China and Africa Part 2: Africa, China and their relationships with ‘the West’

In the last blog, I talked about China’s investment in Africa, what impact it has had and how countries in the West, such as the US, are responding. However, the monumental impact of the US in Africa cannot be ignored either. They have been major donors of Sudan and have held political relations with them since 1956. In 9th July 2011, South Sudan become an independent state, with 98.83% favouring liberation. The US department of State claimed this was due to how the US ‘played a key role in helping create the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between Sudan and South Sudan that laid the groundwork for South Sudan's 2011 independence referendum and secession’. Furthermore, the US has consistently provided humanitarian aid to both Sudan and South Sudan and pledged on 9th February 2015, to donate $273 million to victims of the South Sudan civil war, a war that left 2 million people displaced and 2.5 million in poverty. 

US vs China
 Ever since China's ‘soft power’ tactic has risen as a success, that is, paying money in donations with the agreement of gaining access to natural resources, the US may arguably be finding ways and means of ensuring its power is still enshrined within the African continent. For example, an article on the Global Research website reports that the US is increasing its military presence in the African continent as it fears it may ‘lose competition with China if it continues to move along economic rails only.’ Therefore the aim of the US may debatably be to ensure its relations with African countries, are superior to China’s relations with Africa, if not on par.

Maybe the US is solely concerned with maintaining global dominance. Maybe China is solely concerned with ensuring they have access to natural resources. Realists may argue that China and the US ultimately have an ulterior motive behind their strategies, in particular, when aiding other countries. As Thomas Hobbes famously denotes in Leviathan, the state of nature is consistently deemed to be prone to ‘a war of all against all.’

However, realist and idealist theories aside, what we do know is that in terms of investment, China still lags behind the US and the EU. However, according to Boris Volkhonsky, the main difference is China’s attitude compared to the West, primarily the US, for using its ‘soft power’ to create a positive impression of itself ‘rather than twisting the arms of its partners and expanding military presence’.

An element of competition will always exist between China and the US when it comes to relations with Africa, and it can be argued that it will be hard for these superpowers to cooperate when some African countries take advantage of the lack of coordination between the two. Jane Olin-Ammentorp, a special investigator at the US Department of State, and Yun Sun, a member of the African Growth Initiative, suggest ‘a lack of coordination creates an advantage for Africa because it creates checks and balances between the two powers, making room for Africans to maximize their flexibility’.   

Leesha Hasrajani is membership assistant at AMBA