Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 17:10 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 17:10 | SYDNEY

China expands in Africa: A sign of things to come


Fergus Hanson


3 December 2007 16:01

Speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations, Yang Guang, Director of the Institute for West Asian and African Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said:

...actually it is very hard to see whether a regime is a dictatorship or not. You have to find a commonly acceptable standard, so if this kind of standard does not exist, you cannot impose a one–sided view...  

He was justifying Chinese engagement with Sudan. Attitudes like this have been raising eyebrows over China’s resurgent aid and investment in Africa. 

China’s aid and investment program to Africa is longstanding, but recently – like all things Chinese – it’s been booming. The statistics tell the story: China–Africa trade has gone from $US10 billion in 2000 to US$55.5 billion in 2006: Wen Jiabao has plans to lift it to US$100 billion by 2010 . The 2006 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation – the largest ever gathering of world leaders in Beijing – saw China pledge to double its aid to the continent by 2009 . And while Chinese aid and investment figures still pale in comparison with those of the US and EU, its activities in Africa are turning heads.

One reason is China’s policy of non-interference in domestic affairs. This sees China giving aid and making investments in countries with lousy human rights records. Many accuse China of undermining Western attempts to isolate regimes like those in Khartoum and eroding efforts to ensure aid is delivered responsibly and encourages clean governance.   Some of these criticisms are fair. The evidence on others – such as whether Chinese loans undermine the ability of poor countries to service debt – is far from conclusive. China is establishing a noticeable presence in Africa – and not just in oil rich Angola and Sudan. That’s perhaps another major reason Chinese activity is generating interest: the dragon is undoubtedly rising and Africa, the exclusive preserve of the West since the end of the Cold War, can no longer be taken for granted.