Senegal was the first African country to sign up for the “Belt and Road Initiative”, President Xi Jinping’s global push to extend the country’s influence. (photo: scmp.com)
Starting last Saturday, President Xi will visit Senegal, Rwanda, South Africa, and Mauritius and attend a BRICS Summit of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
Observers say the tour is in preparation for China-Africa Summit in Beijing in September, the follow-up to a summit in South Africa in 2015.
Xi’s visits to Senegal, Rwanda, South Africa, and Mauritius trace a belt around Africa, a high-priority region in China’s foreign policy. China has expanded its economic, political, military, and cultural influence there.
Over the last decade, China has gradually replaced the US and EU countries as the most influential country in Africa. China is Africa’s biggest trade partner, with a trade turnover of 220 billion USD in 2017.
China has built over 100 industrial parks in Africa and 40% of them are already in operation. Last year, China’s investment in Africa exceeded 100 billion USD in roads, railways, and telecommunications projects.
China’s interest in Africa is not merely trade. Africa is an abundant supplier of raw materials - fuel, minerals, crude oil, iron ore, metals, wood, and agricultural products. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says China will be the world’s biggest oil consumer in 2030. Africa is China’s second biggest oil supplier, after the Middle East, with 1.4 million barrels per day.
Railways have changed the whole region and helped China deepen political integration in Africa.
China has opened 50 Confucius Institutes across the continent. The Chinese government has provided more scholarships for African students to study in China. Working in Africa for a certain period is compulsory for leaders of China’s major groups.
China has formed a big bloc of African allies at the UN.
A different approach from the West’s
China’s success in Africa is attributed to its different view of the continent compared with the West. China has offered generous loans to African countries, while the West has attached too many conditions.
Most African countries think they are very far down on the priority list of the Trump administration. The US’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposes to cut 20% of health programs and a third of all diplomatic activities for Africa. Early this year, President Trump made a disparaging remark about Africa which he then had to walk back.
China sees lucrative potentials in Africa. Besides huge investment projects, Chinese media has always underscored that the principle of not interfering in Africa’s politics is a foundation of diplomatic relations.
President Xi Jinping’s visits to African countries illustrate China’s consistent policy of respecting Africa’s economic and political position. It’s a strategic lever with which to reinforce China’s power and influence in Africa.