Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, February 13, 2021

Where’s a budding superpower supposed to spread its economic and political wings when it has contentious relationships in its own neighborhood? To sub-Saharan Africa, where China is filling the void left by Western powers.

Aside from the economic inroads being made by Chinese goods and investments, Beijing’s willingness to use its diplomatic muscle (especially as a member of the U.N. Security Council) on behalf of African regimes is most interesting:

China has also shown a propensity for stepping in to deal with governments spurned by the West over human rights issues. Chinese companies moved in to run Sudan’s oil industry when Western companies would not deal with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s government over accusations of widespread rights abuses.

China is also the strongest foreign ally of Zimbabwe, now treated as a pariah state under Robert Mugabe, also accused of rights abuses.

To me, this suggests nothing more than addressing a geopolitical vacuum. China’s relations with East and Southeast Asian countries are historically frosty, as they are with India. Its mutually beneficial pact with Russia is helpful, but doesn’t provide it with an avenue for influence. Latin America is receptive to Chinese overtures, but realistically won’t slip from the U.S.’s orbit anytime soon. The process of elimination leaves Africa as the most promising zone for expanding foreign policy.

What is Africa worth right now as an aligned sphere? Not much. It’s strictly a proving ground. Whether or not it pans out — will infrastructure needs on the continent ever align? — is irrelevent in the short term. If nothing else, Chinese willingness to befriend pariah governments should be a welcoming sign to oil-rich Middle Eastern regimes, should they need leverage in disputes with Europe or America.

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 02/13/2006 10:47:11 PM
Category: Political | Permalink |

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