China and Africa, a brief update

At the beginning of 2006, China released an impressive policy towards Africa that had all the right nouns and verbs for an effective public diplomacy strategy. The real result was to be seen over time as China needed to overcome its reputation in Africa, despite some successes that were mostly lauded by China itself.

This month, however, China seems to be finding some success with its new policy: China and African Nations Set Trade Deals Worth $1.9 Billion.

China and a number of African nations agreed Sunday on 16 trade and investment deals valued at $1.9 billion, as Beijing extended its efforts to create a broad economic and diplomatic partnership with Africa, a resource-rich continent.

President Hu Jintao also pledged to extend $5 billion in loans and credits to Africa, forgive past debts and double foreign aid to the continent.

The aid announcement and deal-making capped a weekend of meetings that brought high-level representatives of 48 of the 53 African countries to Beijing. It was an unusually sweeping diplomatic initiative by China, which until recently had tended to focus mainly on domestic development rather than overseas expansion…

More recently, Mr. Hu has made cultivating new economic and diplomatic ties to Africa a foreign policy priority even as the United States concentrates on combating terrorism.

China has been busy throughout Africa. While China actively moves into areas ignored by and to the detriment of the United States, we continue to borrow from them, partly financing their forays around the continent. As we address problems through largely superficial methods, they are softly and quietly creating (potentially) long-term partnerships.

Let’s not be naive and think China will immediately ‘win’ Africa and have partners for life. For sure China still has to follow through with its commitments and perhaps more importantly, do a better job integrating with Africa to not annoy the locals. However, they are much further along the path of combating the root-causes of terrorism than we are.

On the bright side, al-Qaeda and its associates movements will probably learn to hate the Chinese as well. I’d be interested to hear how believers in the Clash of Civilizations will frame anti-Chinese attacks (when they happen ‘in public’).

See earlier posts on China in Africa.

Technorati tags: China, Africa, Public Diplomacy