Partisan struggle in Washington makes US commitments to Africa ‘laughable lip-service’
Published: Dec 14, 2022 10:56 PM Updated: Dec 14, 2022 10:53 PM
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit 2022, in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022. Photo: VCG

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit 2022, in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022. Photo: VCG

 The US is holding a summit with African countries in Washington from Tuesday to Thursday this week and will try to convince Africans that the US offers a "better option" to the continent than other major powers, especially China, but Chinese analysts said Washington's policy toward Africa has been driven by its outdated and unrealistic Cold War mentality with obvious anti-China sentiment, rather than focusing on real development for Africa.

Therefore, adding the long-standing arrogant attitude held by the US in the front of developing countries and the endless partisan struggle within Washington, "commitments" made by the Biden administration to Africa will just be performative, arrogant lectures, and political conditions that only prioritize US hegemonic interests, and African countries will listen and watch what they can get from the US, but won't be fooled.

For China's part, there is no need to be worried, because China has strong confidence on the solid and mature friendship with the continent, experts said. China's cooperation with African countries eyes on development and common interests, rather than competition with the US, and it has already brought fruitful achievements, so the China-Africa ties will remain strong and be further improved despite impacts from the forces with bad intentions. China will also be confident to welcome other major world powers to pay joint efforts to boost the development of Africa, but it seems like the US only wants to compete with China rather than help Africa, they noted.

Sick intention

With dozens of African leaders descending on Washington this week, the Biden administration is offering a not-so-subtle pitch in its economic competition with China on the continent: The US offers a better option to African partners, said a report by the AP.

Ahead of Tuesday's start of the three-day US-Africa Leaders Summit, Deputy Commerce Secretary Don Graves acknowledged that the US has fallen behind as "China has surged past American foreign direct investment in Africa" but argued that the US remains the "partner of choice" in Africa.

"It's extremely obvious that when Washington makes some plans for Africa and claimed that these plans will help the continent to develop, US policymakers are always thinking about competition or a new cold war with its rivals, and these plans will always be conditional, as the US always wants to control others through investments and aid, and they don't care about long-term sustainable development, and they will force others to stop cooperation with other major powers even the cooperation brings actual benefits to the locals," Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times.

The AFP said in a report that "the African leaders flew into the Washington cold for the first continent-wide summit with the United States in eight years" as US President Joe Biden seeks to "use personal diplomacy to win back influence."

Therefore, it's not surprising that the US has "fallen behind" and failed to get the influence it wants, and unfortunately, it's also not very welcomed by many African people considering its bad record in creating chaos in the continent, and it's laughable that the US still wants Africa to treat it as a "partner of choice" without changing its sick intention, Li noted.

US senior officials are not trying to hide their sick intention at all since they warned Tuesday during the summit that "China and Russia were destabilizing Africa." Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, at a panel with several African presidents at the start of the three-day summit, told African leaders that "China was expanding its footprint in Africa on a daily basis through its growing economic influence," according to AFP.

Chinese analysts said it seems that US officials like Austin have forgotten how many African countries have been bombed by the US and other Western countries, and how many times the US has used and created chaos in the continent to plunder natural resources, and how arrogant the US elites behaved when lecturing Africans about "democracy" and "human rights" but showing racism and discrimination at the same time.

When the US and other Western countries bring chaos and pain to the continent, China has paid continuous efforts to help Africa to realize development and fight common challenges like epidemics and food crises together, and those US officials should better learn how much infrastructure and modernized facilities China has built for Africa with no political condition attached, and if they learnt, they would be embarrassed, experts said.

Many African scholars have criticized the US for not truly caring about the continent's development, but only using it to serve its geopolitical strategy, noting the purpose of this summit is not to make Africa better but to make the US better.

Partisan struggles and lip-services

Biden's plan for the summit with African leaders is also drawing criticism from Republicans who contend it should "focus directly on beating back China's influence on the continent," the Washington Post reported on Tuesday. House Republicans plan to take a hawkish approach to China — the centerpiece of their foreign policy agenda when they take control of the House next year — and they have been looking for opportunities to portray the administration as going too easy on China, the report said.

Li said this shows how the partisan struggle in Washington affects US' foreign policy. "If Biden is honest that his policy toward Africa is what Republicans asked for (it's all about competing with China), then Biden won't struggle to get budget approvals from Congress," Li added. But African leaders will stay away from his plans because no one wants to be forced to take sides, "especially when an arrogant hegemon asked you to cut off your friendship with a trustworthy and sincere old friend."

But if Biden doesn't do what Republicans say, his commitments to Africa will become meaningless, because the Republicans won't offer Biden budgets to implement US' policy toward Africa, and Republicans are not considering foreign affairs but only care about how to use their power in the House to sabotage Democrats, Li noted.

Although no one knows to what extent the US can fulfill its commitments, US officials will make the commitments loud and clear first. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Monday said that the administration would commit to spending $55 billion in Africa over the next three years on "a wide range of sectors to tackle the core challenges of our time," AP reported.

The present US aid to Africa is around $10 billion per year. The current proposal made by the US to Africa, which commits $55 billion over three years, is a large sum of money, but whether it can be distributed to Africa on time remains a concern since the procedure for the Biden administration to present the plan to Congress and finally get a pass takes at least three years, Song Wei, a professor from the institute of international relations of Beijing Foreign Studies University, told the Global Times.

It is also unclear how much of the $55 billion is free help, debt, or business funding. It also remains to be known how much help the money can bring to Africa, said Song.

The expert noted that after WWII, the US paid the least attention to Africa in its global strategy since the continent is too far away and the African market had little attraction to the US. In addition, the resources in the Middle East received greater attention from the US than North Africa.

However, despite its lack of interest in Africa, the US does not want to see other nations build stronger connections with African countries, especially when China and African countries have grown closer relations since the China-Africa forum in 2000. Moreover, China's Belt and Road Initiative has met with African countries' diverse development demands and provided substantial advantages to the African people, Song said.

African countries do not wish to take sides between major powers. However, the US has worked harder to pressure Africa to join its side. The US openly said in its Africa strategy, which was unveiled in August, that Africa's votes are vital to the US, emphasizing its goal of getting African countries to back the US in critical global problems regardless of Africa's own desire, Song said.

The US released US Strategy toward sub-Saharan Africa in August, in which it stated Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the largest regional voting groups in the UN and the new strategy represents a reframing of Africa's importance to US national security interests.

Since the first US-Africa summit in 2014, the US has taken steps to strengthen ties with Africa. For instance, the Obama administration promised $33 billion to expand America's financial footprint in Africa in 2014. However, commerce between the US and Africa has not developed as expected.

According to a Eurasia Group research, China-Africa trade will be $254 billion in 2021, far above US-Africa trade of $64.3 billion.

How much aid has the US given Africa? It may be hard to name a specific number as most of the US-led projects to Africa were through the World Bank and transnational enterprises with no ends. In contrast, China's programs in Africa turned into railways, hospitals and other infrastructure construction that benefit local developments, Huo Jianguo, vice chairman of the China Society for World Trade Organization Studies in Beijing, told the Global Times.

Moreover, the US may also add more political conditions when talking about cooperation with African countries, which is also different from China, said Huo.