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 Protests Continue in Ferguson, Spread to Other US Cities

Missouri officials say deployment of more than 2,000 National Guard soldiers helps curb second night of rampant arson and looting in Midwestern town More

Video Ebola, Crackdown on Illegals Hit Business in Guangzhou

Chinese city has largest community of Africans in Asia More

Video Legendary Lebanese Actress, Singer Sabah Dies at 87

Music and film diva, affectionately called 'Sabbouha' by millions of her fans, performed at Carnegie Hall in New York, Royal Albert Hall in London, Olympia in Paris, Sydney Opera House in Sydney 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.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid