Cooperation in Africa can increase China-US trust

By Song Wei Source:Global Times Published: 2018/12/19 18:34:29

Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT


On December 13, the Trump administration unveiled the new US strategy for Africa, which shifts the nation's priority on the continent from one of counterterrorism to one of competition against China and Russia.

The focus is to counter the growing influence of China and Russia in Africa. The launch of the strategy marks a major shift in the Trump administration's stance on Africa, and there may be underlying political considerations behind such a drastic policy adjustment.

It was at the beginning of the Cold War that the US started to get involved in African affairs. For the strategic purpose of challenging the Soviet Union, the US adopted political, economic, military and other means to control and woo Africa, trying to gain advantages that would squeeze out Soviet forces.

Once the influence of the Soviet Union disappeared after the Cold War ended, Washington reassessed the strategic value of Africa to the US and African issues became the least important part of US foreign policy. In contrast to the US' indifferent attitude toward Africa, European countries like France and Germany have gradually re-established their traditional links with the continent.

Emerging powers like China, India and Russia have carried out mutually beneficial cooperation with Africa, which has led to pressure on the US. Although Africa is the least important part of US foreign policy, the US cannot lose control on the continent.

While the Cold War ended long ago, US policy on Africa has always featured the following characteristics.

First, the US has always seen factors from outside Africa as imaginary enemies. External pressure has been the driving force behind changes in the US' Africa policy. In the military realm, the US increased its assistance to Africa and carried out extensive anti-terrorism cooperation with African countries after the September 11 attacks.

In the economic realm, its market share in Africa having been eroded by European countries and emerging powers, the US rolled out the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which opens up markets to Africa, expands financial and technical support for US-African trade, and promotes economic reforms in African countries.

In the development realm, the US believes that emerging powers such as China have shaken its absolute influence in Africa, which is why it has to change its attitude. Previously, US President Donald Trump sought a one-third cut to the US aid budget to Africa. Yet, after China announced eight initiatives with African countries at the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, Trump immediately signed a bill to establish a new overseas investment agency, which plans to allocate $60 billion to help build infrastructure and promote economic development in Africa and other poverty-stricken regions around the world.

Second, Africa's own internal issues haven't gotten much US concerns and responses. Although the US strengthened cooperation with African countries in the military, economic and development areas, its external pressure-driven Africa policy doesn't help address Africa's own problems. This situation poses policy shortcomings that are hard to overcome, to the detriment of the US' own interests.

Third, the US strategy for Africa, which focuses on external competition, will come at the expense of Africa's development. With the deepening of China-Africa development cooperation, Africa has hitched a ride on the express train of China's economic development.

Ethiopia and other African countries have become the economies with the fastest growth on the continent. Such remarkable achievements have further inspired the ambitions of African countries, which rolled out medium- and long-term plans for their economic development. They are determined to industrialize and participate in the global value chain.

Emerging powers have become an important financing source for Africa's development.

However, due to geopolitical considerations, the US introduced an exclusive and competitive Africa strategy, which requires African countries to "pick a side." No matter which side they choose, it will be at the expense of their development. If the US continues its competitive policy for Africa, the continent risks missing its development opportunities.

Africa's development requires the US and China to shoulder more responsibility. We hope that the US government can recognize the limitations of its Africa policy and explore the feasibility of carrying out China-US cooperation on the continent. This will not only help solve the development bottlenecks of African countries - it will also help build strategic mutual trust between China and the US, contributing to global economic governance.

The author is an associate research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation under the Ministry of Commerce.

Posted in: INSIDER'S EYE

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