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

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

Iraqi Kurdish Leader: Protect Syrian City

Islamic State fighters are besieging Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, after seizing at least 21 surrounding villages in a major assault against city on Syria's northern border with Turkey More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 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.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid