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Beijing's Safari: China's Move into Africa and Its Implications for Aid, Development, and Governance

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Abstract:

China's economic and cultural relationship with Africa provokes serious questions in the West about international aid, human rights and energy security. On the eve of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Beijing this November 3-5, how should Western nations view China's burgeoning relationship with Africa, and what does it suggest about China's new approach to global diplomacy?

In a new Carnegie Policy Outlook, Beijing's Safari: China's Move into Africa and Its Implications for Aid, Development, and Governance, Carnegie Visiting Scholar Joshua Kurlantzick argues that Beijing has quickly become a major donor and investor across Africa, and has savvily used multilateral forums like FOCAC to cultivate African elites. As a result, China now rivals the United States, France, and international financial institutions for influence on the continent. Chinese loans and grants to African nations, which now reach nearly $3 billion, have become much more enticing than condition-laden aid from international institutions. Beijing also has wooed African nations with aid for infrastructure, a ban on export tariffs for the poorest nations, and its status as a market for African goods and services.

Chinese engagement in Africa could be a catalyst for positive change on the continent. But the China-Africa relationship also could be damaging to African politics, environments, and debt loads. Kurlantzick argues that China should develop a broader strategy of influence in Africa -- using soft power to build popularity among African publics, rather than reinforcing authoritarian regimes. China should also create a permanent aid bureaucracy capable of working with other donors.

Kurlantzick further argues that the United States, Europe, and international financial institutions should not only call for China to be a stakeholder in Africa but give China a stake. This includes considering expanding China's role in the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, and helping China develop a permanent aid bureaucracy. Making China a stakeholder in Africa now will encourage positive Chinese leadership in mediating conflicts, promoting development, and tackling non-traditional security threats in the future.