China has four overarching strategic interests in Africa. First, it wants access to natural resources, particularly oil and gas. It was estimated that, by 2020, China will import more oil worldwide than the United States. To guarantee future supply, China is heavily investing in the oil sectors in countries such as Sudan, Angola, and Nigeria. Second, investments in Africa, a huge market for Chinese exported goods, might facilitate China’s efforts to restructure its own economy away from labor-intensive industries, especially as labor costs in China increase.
Third, China wants political legitimacy. The Chinese government believes that strengthening Sino-African relations helps raise China’s own international influence. Most African governments express support for Beijing’s “One China” policy, a prerequisite for attracting Chinese aid and investment. Finally, China has sought a more constructive role as contributor to stability in the region, partly to mitigate security-related threats to China’s economic interests.
A Senegalese banana vendor wears a T-shirt showing China’s President Hu Jintao and Senegalese leader Abdoulaye Wade along with the slogan “Together with China we will build a new world.” February 2009.
African governments look to China to provide political recognition and legitimacy and to contribute to their economic development through aid, investment, infrastructure development, and trade. To some degree, many African leaders hope that China will interact with them in ways that the United States and other Western governments do not — by engaging economically without condescendingly preaching about good governance, for example, or by investing in high-risk projects or in remote regions that are not appealing to Western governments or companies. Some Africans aspire to replicate China’s rapid economic development and believe that their nations can benefit from China’s recent experience in lifting itself out of poverty. Consider the China- Africa Relationship.
- China is attracted to Africa by its natural resources and export markets, while African leaders hope Chinese engagement brings economic development.
- Africans’ reactions to Chinese involvement have been mixed: Government officials have been overwhelmingly positive, while other elements of African societies criticize China for what they see as an exploitative, neo-colonial approach.
- China has met skepticism with attempts at sustainable development and win-win commercial deals and with a range of soft-power tools to improve its image.
- U.S. and Chinese goals in Africa do not necessarily conflict, and the engagement of both economic powers could be advantageous to Africans.
China is both a long-established diplomatic partner and a new investor in Africa. Chinese interests on the continent encompass not only natural resources but also issues of trade, security, diplomacy, and soft power.