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 On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge 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.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid