China Power

China in Africa

The Diplomat’s David Cohen will speak with China in Africa expert He Wenping. Please send your questions.

This week, we'll be talking with He Wenping at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences about Sino-African relations and China's emergence as a global power. He is an expert on China's relations with Africa, South African politics, and democratic transitions in Africa, and we'll be using your questions, which you can submit to [email protected].

China has been playing a growing role in Africa over the past decade, from trade and joint infrastructure projects to China's first participation in international peacekeeping missions. Chinese leaders, concerned over what they see as efforts by Western powers to dominate supplies of oil and other vital commodities, see opportunities in Africa's abundant natural resources and weak ties to other world powers.
He Wenping has argued that the end of the Cold War gave China a window of opportunity in Africa: 'The continent is being marginalized in the diplomatic strategies of major Western countries. However, China is as always committed to developing relations with Africa.'

However, China has also run into unfamiliar problems with its Africa plans, pushing it toward international institutions and norms. Its trade and development deals have come under fire internationally and within Africa as cynical attempts to buy natural resources from questionable regimes, while its infrastructure projects, which rely on imported Chinese construction firms and workers, have been criticized for contributing little to local economies. 
China has also been criticized for dealing with regimes under international sanctions, signing oil deals with the Bashir Government in Sudan and the regime of the late Muammar Gaddafi, and allowing Chinese arms companies to sell weapons to Robert Mugabe's government in Zimbabwe.
But some foreign and Chinese scholars see Africa as an opportunity for China to take up a role in the international system commensurate with its growing economic power. It has become involved in international peacekeeping for the first time in the continent, sending more than 2,000 soldiers on UN missions and notably supporting intervention in the Congo without demanding consent from all parties to the conflict. China's relationships with isolated leaders could also give it a unique role in mediating conflicts.