africa after a period when [Beijing] was focused on internal reform," he said.

"Hu Jintao used China's foreign exchange reserves to expand Chinese investment in Africa even further, and shifted it away from being purely resource driven to [gaining market share in] services and industry."

China's fast-growing economy secures almost one-third of its oil imports from Africa. It also buys significant amounts of African minerals that are critical to sustaining Chinese industrial production.

In return for the natural resources, China has built infrastructure throughout Africa and sees itself as a positive force for the continent's development and livelihood. Bilateral trade reached about $200 billion last year.

The rapid growth of China-Africa economic ties in recent years has led some Africans to accuse Beijing of ulterior motives.

Brewing backlash

Writing in the Financial Times this month, Nigerian Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi said the Chinese practice of taking Africa's primary goods and selling it manufactured ones was "the essence of colonialism." Sanusi said Africa is "willingly opening itself up to a new form of imperialism" by a Chinese nation that should be seen for what it is: "a competitor."

Former U.S. Ambassador to Burkina Faso and Ethiopia David Shinn said the expression of such views by African government officials is unusual.

"Most of them have been very supportive of China's position on the continent," he said. "But the greater China's engagement is in Africa, I suspect the more you are going to hear this kind of comment, because more activity usually generates greater criticism."

Chinese activity

Shinn, a professor of international affairs at Washington's Georgetown University, said an estimated 1 million Chinese have settled in Africa, some as long ago as the early 20th century.

"Most of [the Chinese] currently in Africa are those who have arrived more recently. They tend to be small Chinese traders and businessmen, and that number is growing very rapidly. In fact, it is creating issues in terms of competition with Africans. The number is quite large, certainly a larger presence than the American presence in Africa."

Chinese companies running development projects in Africa often fly in Chinese workers to do the labor, sometimes angering locals who want the jobs for themselves.

Patrick Chovanec, a former economics professor at Beijing's Tsinghua University, said there also is resentment among some Africans hired by the Chinese businesses.

"When Chinese have set up mining operations or other sorts of investments in Africa, there has been tension in the workplace," he said.

"There has been tension that has sometimes led to violence, in particular in Zambia - there have been confrontations between African workers and Chinese management because of the big culture gap between them."

Pham, director of the Atlantic Council's Africa Center, said a flood of cheap Chinese goods into African markets also has led to mass job losses in local industries such as textiles in northern Nigeria.

"Simply, the [Nigerian] businesses ceased to exist because they cannot produce at the rate and cost that Chinese firms are able to do. So in that sense, individual Nigerians may be able to buy cheaper cloth, but an entire sector has been wiped out."

Local benefits

Pham said some Chinese investments have produced direct advantages for African communities, such as roads and railroads designed for transporting minerals but also accessible to adjacent farmers.

He said President Xi is trying to ensure that China's interests in Africa enhance local economies rather than distort them - a challenge that also faces the continent's traditional partners, the United States and Europe.

Victor Beattie in Washington contributed to this report.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

South Korea Divided on Response to North’s Cyber Attack

In past five years, officials in Seoul have accused Pyongyang of hacking into banks, government websites, causing chaos and inflicting millions of dollars in damages More

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Bentiu

Residents have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy, but planning for the future remains uncertain as fear of attacks looms More

2015 Could Be Watershed for Syria Conflict

Republican control of US Senate in January could lead to more aggressive policy against IS militants in Syria - and against regime of Bashar al-Assad More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: David from: Washington
March 26, 2013 12:35 PM
Nigeria deals with china to build rail road from Lagos to Kano, so Congo-Kinshasa has to follow the example of Nigeria by dealing to build rail road connected from Katanga and Kivu to the terminal port Banana deep see in Bas-Congo which it allows Congo-K to open up to world, to control import-export, increase GDP, establish reliable trade...ect. Wake up Congo-K?


by: Ronald Katz from: New York City
March 26, 2013 2:45 AM
There is no mention recent explosion of wildlife poaching, specifically elephants for ivory, and Rhinos for their horns, which products go primarily to China.
What is China doing to stop this needless devastation?


by: Ed from: Hailey, USA
March 25, 2013 11:36 PM
I'm no great fan of China but I'd say Africa you better take any help you can get because you certainly haven't been able to help yourselves over the years!


by: Laurence Ramsey from: Lhasa
March 25, 2013 10:15 PM
Actually, Britain is not one of the BRICS countries, the B is for Brazil.


by: kevin from: texas
March 25, 2013 10:10 PM
The "B" in BRICS represents Brazil, not Britain. A small error.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil Wari
X
Adam Bailes
December 22, 2014 3:45 PM
In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Town of Bentiu

Six months ago, Bentiu was a ghost town. The capital of northern Unity State, near South Sudan’s important oil fields, had changed hands several times in fighting between government forces and rebels. Calm returned in November and since then, residents of Bentiu have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy. Bentiu’s market has reopened there are plans to start school again. But fears of new attacks hang heavy, as Benno Muchler reports from Bentiu.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.

All About America

AppleAndroid