Vying for influence dilutes Obama’s African visit

By Liu Zhun Source:Global Times Published: 2015-7-27 0:18:02

US President Barack Obama's Africa trip is headline-grabbing, especially because he has finally made his first visit to Kenya as US president before his tenure ends 18 months later. However, Obama's high-profile visit has one more purpose, which is offsetting China's growing influence in this continent and recovering past US leverage.

Before the visit, Obama was asked in a BBC interview how he feels about China's expanding presence in Africa. Obama's answer is rife with typical one-sided Western implications about the Chinese economy and politics. He said that the surplus China has gleaned in global trade and the fact that China has no accountability for constituencies make the country "funnel an awful lot of money into Africa, basically in exchange for raw materials that are being extracted from Africa."

Although Obama also said the Americans "welcome" China's investments, his diplomatic rhetoric can't conceal the notion that the US is nervous about its rise, taking China as a rival in Africa.

In the past six decades, Sino-African relations have been consistent and based on an equal footing. Beijing is committed to seeking mutual interests with African countries through aid, commerce and infrastructure cooperation. China sees relations with Africa as a two-way interaction. But the US obviously lacks a consistent Africa policy. Obama gave the continent, especially Kenya, a cold shoulder in his first term due to political issues over his birthplace. But with no such worries in the second term, he changed his Africa policy as the land reveals its potential. Much worse, Washington is trying to reshape its image by criticizing China's Africa policy as "stadium diplomacy."

The US used to be a dominant power in Africa. Four years ago, US-Africa trade volume was worth $125 billion. But it dropped to merely $70 billion in 2014, only one-third of the trade volume between China and Africa. A change of position has touched the nerves of the US.

To some extent, the remnants of colonialism make the US feel China is a threat instead of another constructive power to bring welfare to the land.

China wouldn't feel the same as the US if it was going through such a turnover, because it respects Africa for its rights to cooperate with any external powers. If China's investments and aid can encourage the US to be more involved in Africa's development, Africa will benefit more from the largest two economies. Let's hope Washington plays its cards fair and square, and does not make the land an arena for major-power rivalry.

Posted in: Observer

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