China’s inroads into Africa are gaining considerable momentum, and the trend is occurring at the expense of the West.
On Saturday, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping signed several major deals with leaders in Angola. On Monday, he concluded a two-day visit to Botswana during which he forged millions of dollars’ worth of energy development and infrastructure agreements. In Ethiopia on Wednesday, Chinese investors opened a $27-million leather-goods facility, and launched initiatives to build an airport hotel and a cement factory nearby. Thursday saw Sudan sign accords with Chinese investors that will quintuple its current wheat production.
And this has not been an unusual week for China.
Beijing claims to have over $1.5 billion invested in African nations, to employ some 300,000 Africans (in Africa), and to have constructed 37,000 miles of roads in Africa. These numbers substantially exceed those of any other nation. In 2009, China overtook the United States to become South Africa’s largest trading partner. In 2010, Chinese-African annual trade numbers exceeded $100 billion for the first time.
Unlike Berlin or Washington, Beijing does not tie its assistance to developing countries to conditions of “good governance.” While Western powers tend to punish authoritarian actions by withholding aid, China has no scruples about constructing palaces for tyrants and building summer villas for despots.
China’s accelerating drive for resources is intensifying the global scramble for the planet’s wealth. As China devours a quickly growing piece of the African pie, Europe will take notice and move to tighten its grip on and expand its own supply channels in Africa. •