in the Developing World
Joseph M. Staub
recent years China has expanded
diplomatic relations in Africa and, to a lesser extent, Latin
America. In November of 2006, a summit in Beijing between the Chinese government and
nearly 40 African heads of state. The summit concluded with China and Africa launching a “new nearly $2
billion in deals. Ten years ago, China’s foreign aid to African
countries numbered roughly around $100 million, today that number is closer to
$2.7 billion. Closer ties are most evident in Beijing’s increased investment in and booming
trade with the African continent. From 2000 to 2005, trade between China and Africa increased from under $10
billion up to nearly $50 billion. What
has been motivating Beijing’s
increased interests in regions outside their traditional sphere of influence?
The main force driving this interest in Africa and Latin America is the
Chinese’s desire to gain access to oil and other important natural resources,
but it is conceivable that developing close relations with some of these
nations might prove beneficial in curbing the United States global influence.
economy is booming, averaging 9.1% per year for the past decade, and can only
be sustained by increasingly high levels of energy consumption. At one time China was the largest exporter of oil in Asia,
now they are the world’s second largest importer of petroleum products behind
the United States.
In addition, China
has other insatiable hungers, having become the world’s largest consumer of many
other raw materials, including aluminum, copper, and iron ore. Domestic
production of oil in China
has declined and become increasingly stagnant. Based on the current trends;
demand will continue to rise, thus dictating the need for the Chinese to increase
both their imports and the number of suppliers in order to avert possible
shortages. China currently
imports roughly 30% of its oil from Africa, mainly from Angola, Sudan,
and the Republic
of Congo. Yet, China is wary
of over-dependence on its African and Middle Eastern energy suppliers, who all
run the risk of “internal political upheaval or terrorist attack.?In addition most
of China’s oil imports from
the aforementioned countries pass through the unstable Strait
of Malacca, where piracy is a concern. This has prompted China to also look
towards Latin American energy producing countries that could ship directly
across the Pacific.
interests in U.S. dominated Latin America.
interests in Latin America include “direct
stakes in energy companies, joint ventures with state companies and investment
in infrastructure?a style='mso-footnote-id:ftn3' href="#_ftn3" name="_ftnref3"
title=""> as well
as a pledge to invest US$100 billion over ten years. Beijing however appears to be taking a rather
pragmatic approach to relations with Latin American countries. The Chinese are
aware of the United States?
traditional hegemony in the region, and will be careful to not appear as if
they are challenging it. China
will thus be reluctant to offer political support to Latin American allies like
Venezuela, for fear of
clashing with the U.S.
This does not necessarily mean that in the future the dragon will awake when
the time is right and expand its regional influence, but at the present Chinese
presence in Latin America is nothing more than
a perceived threat rather than a reality. Latin America is heavily dependent
economically on the U.S.,
and is likely to remain so for quite some time. In 2005 Latin America sent only
4% of its total exports to China,
whereas 47% went to the United
States. Even if China
follows through and fulfills its pledge of US$100 billion to the region, it
will still be dwarfed by the economic influence of the U.S. The United States should be mindful about China’s
involvement in the region but not overly guarded. The Chinese will never become
overly dependent on oil from Latin America and they do not consider the region
valuable enough to risk provoking the U.S.
The issue of containing the spread of Chinese influence is much more pressing
in Southeast Asia and the African continent.
Dragon rising on the Dark Continent.
United States and other Western
Democracies should be wary of China’s
increasing presence in African countries. The Chinese increased need for energy
and raw materials was one of the main factors contributing to a surge in global
commodity prices. This surge proved to be rather beneficial for the economies
of sub-Saharan Africa in 2001-04, when GDP growth accelerated to an average of 4.4%.
In 2005, 10% of sub-Saharan Africa’s international trade was with China,
a number that is projected to double by 2010.
While the Chinese most transparent objective driving their African foreign
policy is to secure energy and raw materials, political objectives are also being
secured. Recipients of Chinese investment are conditioned to endorse a unified
People’s Republic of China,
rejecting Taiwanese sovereignty. Thus far forty-eight African countries have cut
off diplomatic ties to Taipei and adhered to Beijing’s “one-China?
principle. For the most part, China’s
aid packages are given without conditionalities or pressures to reduce poverty or
cooperate with international financial organizations. This might seem very
alluring to African leaders and bureaucrats who may resent such
conditionalities placed on their governments by Western donors.
increasing presence in the developing world also means “the spread of
businesses with poor environmental and labor regulations and little
accountability.?The availability of large amounts aid and diplomatic attention
with little or no conditionalities imposed on the recipient also serves to
undermine the ability of Western donors or multilaterals to encourage
democratization and “good governance?in exchange for their aid. According to
the tenants of realism, Hans Morgenthau states: ?/span>Much of
what goes by the name of foreign aid today is in the nature of bribes. The
transfer of money and services from one government to another performs here the
function of a price paid for political services rendered or to be rendered.?a style='mso-footnote-id:ftn6' href="#_ftn6" name="_ftnref6"
Morgenthau’s statement explains the logic and means behind which Beijing is attempting to
accrue natural resources and spread its influence as an emerging player in the
international political arena. As the Chinese increase their flow of investment
and aid, Western influence, perceived by many Africans as neo-colonial in
nature, will undoubtedly begin to diminish.
United States in Africa
Past and Present.
States spent billions in Africa during the Cold War
attempting to align nations with the West and contain the spread of communism. In
fact much of Africa became a proxy battlefield for U.S.-Soviet competition
during the 1970s and 1980s. The United States
gave billions in the guise of foreign aid to countries that served strategic U.S. interests or aligned against the Soviets,
such as natural resource rich Zaire
often made promises to contribute to sustainable economic growth, peace, and
security, but the priorities of supporting Cold War objectives frequently
outweighed their desire to contribute significantly to African development.
Much of the aid given to African nations went directly from the U.S.
into the hands of corrupt leaders, and did little to contribute constructively
to tackling the plethora of problem facing the continent.
immediate post-Cold War years saw a decline in U.S.
involvement and interest in Africa as the result of the disastrous intervention
in Somalia and the Clinton administrations
failure to deal with the Rwandan genocide. Ultimately the U.S. became
impatient trying to achieve unrealistic short-term goals, and an inability to
sustain funding. The United
States also placed a higher priority on
other significant global developments. This contributed to the widely-held
African view that the United
States was an unreliable partner. A 1995
Department of Defense Security Strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa stated that
“ultimately we see very little traditional strategic interest in Africa.?a
style='mso-footnote-id:ftn7' href="#_ftn7" name="_ftnref7" title="">
After the events of September 11, the United
States under the Bush administration reevaluated Africa’s
strategic importance. The 2006 National Security Strategy stated that “Africa
holds growing geo-strategic importance and is a high priority…our security
depends upon partnering with Africans.?a style='mso-footnote-id:ftn8'
href="#_ftn8" name="_ftnref8" title="">
This Bush administrations newfound interest in Africa in terms of American
national security concerns sounds promising, but how will a plan be
implemented. The U.S.
has in the past spent more time and money responding to African crises than it
has helping African states develop means to prevent crisis from arising in the
United States for far to long has reduced its strategic interests in Africa to
simply securing energy resources and countering terrorism. Rather it was only
considered convenient, not integral, to the U.S.?physical welfare and economic
affluence to address humanitarian and development challenges. The more the United States views Africa as significant to its
long term strategic interests, the more likely effective solutions to these
challenges will be sought. The more tactical and involved the U.S.?strategy in Africa is, the more appealing
it will be. Offering aid and investment, with lots strings attached will
ultimately fail to win over the support the U.S. so desires. The Chinese have
begun to offer an enticing model of development which is more hands-off than
Western democracies, and this would appear to be more appealing than submitting
to a host of perceived neo-colonial demands. Africa’s strategic importance in
the global system may appear to be lagging because of the extreme poverty that
exists in some regions and the internal disorder that plagues many states, but
if the U.S. does not move to counter China sooner than later it might be to
has been suggested that overall prosperity created by a democratic market could
conceivably cause reforms along democratic lines to spontaneously emerge. Before
a democratic market is able to appeal to parts of Africa, the Chinese will have
already undermined any attempts to spread further democracy, because their
foreign aid and investment model is one that does not push for increased
democratic values and more transparency within the government. Many Africans
are wary of Western intentions, perceiving them as an act of neo-colonialism. America’s influence and economic power in Latin
America has kept China at
arms length, but its waning power in Africa has allowed China to put
its foot in the door. The Chinese could conceivably be poised to create a
coalition of its own, as it musters support across the developing world. The
Chinese are not just investing money and increasing trade with African nations;
they are promoting Chinese cultural and language studies as well as providing
scholarships to gifted students to go to a university in China. The Chinese are not just
trying to line the pockets of Africans; they are trying to cultivate the minds
and hearts of African elites. The United States must mobilize to
ensure that the Chinese respect territorial sovereignty. It would be easy to
discount Africa as a lost continent in the eyes of the west, but the fact of
the matter is that if western democracies do not act to contain China’s emerging influence in the developing
world, then places like Africa might be lost to another alliance, one
spearheaded by China.
Cautious Welcome." Economist. 3 Feb. 2007. 27 Sept. 2007
Economist. 3 Nov. 2006. 24 Sept. 2007
Peter. "A Renewed Interest: US-Africa Engagement." Harvard
International Review (2007): 58-62.
Energy Nexus." Economist. 10 Apr. 2007. 25 Sept. 2007
Hans. "A Political Theory of Foreign Aid." The American Political
Science Review os 56 (1962): 301-309. JSTOR. University
of Georgia, Athens. 27 Feb. 2007.