China's 'Image' Problem in Africa
Image Credit: Bert van Dijk (flickr)

China's 'Image' Problem in Africa


Since the 1950s, China has effectively used the doctrine of non-interference to guide its foreign policy agenda in the developing world. In its recent economic and diplomatic engagements in Africa, the policy has come under intense scrutiny and censure as Beijing attempts to strategically navigate the contours of resource acquisition alongside south-south solidarity with its African counterparts. The West has persistently criticized China for allegedly using non-interference opportunistically to ensure an uninterrupted flow of vital resources and to continue arms sales to rogue regimes in Sudan and Zimbabwe. With a recent wave of Chinese deportations from some African countries and the spotting of Chinese disaffection among sections of African populations, will Beijing respond by stepping up the rhetoric on non-interference or de-emphasizing this as foreign policy platform in Africa?

The policy of non-interference embedded in the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence largely precludes Chinese leaders from intervening in the internal affairs of another country. This respect for the sanctity of sovereignty has been used by Beijing as a pivot for its international political actions or inactions, which often call for tough and tricky choices within the international community. From the abstention from UN Security Council Resolution 1973 which gave the green light for the “no-fly zone” that ended Gaddafi’s rule in Libya, to its almost inert role in Sudan, China has been careful (sometimes too careful) with its colossal diplomatic footprint in Africa.

Fortunately for Beijing, the past decade has been a relative honeymoon as African leaders have grown impatient with Washington’s neoliberal agenda, leading them to readily embrace another option – a promise of economic growth with limited to no political preconditions. Undoubtedly, the policy of non-interference is more popularly among the leadership than the ordinary citizens as the policy does not force leaders to accept democratic standards in order to partner with China. Yet, in recent months China has seen a rise in its deportations from the continent, as well as rising anti-Chinese sentiment among certain segments of African populations. In light of this, Chinese leaders may need to assess whether Beijing is already too deeply domestically involved in Africa to continue its non-interference policy, or, conversely, if this policy should be continued in an effort to avoid being labeled as a “colonializer” and “resource exploiter.”


[...] resources to sustain its economic growth. While there has been much analysis of its activity in Africa and Central Asia, another region of growing importance for China is Latin [...]

[...]  China’s ‘Image’ Problem in Africa - The Diplomat [...]

January 15, 2013 at 19:38

When outsiders flock in too much , and begin to change the natural self of a place then native people do have a gritty feeling against them. That’s natural. It is not question of China or not…this may well apply to anyone.

Jean-Paul Sartre
October 30, 2012 at 04:32

@ John Chan
Once again you are trying to cover up china's expansionist imperialistic mindset by blaming the west for all the world's problems. If China is such a good global actor, then why did China and chinese investments/businesses get kicked out of libya?? Maybe it is because libyan people see China for what it really is, a corrupt usurer who will do whatever it takes to profit and will support dictators like gaddafi who had a poor democratic and human rights record.
I think China should tread lightly in Africa as that is in French sphere of influence. Much like America has its own backyard in Central and South America, France too has its own backyard in Africa. China would do well to learn from its mistake in Libya, if China wants to still be corrupt and expansionist then France will do what she needs to do to kick those corrupt Chinese out of the entire african continent!

October 29, 2012 at 09:38

John Chan wrote: "Does China never exist on this global before? Or are you saying this global is owned by the West and China walked into this global uninvited? Who is the ethnocentric globalist here?"
Firstly, I would like to state that you cant be an ethnocentric globalist as they are mutually exclusive. (In layperson's terms, two events are 'mutually exclusive' if they cannot occur at the same time. An example is tossing a coin once, which can result in either heads or tails, but not both.).
An ethnocentric is a person who believes that their ethnicity is supreme and justifies all actions on behalf of their ethnicity.
A true globalist believes that all people have equality and can do business and benefit from relationships with all people.
Yes, China has existed as a member of the regional community previously but only in the 20th/21st Century has China tried to become a global actor. It does not have a good record of its actions, it may not be obvious to many Chinese citizens but China in the 20th/21st Century has promoted revolution in Africa and Asia. It has sold weaponry to Warlords and Dictators to suppress their people in the name of non interference.
It has ignored and handicapped UN decisions even though it was a member of the UN security council. It has threatened its neighbors while making claims on their EEZ waters. (Yes, I know the US has done the same, but it on no way negates the crimes of PRC.)
Regardless of these issues, its Chinas history and not its most recent one that does raise issues in Asia. To simply present everything from a western ideology is not surprising coming from a Chinese troll as it only understands regional issues from an us against them perspective. A western creation as it appears.
But many nations in Asia do remember their history (personal and national) and it doesn't seem that they remember the events in the same light as the Chinese. Thus China is waging an uphill struggle against perspectives and must not assume that everyone views it as the Chinese do.
I was really embarrassed when I learnt how some of my own nations actions were perceived and how hey had occurred. Why because when I was a child I was only presented with the positive actions of my nation and it was only as an adult that I could learn that the propaganda of my nation was not always correct.
John Chan, unless you are a troll, maybe its time to truly learn your own nations history. One example is how the CCP killed the officers and soldiers of the Republic of China. (skinning a man alive is not a metaphor for how they treated their own people.)
China really needs to check its own history before it judges another. My own nation is offering apologies, land and money to those we have wronged in the past. What is your nation doing?
This negates the nationalistic tendencies of the ethnocentric as a globalist is not ethnocentric nationalist but rather a globalist who benefits from a global trade environment.

Be Way
October 29, 2012 at 02:52

Yup, Africa has no choice but to trade with China as the West has been plundering, pillaging and exploiting them for centuries.    Indeed Africa has finally awaken to see the truth that all these preposterous talks about human rights and democracy are just a smokescreen for the West to continue with their neo-colonialism exploitation of the whole continent.

John Chan
October 28, 2012 at 02:04

Does China never exist on this global before? Or are you saying this global is owned by the West and China walked into this global uninvited? Who is the ethnocentric globalist here?
China does not have oversea military bases, it does not conduct bombing and killing on other nations in the name of democracy and human rights, it is the only nations declared “no first use” of nuclear weapons, it is an active contributor in the IMF to help out other nations in financial needs, it is an eager UN peace keeping participant, it is the largest trading partner of most of the nations, it is the largest single investor to help African getting into prosperity, … the list can go on to prove China is a responsible global stakeholder.
Because China takes actions to defend its territory integrity and you question China’s peaceful rise? You surely do not judge things fairly and reasonably.
Anybody want to maintain unfair rules in the name of keeping status quo is feudalism, human being has seen this kind of regressive argument in different forms thru the history; human being must be vigilant against such mislead argument in order to keep the spirit of Renaissance alive.

John Chan
October 28, 2012 at 01:09

Regarding Wen’s extended family’s wealth, it would be ridiculed in the West if anyone tries to use similar tactic to smear a politician or the member of the 1%; he will be called sour grape, and be told to get a job, or be named as fat ass, potato coach, lazy bum, etc.; he will be either fired or sued for libel for his misbehaviour and not knowing his place.
Wen at least is clean himself, but Mitt Romny is even not clean but he is adored by the West as their global world leader in waiting.

John Chan
October 28, 2012 at 00:50

@graham irish,
NYT, Washington Post, BBC, CIA, Hollywood, … western mainstream media are the core members of the western black information network serving the neocons’ global hegemony needs. If I can trust NYT I should also give the equal trust to The Global Times in order to balance the biases, so that I can make an informed decision. You should do the same, otherwise you are a willing propagandist or a member of the ignorant masses that has been brainwashed by the greedy 1% of the imperialist West.

October 27, 2012 at 09:18

John Chan wrote: " All the anti-China cliques are demonizing China based on racist conjecture, bigotry projection, horror hallucination, if this and if that, but nothing real.".
No one is demonizing China, they are not turning them into some immortal bogey man. If anything, they are simply asking questions and asking for truthful answers.
China is entering the global arena and most nations don't act according to Chinese cultural attitudes, therefore just as any situation where a large man enters a room, people watch closely to see how he behaves. Does he throw his weight around? Does he push and shove those already in the room?
Some will tell him the rules of those already in the room. Some will remain quiet and just speak to their friends about what they observe. Though all keep an eye on the behaviour of the new stranger in the room.
Now China needs to listen to what it says and consider its behaviour, as how it acts is being monitored. The question remains large and unanswered as of yet.
What type of person/state/actor will China be on the Global stage?
If we rely on the Chinese ethnocentric nationalists to present Chinas face to the world, then the question needs to be asked;
"are we seeing the real aggressive pushy China or are they willing to be peaceful and not impose or infringe on other peoples space when they enter the room?" 
The fact that China entered the room lays the responsibility on them to act according to the social rules that exist in the room or not, but don't complain that people watch, listen and speak about China.
If China doesn't like it, then maybe they should just leave the room and go home to play with their own toys.

graham irish
October 27, 2012 at 06:17

john chan why not google the new york times today ?

John Chan
October 27, 2012 at 01:06

 It seems you have learnt nothing from the debates on this site. All the anti-China cliques are demonizing China based on racist conjecture, bigotry projection, horror hallucination, if this and if that, but nothing real. And yet they want to claim morality to carry out such evil acts. It is the worst kind of human nature, hypocrisy.
Can you talk something based on facts?

Frank Wall
October 26, 2012 at 17:49

I can understand China's approach to the situation. Let them carry out their tasks in African without getting embroiled in trouble there. However, the article does make some fair points that things could change…in the long run, we might see China getting more and more bogged down in Africa.

October 26, 2012 at 14:12

China even opened its African CCTV for excellent propaganda news
that alls well on the continent …  The soft power is harder than colonization
Many African countries had no choice but to take Africa for a time as the corrupted prefer
China over the West

October 26, 2012 at 01:19

Have Beijing become an open opponent of groups like Al-Qaeda and its allies, and you can bet that Chinese diplomats will become targets as well. Fundamentalist groups are the primary killers of American citizens overseas, not the ordinary people of other countries.

October 25, 2012 at 16:38

"China’s ‘Image’ Problem in Africa"
At least no one is killing chinese ambassadors in Africa. Seems like China's image is not that bad after all.

October 25, 2012 at 08:37

if the new leaders are accountable to their citizens in africa, how does china's policy change that?, non-interference does not mean a push towards authoritarian form of government it means what it sounds like that they will not try to change your government for you. it does give an advantage when dealing with strong men who dont wanna change  but it is not a weakness with more democratic governments. and with regards to claims of neocolonialism, this is absolutely absurd but that doesnt stop people from claiming that the chinese government is practicing it. non intervention is the way to go for now, sure it makes it seem as though china isnt "leading" but then again we know china has no desire to do such a thing

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