PINR’s analysis of China’s Great Game in Africa on the eve of the China-African summit held in Beijing.
This weekend, 48 African heads of state will attend the third ministerial conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (F.O.C.A.C.) in Beijing. The three-day event is being billed as the largest summit China has hosted in modern history, and Beijing has even invited leaders from the five African states that recognize Taiwan to attend as observers. The summit will host 1,700 delegates, including representatives from private companies and international organizations. The motivations for hosting the extravagant event are clear: China is seeking to diversify its access to natural resources, shore up diplomatic support for Chinese initiatives at the United Nations and other multilateral organizations, and develop markets for its exports.
What does China want from Africa?
It is about Oil and other natural resources needed to power Beijing’s rapidly growing economy.
China’s rapidly expanding economy fueled its interest in Africa again in the late 1990s. Since 2000, two-way trade has grown from US$10 billion to an expected $50 billion this year. China is Africa’s third largest trading partner, behind the United States and France. Oil accounts for a large portion of this trade, as Africa provides one-third of China’s oil imports. This is a trend that is likely to continue since China will become more dependent on oil imports in the coming years.
China is also interested in securing other resources from Africa, and is using similar methods to secure iron, uranium, copper, as well as agricultural products. Beijing has remained President Robert Mugabe’s main lifeline in Zimbabwe, even as the West has isolated his government for defaulting on loans and continued human rights concerns. China’s ambassador to Namibia recently announced Beijing’s intention to import uranium from the country.
What is China giving to Africa in return?
China currently has trade agreements with 28 African states under which 190 goods can be exported to China duty-free, mostly unprocessed natural resources. It can be expected that these agreements will be expanded to more countries and a wider variety of goods at this weekend’s conference. China has already canceled $10 billion in debt owed by 31 African states, and more cancellations are likely to be announced this weekend. There will also be announcements for new plans to encourage Chinese companies to invest in Africa.
China’s infrastructure investments rarely contain a transfer of technology agreement — something Beijing is notorious for enforcing on foreign direct investments in China.
The road ahead………