“A New Proxy War:

?/span>Creating a Democratic Bloc to Counter China’s Rising Influence in Africa.?/span>


By Kristen E. Tullos

September 2007



In 1992, Francis Fukuyama claimed the end of history had arrived, referring to the defeat of socialism and the widespread acceptance of liberal democracy.?He describes democracy as the final state of political evolution and the only legitimate form of government.?Founded on democratic capitalism, the framework of the global economy has developed and expanded.?However, a new conflict is brewing, in direct contradiction to Fukuyama’s assertion that the great ideological clashes had come to an end.?The new conflict is festering between a democratic United States and an authoritarian China.?

While China does boast an enormous population, population is not the key determinant of power, especially not of economic power in the age of globalization.?It is uncontested that an economy with more participants has the potential to experience larger economies of scale, but globalization itself facilitates economies of scale to an even greater extent.?The only reason why economies of scale cannot be fully realized is due to protective measures enacted to protect domestic industries from competition.?Even a large workforce is not enough to make a country a global economic power—productivity must be considered when comparing economic capacity, not only the size of the workforce.?

China has experienced an economic boom because they have adopted one element of liberalism—capitalism—and rejected the rest, including press freedoms, free speech, and fairly contested elections.?However, economic liberalization is yet untested in its long-run compatibility with political repression.?I believe that economic and political freedom cannot be forever compartmentalized in the minds of the Chinese people.?The Chinese leadership is well aware of these potential difficulties, and this is the one advantage they have over liberalism.?Contrary to the sudden buyouts and unpredictable flows of investment that characterize capitalism, the Chinese, less interested in quick gains, map out long-term development plans that span decades.?Their plan now is to gradually become a world power, overtaking the United States as the major force guiding the global economy.?So far, they have executed this strategy very effectively.

Why is China’s rise as a world power problematic? A dictatorial government is seeking to become the global hegemon.?The spread of liberalism, freedom, and the stability of democratic governance that is responsive to its populace are at risk.?We must do everything in our power to contain the rise of China unless it democratizes politically, which seems very unlikely in the near future. China’s economic growth centers on their ability to take advantage of the global demand for cheap goods and export more than they import.?An effective way of counteracting their growth driver is to increase our economic convergence with other democratic powers, facilitating trade between the allied parties by making it cheaper and more efficient, and therefore reducing the demand for Chinese goods.?

Economic convergence of the United States and the European Union has the potential to spark the construction of a Grand Alliance, a global economic block comprised solely of democratic states.   They are two major powers that can boast a relatively high level of trust in one another and many historical connections and collaborations.  ?However, the likelihood of America proposing to merge the Western markets is very small.?America’s steadfast determination to remain a hegemonic power, although blind to reality, hinders attempts at creating lasting agreements with foreign entities from the outset.   To circumvent this obstacle, the process of Euro-American convergence must be an incremental process whereby no increase causes fear of losing sovereignty.?The alliance’s scope will naturally increase as its expediency is realized.?

Given America’s general distaste for permanent alliances, the burden of instigating a Euro-American economic alliance is placed on the shoulders of the European Union.?Unfortunately, European public opinion generally opposes making bold moves in world affairs.?As noted by Andris Gobins, president of the European Movement in Latvia, “A more pro-active EU does not mean a counterpart to the US, it means being partners. The problem is not American dominance, but European passivity.?a style='mso-endnote-id:edn1' href="#_edn1" name="_ednref1" title="">[i]?While the United States and Europe will be in a partnership, it will not be a partnership of equals in the near future.?The United States is much more inclined to take the lead in international engagements and Europe displays greater passivity.?However, it will be the closest any American involvement has come to displaying a matrix structure and it may develop into one slowly as the alliance grows and solidifies.?

Neither power displays the desire to increase Atlantic ties to the extent that could foster a Euro-American economic market.?For this reason, convergence must proceed slowly for trust to be built and interests to be realized.   The two powers must begin to build a cooperative framework in an area that is not a geopolitical hotspot and therefore less likely to provoke controversy among their domestic constituents.?By the time dire need for economic collaboration comes to fruition, the framework will already be in place to facilitate cooperation.

          ?Economic policy towards the forgotten continent is the perfect area in which to begin building a stronger Euro-American relationship.?Africa has been left behind by modernity, and is hardly even mentioned in The Grand Alliance.?Africa trails the rest of the world in transparency, security, prosperity, freedom and other basic values of democracy.?Due to this plethora of ailments, African trade in global markets has been dismal. Yet despite these glaring flaws, Africa has become the apple of China’s eye.?Boasting a growth rate around 10% per year, China’s demand for energy is likewise growing by leaps and bounds.?By 2045, China is projected to depend on imported oil for 45 percent of its energy needs.[ii]

With the current intensity of American involvement in the Middle East, it is not ideal for China to aggressively court the region for its oil resources. Nevertheless, they are trying to make headway wherever they get a chance by strengthening relationships with Middle Eastern countries, especially Saudi Arabia.   Another example of Chinese negotiations in the Middle East came in October 2004 when China signed its largest energy deal with Iran to date while simultaneously promising to block any American attempt to refer Iran’s nuclear program to the UN Security Council.[iii] ?/span>Nevertheless, after last year’s Chinese-Saudi agreement was signed, increasing assistance on energy and technical issues, an international affairs professor at the People’s University in Beijing commented that, ?span style='color:black'>China will be very cautious, it won't buy oilfields in Saudi Arabia. That would make the US very sensitive.?/span> [iv]?China is keenly aware that it is encroaching in an American “sphere of influence?if it oversteps its boundaries in the Middle East.?

Russia is not a preferred supplier of energy for China either.?Despite its geographic proximity, competition for power within the region as well as tension over Siberia is not conducive to Chinese dependence on Russia.?True, they are on relatively good trading terms, but Russia’s proven ability to leverage its oil supply to attain political ends is sure to make China wary.?

          ?As a result, the Chinese have turned to Africa for additional supplies of natural resources.?Between 2002 and 2003, trade between China and Africa doubled to $18.5 billion, reaching $50 billion by the end of 2006, and continues to grow at such exponential rates. [v][vi] China’s largest African trading partners, Angola and Sudan, now account for a quarter of China’s oil imports.[vii]?China has become Africa’s third-largest trading partner, still trailing the United States and France, but gaining ground quickly.[viii]?Is this influx of Chinese investment good for Africa??Yes and no.?It’s improved the African infrastructure and increased the amount of wealth entering the country.?The Chinese treat African elites as respected trading partners, especially compared to the historically condescending attitudes of the West.?In fact, China now has more embassies in Africa than the United States.[ix]?However, the Chinese policy of non-intervention in internal affairs provides an excuse to ignore the egregious behavior of certain regimes, eliminating any moral impediment to Chinese-African trade agreements and investment opportunities.?A sampling of the dictatorships economically supported by Chinese trade and loans includes and two of the most notorious regimes, Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe and the al-Bashir presidency in Sudan.?

The Chinese investment strategy may be advantageous for most African elites, but it is not in the best interest of Africans suffering the effects of living under non-democratic, non-transparent regimes that regularly violate human rights.?Nor is it conducive to long run development.?China has employed Africa as an export market for its cheap goods, undermining local industries and putting many Africans out of work.? In addition, Chinese labor is imported for the many refineries and other industrial jobs created by Chinese investment in Africa rather than hiring from among the numerous unemployed in the local population.[x]?China reaps the majority of the gains from trade and African elites have an ally to help them remain in power, yet many of the benefits from trade are not benefits are not trickling down to improve overall living standards.

Would close relations with the West be preferable??If a few changes are made to the Western investment and aid architecture, absolutely—and it would be in the West’s best interest for security, economic, and geopolitical reasons.?First, anarchy breeds terror.?Terrorists organize and train where governance is at a minimum and flourishes in places like Iraq, Somalia, and the tribal areas of Pakistan. In our quest to diminish the threat of terrorism, we cannot afford to ignore the glaring fact that eight of the world’s ten most unstable countries are in sub-Saharan Africa. [xi]?Furthermore, China’s involvement is exacerbating violent conflicts.?The Chinese appear impervious to African conflicts, as well as international sanctions, and have provided weapons to Sudan and Zimbabwe, among others.?A statement by China’s Deputy Foreign Minister accurately reflects Beijing’s policy: "Business is business. We try to separate politics from business. Secondly, I think the internal situation in the Sudan is an internal affair, and we are not in a position to impose upon them."[xii]

Also, Africa is an important source of natural resources, including oil, gas, diamond, gold, platinum, chromium, ferroalloy, and coal reserves.[xiii]?Increasing trade with Africa on fair terms would not only benefit African development, but it would give the Euro-American alliance preferential access to the many natural resources of the continent.? Economically, a strong African trading bloc in the Grand Alliance would benefit all parties involved.?An obvious source of natural resources and cheap labor, African potential for growth has yet to be realized and it has the potential to become an export market for the West, especially for the large systems industry of Germany and the technology expertise of the United States, if it stabilizes and modernizes.?

Another reason for engagement with the forgotten continent is very obvious, but often overlooked: the vital need to encourage democracy. Many African countries are at a precipice, precariously teetering between totalitarianism, anarchy, and some form of indirect representation.?Democracy can do more than any other force to help Africa achieve the previously stated objectives of stability, security, and economic growth. We must empower dissidence within totalitarian regimes, encourage development at the grassroots level, and allow Africa to feel the benefits of democratization stemming from inclusion in the newly formed democratic trading bloc.?

We must form a Grand Alliance fight the trade war that China has initiated, uniting in opposition to Chinese influence throughout the world. We are at the threshold of this new Cold War.   The West must diverge drastically from the strategy used to counter Soviet expansion during the last century.? We will fight this war with economic policy rather than local militias (I hear Carlo Pelanda is rather good at waging economic war, perhaps we can employ his services).?Rather than form close ties with any dictator who claims to be anti-Chinese, we must determine our alliances based on democratic representation, transparency, and freedoms.?We should encourage countries to employ democratic methods to achieve their development goals, and offer better incentives than the Chinese, which can easily be done.?

Like the old Cold War, the Soviet Union crumbled from within due to its inefficient political and economic architecture.?The same will happen to China if we can successfully counter its growing influence in the world, beginning with Africa.?It may even undergo democratization if its totalitarian state cannot fulfill its development plan.?It will undoubtedly take more than engagement in Africa undermine China’s rise as a superpower, but it’s certainly an intelligent starting point.

          ?Already, movement in both camps is being made in response to growing Chinese influence in Africa.?President Clinton signed the AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act) in 2000 creating trade incentives for qualified countries in sub-Saharan Africa and earlier this year, President Bush announced AFRICOM, a new regional command for Africa.[xiv]?Previously, responsibility for Africa was split between the European Command (EUCOM), the Central Command (CENTCOM), and the Pacific Command (PACOM)[xv].?Recognizing the geographic and economic importance of the African continent, the United States has decided to step up the defense of its African interests. Around the same time, Europe began planning a EU-Africa Summit, the first in seven years.   The European response to the announcement of the summit exemplifies the difference between Chinese and Western intentions towards Africa.?While China supports Zimbabwe’s current president, Robert Mugabe, Western powers are wary of his mismanagement of Zimbabwe’s economy and rampant violations of human rights.?Gordon Brown, the new British Prime Minister, even threatened not to attend the summit if President Mugabe was allowed to attend.   Ignoring Mugabe’s track record, China has pursued a strong relationship with Mugabe regime and in fact, donated the cobalt-blue titles adorning the President’s mansion.[xvi]  

Despite rhetorically opposing the rampant poverty and dictatorial repression in Africa, neither Europe nor the United States is extending their full support to African economic development.? Both the United States and the European Union have substantial agricultural subsidies and protective tariffs in place preventing African farmers from participating in the large Western markets.?Rather than hedging against unfair competition, the protective measures are creating unjustified advantages for national farm interests, and delaying development of the one industry where a majority of African citizens could benefit from inclusion the global market: agriculture.?In order to convince their voters that lowering barriers to African agricultural exports will not damage the economy (and in fact would likely help by lowering food prices and eliminating inefficient and costly subsidies), an inter-governmental body equipped to monitor the flow of trade should be created, as is suggested in The Grand Alliance.?While intended to facilitate the integration of imported African agricultural goods into Western economies, it could also develop the capacity to serve as an institution to control trade flows between Europe, the United States, and the rest of the countries that eventually may take part in the Grand Alliance.

Despite the potential benefits for all nations involved, there will be many challenges to the proposal.? National farm lobbies will be none too happy about ceding market power to African imports.?However, public sentiment is certainly in favor of assisting the African continent—look no further than the movement for intervention in Darfur for evidence of prevalent moral activism.?By framing the initiative in both moral and security terms, at least in the United States, you appeal to core values on both sides of the political spectrum.?

The economic relationship between the United States and China cannot be ignored.?While the interdependence lessens the likelihood of direct confrontation, the United States needs to reduce its dependence on China’s imports and their investments to avoid disaster in the event that China collapses.? Forming a democratic bloc will help the United States increase trade with other nations and hopefully reduce its growing deficit, especially the portion of it held by the Chinese government.  ?

Another challenge finds its roots in the historical relationship between the West and Africa.?The West’s reputation as a condescending, imperialistic power looking to exploit does not instill trust in the African psyche.?In fact, they blame many of their problems on Western intervention through the centuries, although some grievances are justified and others not.?African wariness of Western institutions such as the WTO and IMF is an excellent reason to create a new forum through which the West can engage Africa.?The U.N. is seen as largely impotent in addressing African needs except in providing aid, which when improperly distributed, can have a negative impact on development.?An alliance in which Africa is asked to participate as an equal would avoid many of the hard feelings Africans justifiably hold against current Western institutions.?

There is still the question of domestic approval.?Collaboration for the defense of Africa would allow the less militant European Union to frame the initiative using “moralist? reasoning rather than admit to engaging in realist power struggles, more in line with the thinking of its populace.? The Unites States could portray the European invitation as a request for the United States to intervene in an effort to fight terrorism and promote democracy, something it has been seeking to do recently, albeit without much international support.?Many in the United States also feel that the current situation in the Security Council is impeding progress in fighting the war on terror and addressing conflicts like the Sudanese conflict.?I believe most U.S. citizens concerned with losing sovereignty would favor some degree of convergence with Europe if it was marketed as an alternative to acting through the U.N.   Building an economic bloc based on trade policy with Africa allows the United States and European Union, rather than work to create reasons for collaboration, to simply embrace a common interest.

If the United States and European Union can successfully overcome these challenges and form a common economic market as outlined in The Grand Alliance, inclusion in the market can be extended to all democratic nations eligible.?Obtaining an invitation to join the democratic market will create an incentive for other countries to democratize so that they can gain full membership and trading rights within the bloc.?

As stated earlier, the United Nations is nearly obsolete when it comes to security concerns and is failing in its mission to eradicate poverty.?It is time for a new group to step up and take the lead in tackling many important issues, especially in the realm of global security—and a democratic bloc would be the perfect body to do so.?Lowering the barriers to trade while retaining enough control to avoid sudden economic shocks will itself do a great deal to eliminate worldwide poverty in a way that is sustainable.?It will also benefit the developed members of the democratic bloc by creating a forum where democracies can exercise their collective influence on world affairs, reducing the economic threat posed by non-member states, and ensuring the architecture of global markets can remain intact to allow for future prosperity.?



[i] “Viewpoints: Where is the EU Heading??span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>?BBC News, 29 April 2004.

[ii] Pan, Esther.?“China, Africa, and Oil.?Council on Foreign Relations, 2007.

[iii] Luft, Gal.?“Fueling the dragon: China’s race to the oil market.?span style='mso-spacerun:yes'>?Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, 2005.

[iv] “Beijing and Riyadh sign oil and gas deal.?International Herald Tribune, 23 Monday 2006.

[v] Ibid

[vi] Brautigam, Deboarah and Adama Gaye. “Is Chinese Investment Good for Africa??Council on Foreign Relations, 2007.  ?

[vii] Ford, Peter. “China Woos African Trade.?Christian Science Monitor 03 Nov 2006?

[viii] Pan, Esther.?“China, Africa, and Oil.?Council on Foreign Relations, 2007.

[ix] Rotberg, Robert I. “China’s Mixed Role in Africa.?The Boston Globe, 23 June 2007

[x] Ibid

[xi] “The Failed States Index.?Foreign Policy, July/August 2007.

[xii] Howard W. French, "China in Africa: All Trade and No Political Baggage," The New York Times, August 8, 2004.

[xiii] Klein, Naomi. “A Noose Not a Bracelet.?The Guardian, 10 June 2005.

[xiv] Lyman, Princeton N., and J. Stephen Morrison. “More than Humanitarianism: A Strategic U.S. Approach Toward Africa.?Council on Foreign Relations, 2006.

[xv] Pham, J. Peter. “Strategic Interests.?World Defense Review, February 2007.

[xvi] McLaughlin, Abraham.?“A Rising China Counters US Clout in Africa.?The Christian Science Monitor, 30 March 2005.