China Africa Relations

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China Africa

This paper is dedicated to the study of relations between China and Africa. In particular, the main topics of the research are focused on the history and infrastructure components. The cooperation between African continent and China has a long history. Likewise, this collaboration affects local people. Thus, having its own personal goals, China develops the economy and infrastructure of the African countries, which, of course, is a great priority for the whole continent, while the interests of ordinary people are not always taken into account. Particularly, such problems as lack of working places, low level of payment, and the priority of Chinese labor are evident. There are also a number of problems associated with the local economy, since the development of infrastructure is more aimed at improving the activities of Chinese companies and creating economically viable conditions for the country.

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China Africa Relations

China has been an ally to many African countries for a long time. Today, mutually beneficial relationship develops even faster than before. China began contributing to the African continent, when its countries had the period of threat of perennial deterioration of their national economies, due to the conflict based on structural adjustment policies and mismanagement issues (Berhe & Hongwu, 2013). That became a reason of China’s desire to create a more viable variant for improvement of a social, political, and economic development in the world, after the surcease of domination of traditional superpowers, particularly the Soviet Union and the United States (Berhe & Hongwu, 2013). For the African countries, China became a contemporary world power that made them free from significant dependence on western countries (Berhe & Hongwu, 2013). China came through the period of real poverty, while western countries gained considerable wealth and influence all over the world. This experience helped China managing to struggle for decades to become a powerful nation (Berhe & Hongwu, 2013). The relationship between the country and the African continent is rather advantageous due to the desire of less developed states to learn from the nation that achieved significant success; and this cooperation does not seem to be exploitative, as it was with western powers (Berhe & Hongwu, 2013). The Sino-African relations have a long history and broad opportunities, and their productive cooperation brings positive results not only for both sides, but also for other countries.

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The History of Sino-Africa Relations

China and Africa have a long history of relations in socio-economic and political spheres. Moreover, their previous experience in development and a former colonial status have certain similarities. Chinese traces have been found in Africa since the ancient times. China’s cooperation with Africa started in the 15th century, when Chinese merchants began trading with East Africa, but the modern relations started building actively during the post-colonial period (Schiere, Ndikumana, & Walkenhorst, 2011). In fact, formal collaboration between China and Africa dates back to the time of World War II, and the first documentation of these relations appeared in 1955 during the Bandung conference that included Asian and African states (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). At this conference, China showed respect to the African peoples and pledged not to take any action that would violate their sovereignty. Moreover, there was an agenda for economic and cultural cooperation in order to oppose the colonialism and neo-colonialism from the Soviet Union, the United States, and the European states (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). China has embraced a proactive engagement in the African continent, and this has marked a shift in its domestic politics, thus, manifesting a strong intent there. In addition, the economic contest between China and other economic powers, in particular the United States and the European Union, prompted China to be even more active in its relationships with the African continent (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). Therefore, it is evident that China and the African states have a long history of close relations.

The Beginning of Relations

First Chinese-African contacts began during the ancient times. According to historian Li Anshan, it happened in 138 BC, and first facts about trading appeared during the time of Han Dynasty from 206 BC to 220 AD (Momoniat, 2017). China actively imported the African goods between 1050 and 1150, particularly ivory from the East coast (Momoniat, 2017). By 1500 detailed maps, depicting Africa as a triangle, have appeared (Momoniat, 2017). During that time, slavery was one of the factors for establishment of relations. Chinese took African slaves to their country, where they were perceived as barbarians and wild people.

Chinese activity on the continent was proved after finding obvious evidences there. Official Chinese records mention the presence of coins, paintings, and pottery in Africa, including more than 2000 artifacts representing the time of Tang Dynasty that were found on the territory of Egypt, Kenya, Zanzibar, and Somalia (Momoniat, 2017). The diplomatic and trading relations had been establishing with the help of maritime expeditions. Particularly, a diplomat and mariner Zheng He had seven expeditions to Africa during the period from 1405 to 1433 (Momoniat, 2017). Moreover, during the colonial period between 1850 and 1875, approximately 1.3 millions of Chinese people came to Africa for work, and after that 750 thousand people emigrated to various parts of Africa during the next 25 years (Momoniat, 2017). This emigration contributed to establishment of relationship in future.

The Further Raise in Cooperation

In spite of the long history of development of relationship, the level of cooperation between China and Africa significantly increased after the second half of the XX century. During the period from 1955 to 1965, trading and diplomatic relationship grew stronger, and the fact that African leader Sekou Toure visited China at first time in 1960 proved this (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). Moreover, such Chinese leaders as Mao Zedong, Jiang Zemin, Zhou Enlai, and Deng Xiaoping made numerous diplomatic visits to Africa, aimed on helping the countries in opposing colonialism and imperialism (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). Humanitarian purpose was achieved by creating organizations, protecting the rights of people. Thus, after the conference of 1957, the Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Organization was created (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). However, China’s interest had mostly ideological aim than the economic one, due to the reason of Cultural Revolution in the country (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). Chinese interests on the African continent were also motivated by the desire to get an admission to the United Nations. Therefore, during six years after 1970, the country sponsored many projects in Africa, having committed approximately $ 1.815 billion (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). Contributing to the development of African economy helped China to create many infrastructure objects and to develop a number of other fields.

The Struggle for Influence on the African Continent between China and Taiwan

After the separation of Taiwan from the Mainland China, there has been a diplomatic duel between them in pursuit of recognition by other countries. From the 1950s the majority of African nations were attaining their independence from their colonial masters. Thus, China and Taiwan joined a diplomatic race to win the support from these new states (Rich & Recker, 2013). As a result, in 1959, Mao Zedong stated that Africa is a Chinese partner in fighting against imperialism. However, between 1960 and 1963, 13 out of 23 independent African states recognized Taiwan, while China remained with five (Rich & Recker, 2013). Two years later, Zhou, the Chinese premier minister, visited 11 African states presenting China as an anti-colonialism ally and offering $120 million as an aid package to the countries (Rich & Recker, 2013). However, the reception was not so favorable, and several years later China and Taiwan had equal support from African states (Rich & Recker, 2013). Still, China continued to start collaboration with the independent African states, as well as the ones gaining independence at that time, and by 1970s, the country gained a seat in the United Nations Security Council. Consequently, 44 African states supported China, while Taiwan remained with only five (Rich & Recker, 2013). Thus, it is evident that the Sino-African relations have enabled China to beat Taiwan in the diplomatic contests for being recognized by the African states.

Infrastructural development of Sino-Africa Relations

The Sino-African relation has a positive impact on the progress and growth of the infrastructure in developing countries. Firstly, China, unlike western states, has assisted the African countries in building of complex road networks and other important objects of infrastructure (Rich & Recker, 2013). Moreover, China has invested large funds in development of the African countries, 28% of which belong to the energy sector, while 19% and 13% respectively go to the telecommunication and transport sector (Rich & Recker, 2013). Notable examples include the $5 billion grant to Angola, in which $2 billion was for infrastructure, including the building of roads, railway, and network lines (Rich & Recker, 2013). The infrastructure is a key point in promoting economic development in the African countries, and Chinese investments in this field have contributed more than the ones from the western countries.

Transport Infrastructure

One of the considerable infrastructure objects built by the Chinese in Africa is Tazara railway between Tanzania and Zambia. From 1970 to 1975 China was building the African longest railway, covering the 2000 km distance, and including 300 bridges and long tunnels (Dadvar, 2017). This object was important not only for local traffic, but also for cargo conveying. This project required labor, and on this reason, together with Chinese skilled workers, thousands of African people were hired as well (Dadvar, 2017). That gave chances not only for infrastructure development, but also created some working places for local people.

Generally, the reconstruction plan of China concerning infrastructure promised noticeable advantages to Africa. Some benefits were the reducing of transport costs, development of regional trading, and other significant changes. Another important railway was Benguela line, built by the British government at the end of the XIX century (Dadvar, 2017). It was rather old and required reconstruction; on this reason, in 2006 Chinese companies financed the project and began the repair of necessary sections (Dadvar, 2017). The railway has a strategic importance, as it connects many African mines with ports, particularly the Angolan. Other examples of transport infrastructure development were Lagos-Kano Railway, costing $8.3 billion, and Mambilla Power Station in Nigeria; the highway 1000 km long in Algeria; the port and the pipeline in Sudan; and other objects (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). Chinese projects financed the building of roads, directing to ports, and other necessary objects.

However, such investments into the transport infrastructure made African economy dependant on China. The primary interests of the country were African mineral resources, particularly oil, minerals, and other valuable materials, such as uranium, diamonds, cobalt, gold, tantalum, copper, and tin (Dadvar, 2017). For this aim Benguela and Tazara Railway lines were of great importance in resource extraction, and relationship with the continent was necessary. It is obvious, that investing funds to the continent, China had particular goals, able to raise the level of its own economy.

Social Infrastructure

Apart from the investments into transport infrastructure, China has also contributed to African countries by meeting humanitarian needs. Firstly, China offers educational opportunities and loans to African students, who want studying at Chinese universities (Rich & Recker, 2013). Secondly, the country helps in the field of healthcare, creating various programs and providing the continent with qualified doctors and other medical personnel (Rich & Recker, 2013). For instance, the first investment in African health assistance was in Algeria in 1963, the main purpose of which was training local people by Chinese medical teams (Dadvar, 2017). During the period from 1976 to 1997 China created similar programs in 25 various African countries. It has financed and equipped 54 African healthcare centers and hospitals by the end of 2009 (Dadvar, 2017). In addition, China supplies Africa with cheap products, such as phones, computers, and other devices. Particularly, in Rwanda, phones from China are cheaper in comparison with the Japanese or American ones (Rich & Recker, 2013). It is evident that educational and healthcare development, as well as cheap goods, are beneficial to the African population.

China provides help in getting higher education for a large number of students from Africa. Today, more than 4,000 African students from over 50 countries study at Chinese higher institutions, particularly at the Beijing Language and Culture University (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). The university offers such courses as sciences, arts, law, and Chinese language. Furthermore, annually the country awards 1,200 government-funded scholarships for students from Africa, for instance, by the year of 2005, about 18,919 scholarships for African students have been registered (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). In addition, the country also provides professional tutors for 35 countries in Africa to help in development of the sufficient number of secondary schools, as well as higher educational establishments (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). Therefore, it is evident that education has played an important role in promoting good relations between China and the African continent. An increasing level of education available for the African population, improves the economic situation of the continent significantly, by preparing qualified personnel ready to implement their knowledge for this aim.

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Military Infrastructure

One of the priorities of China’s foreign policies are military benefits. The need to keep peace and security suggests using military forces outside the territory. China develops military infrastructure on other continents by interacting with African armies from many countries, increasing the level of military exchange, including operations, sale or arms, and peace keeping (Berhe & Hongwu, 2013). In addition, the exchange areas include training policy personnel, structures, and logistics. Chinese foreign policy concerning its army has an intention to improve military relations with African countries.

Chinese army is actively engaged on the African continent. With the United Nations, China sent its army for peacekeeping missions to Africa (Berhe & Hongwu, 2013). Furthermore, during the period from 1996 to 2003, China was the largest arms seller to African countries (Berhe & Hongwu, 2013). The country’s army participated in such unstable regions as Congo and Sudan (Berhe & Hongwu, 2013). The activity of Chinese navy around African waters is also noticeable, and it took part in joint exercises concerning anti-terrorist operations (Berhe & Hongwu, 2013). China has strong military relationship with the African countries, which contributes to realization of both its foreign policy aims and to keeping peace on the African continent.

Touristic infrastructure

African countries become popular touristic routs among the Chinese population and for the African economy. The development of touristic infrastructure is significant. Up to the year of 2005, there have been about 110,000 Chinese tourists, which proved the development of tourism business both at the government level and by the tour operators (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). Furthermore, the number of Chinese visitors to Zimbabwe, Kenya, Angola and several other African countries has increased recently. China gave a status of an approved destination for tourist groups to African continent, which created good oportunities for business in many countries.

South Africa has been a main tourism partner of China. For instance, the number of tourists visiting South Africa rose from 10,000 in 2003 to 40,000 in 2005 (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). Moreover, the World Tourism Organization suggests that by 2020, China will be the largest tourist market. Therefore, South Africa arranges tourism exhibitions in large cities of China, particularly Chengdu, Shanghai, and Beijing promoting its tourism sector (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). Likewise, such countries as the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom prefer South Africa as a touristic country (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). It is evident that China helps to develop touristic business in many African countries, but South Africa has superior priorities.

Market and Economic Infrastructure

China increased a wide range of investments in Africa during the last two decades. Long before, the investments were concentrated in a few sectors, particularly oil industry and fishing, but further it has spread to other areas, including electronics, textiles, telecommunications, tourism, and infrastructural construction works (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). By 2006, the country had invested $11.7 billion in Africa, and in 2005, this value comprised $ 400 million that was 1.3 % of the total direct investments Africa had in that year (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). The influence of globalization has forced the African countries to welcome foreign investment, and thus, China has taken an advantage of this opportunity. Chinese firms in Africa assisted in building hospitals and schools for local people, hiring the residents from a necessary localization, thus giving working places (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). In addition, China has considerably influenced infrastructural development, as well as technology transfer in Africa. For instance, Chinese built Tazara railway in the southern part of Africa, a hydroelectric dam in Ghana, and a network for mobile phones in Ethiopia (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). Nigeria has also been one of the beneficiaries, since China helped the country to launch its space satellite in 2007, becoming the first country in the Sub Sahara Africa, which managed it (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). These are just a few examples of infrastructural projects built in Africa by China, which indicates the significant level of investment of the latter.

China and the African countries cooperate in agriculture. China, as a member of the World Trade Organization, highly values this industry. Many Chinese farmers and prominent people have expressed interest in conducting farming in Africa (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). Since 1960s, China has had a number of agricultural projects in terms of cooperatives in many countries, in particular Congo DRC, the Republic of Congo, Mali, Guinea, Niger, Sierra Leone, Mauritania, Tanzania, Somalia, Uganda, and Togo (Ayenagbo et al., 2012; Ayenagbo, 2015). Even though the majority of them started as aid projects, collaboration in agriculture has continued till the present days.

China has great oil needs, and this has been a major determinant of the Sino-African relations. The need for a stable oil supply motivated China to make direct investments in some African countries in order to acquire oil fields. Currently, China has invested in Chad, Sudan, Angola, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Algeria, and the Republic of Congo that are the leading oil producers in Africa (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). In Nigeria, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation made payments worth $2.7 billion to acquire the permission for exploring oil in the country, and the 45% share granted to the firm has been producing 225,000 barrels per day starting from 2008 (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). Moreover, the China Petrochemical Corporation has a 50% stake in the Greater Plutonic Oil Project in Angola (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). In addition, the China National Petroleum Corporation has helped Sudan to develop its oil fields. Furthermore, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation signed a deal with the government regarding oil production in Somalia (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). The Chinese companies are also exploring oil in Ghana. The oil projects in West Africa accounted for 38% growth in the global oil production, thus it is important to China as it gives hope for adequate oil supplies (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). Regarding the Chinese investments in the African countries as well as the numerous deals signed between the governments, it is obvious that China considers Africa as its best oil supplier, and it helps in improving an economic infrastructure.

The need for minerals has also contributed to the intensified Sino-Africa relations. China is emerging as a monopoly power for the trade in African minerals and the inauguration of the African Economic and Trade Zone by President Hu Jintao in 2007 after his tour of Africa signifies it (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). The country controls the Chambisi copper smelting firm in Zambia, that is a joint business between the Yunnan Copper Industry and the China Nonferrous Metal Mining. Moreover, in Zimbabwe, China has a considerable stake in the production of minerals. Similarly, it led to the foundation on Mugambe’s Look East Policy that helped to maintain good relations (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). The African Economic and Trade Zone thus manifests the great Chinese interests in Africa.

China had numerous deals with African countries regarding minerals. In the DRC Congo, China secured a deal worth $8 billion that gave it 68% access to Grecamines (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). Moreover, in Gabon, a state agency, the China National Machinery and Equipment Import and Export Corporation, struck a deal worth $3 billion relating to mining of iron ore in Belinga (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). In addition, the China Transtech Industry in collaboration with a Sudanese firm invested $ 600 million in Mauritania for a railway line construction in exchange of about 165 million tones of phosphates used in the production of fertilizers (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). China also imports cobalt from Congo DRC, as well as manganese from South Africa. The minerals play a great role in establishing friendship and business relations between China and Africa.

Implications for the Sino-African Relations

The presence of China in Africa led to many challenges in relations between the country and the continent regarding the labor and control of the market. Firstly, the labor practices and marketing strategies, adopted by China, seems offensive to the African countries (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). In addition, China was accused in supplying the African market by low quality goods, thus weakening the local economies. Secondly, the Chinese do not employ the Africans in the firms established in the continent, bringing their skilled workers, while the manual work that is not skilled is given to the Africans (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). Thus, the implication is the opinion that Chinese investors do not contribute to the benefit of local economy (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). There is an opinion that China is exploiting the African partners, cutting jobs to the hosts, and flooding cheap low quality goods.

However, there is an advantage in the superiority of Chinese goods on the African continent. Due to the technological advancements and the financial power, the Chinese state can manufacture high-quality goods that are cheaper and better in comparison with the African ones. Nevertheless, pleasing the customers does not help the local industries, and this situation is not advantageous for the African countries, since it may destroy their trade and make them dependent on import (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). Nigeria, that sells most of its fuel to the United States, has decided to tread carefully on the Chinese deals, indicating that China will have to compete with the United States over the Nigerian oil to prevent exploitation (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). Furthermore, in Ethiopia, as a result of an increased rebellion, nine Chinese oil workers were killed in the Ogaden region in 2007 (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). The suspicion from the African side is caused by the presence of Chinese investors in Africa due to the reason that it may destroy all local industries.

The Sino-African relations have increased the migration of the Chinese to Africa, but it has not promoted the migration of the Africans to China. Africa has received 900,000 Chinese peoplem who are grabbing jobs from the locals both in the formal and the informal sector (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). Meanwhile, the Africans cannot easily move to China due to the immigration rules. Moreover, they are under fears for possible deportation and racial discrimination (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). According to the reports, Chinese people have more chances of employment than the Africans, even if the level of work skills is unimportant (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). It is obvious that China is exploiting African countries mostly for its own interests and purposes.

Unfortunately, the cases of human right violation are not rare in Sino-African relations. African workers are against violence and low salaries at the Chinese companies, in connection with the flood of Chinese workers taking local working places (Ayenagbo et al., 2012). Thus, in 2010 hundreds of workers from Zambia mines went on strike because of low payments (Ayenagbo et at., 2012). Labor market of Africa is not in a good condition. Chinese companies do not pay enough to local labor, and prefer hiring their own people due to several reasons. The first and very important factor is a language barrier; that is why a worker who migrated from China can easily get a job than an African one, for whom a language barrier is a real challenge. Moreover, Chinese workers are trained better, skilled, and able to perform several various works. Commonly, they have different training programs before starting to work, which keeps time necessary for teaching. Chinese workers are multi-skilled and can do many jobs, which is rather profitable for the employer. African workers, on the contrary, require qualifications and trainings, which is a disadvantage during recruitment.

Describing the opinion of African leaders, it becomes obvious that they have positive expectations from the China Africa cooperation. However, some of them express concerns about this issue, particularly the President Mbeki of South Africa, who feels terrifying threat from open perspectives of the Chinese state (Dadvar, 2017). Some people wonder about the fact that China, in spite of having its own population in poverty, helps African people. However, many people still have positive attitude concerning the contribution of China to development of African infrastructure.

China is aimed at dynamic mutual respect in its international relations, respecting the internal choices that its African partners make, thus, explaining their policy as non-intervention. The main reason for China’s presence in Africa is their focus on its own needs rather than willing to help the poor African people. Chinese culture encourages respect to African leaders, emphasizing that respect leads to success and improves relationship. Moreover, Chinese culture considers each person responsible for his or her own destiny. Therefore, the African quality of life is not considered China’s responsibility by the latter. The country also works under the influence of its own historic development, which mostly focused on economic growth with planning of civil development only afterwards. At the same time, the priority of African leaders is creating infrastructure first. Nevertheless, they still understand about the necessity of local economy development. Having the previous experience with Western participation, African people are trying to protect themselves from possible exploitation from the side of China.


China has been an ally for the African states for a long period, beginning from the ancient times, but today the relations are still developing. China was not a well-developed country when their official relations started, thus demonstrating an example to African countries. The relationship between China and Africa has a long history, a wide scope, and a complex nature, which influences both sides as well as other countries, namely the western powers and Taiwan. The first notifications about relations between China and Africa date back to 138 BC. China and Africa started conducting trade in the 15th Century, when Chinese merchants sailed to Africa. However, their formal relations began in 1955 at the conference, where many African states took part. The cooperation between countries takes place in terms of infrastructure development, particularly transport, education, aid, investments, tourism, agriculture, diplomacy, economy, military, and security.

The Sino-African relations have led to some consequences for both sides, as well as other countries. For instance, there are conflicts between China and its African partners over the prevailing of Chinese interests in Africa. Moreover, there has been an unbalanced migration between the two countries in favor of China. Nevertheless, China has created infrastructural developments and offered humanitarian assistance to African countries. In addition, Taiwan has suffered a diplomatic failure, as China has convinced the majority of African states not to recognize it. Thus, it is apparent that Sino-African relations take numerous forms and these have made significant impacts on the two sides as well as other countries.

For years, African business was hindered by poor transport infrastructure between regions and countries. The Sino-African relations fixed this situation, providing financing for infrastructure and labor in exchange of lower prices for African resources. As a side effect, it allows African continent enlarging its economy and export, improving the lives of a huge number of Africans, who will be able someday to be among the majority of future buyers of goods from China.

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