China’s trade with Africa

Jacob Kushner, “China’s Congo Plan,” The American Interest, 10 January 2014

The Chinese are by no means the world’s first to seek their fortunes in Congo. But unlike the Western powers whose legacy is burdened to this day by colonialism, China’s footprints in Africa have been relatively “conflict-free.” During the first decade of the 21st century, at least 230,000 Chinese immigrated to Africa—as many as one million by some estimates. They opened import businesses, electronics shops, pharmacies and restaurants. Chinese trade with Africa blossomed, and China began looking for ways to help some of its state-owned companies to do more business across the continent than ever before. Two Chinese state banks began loaning money to companies willing to make bold investments. China’s Export-Import Bank, the smaller of the two, now provides more loans to sub-Saharan Africa than the World Bank, loans increasingly used to develop African infrastructure. By 2006, Chinese companies were investing more than $6 billion per year in roads, railways and other public infrastructure projects across Africa. By 2015, the figure is expected reach $50 billion. …

China recognizes that in Africa, visits from dignitaries (or snubs, such as when Obama refused to visit Kenya due to alleged human rights violations by the country’s newly elected president) can hold more sway than policies alone. Joshua Eisenman, Senior Fellow in China Studies at the Washington-based American Foreign Policy Council, pointed out last year that for African leaders, “When you go to China you get to meet the Foreign Minister. I don’t know if you’ll meet Hillary Clinton when you come here.” In a 2006 article for the Heritage Foundation, Peter Brookes and Ji Hye Shin describe the birth of China’s Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in 2000. In the years since, the initiative has convened five summits between China and African nations, bringing an unprecedented 48 African leaders to the dialogue held in 2006.

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