Opinion: Should The U.S. Be Afraid Of China’s Role In Africa?

Opinion: Should The U.S. Be Afraid Of China’s Role In Africa?

From a WashingtonPost blog.

China and Chinese companies are changing the way African politicians seek aid and investment.

The relationship between the two sides is far more complicated than simple narratives about “democracy or dictatorship” or “trade not aid” suggest.

Veteran journalist Howard W. French explores this complexity in his book, “China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants are Building a New Empire in Africa.”

The American discourse on China and Africa is very confused and generally not very insightful, French siad. Part of that is driven by the recent, still startled realization in (the U.S.) of just how serious a competitor China is becoming, and part of that reflects the baggage of very old and nearly immutable American attitudes toward Africa, which are bound up in paternalism and in using Africa as a kind of vanity mirror to help us brighten our own self-image and feel better about ourselves.

Make no mistake, China is competing with the U.S., and an important element of that is going where its major rival — the U.S. — is thinly represented on the ground, lightly engaged in terms of political, economic and policymaking resources — in other words, places where the U.S. has been coasting or has simply not brought its “A Game.”

This background has a lot to do with why China has made such a big and concerted push into Africa in the last 10 to 15 years, and why, not coincidentally, the U.S. didn’t really sit up and pay attention until fairly recently.

China, unsurprisingly, is looking out for China, seeking opportunity wherever it can find it. That said, Beijing is wary about a risk to its image of getting too comfortably and blatantly in bed with the most egregious despots on the continent.

Read more at WashingtonPost.