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What is the role of the USA and China in Africa?

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: International Studies
Wordcount: 2718 words Published: 12th Oct 2021

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On February 6th, 2007, President George W. Bush ordered the department of defence to establish the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) by October 2008 as the sixth-largest geographic unified combatant command in the United States, however, unlike other commands focus on war, this new structure obtained distinct non-military mission: "strengthen our efforts to the African people bring peace and security, promote the development of our common goals, health, education, democracy, and economic growth in Africa", strengthen bilateral and multilateral security cooperation with African countries, creating new opportunities to support their ability (Pham, 2008). Some are concerned about long-term sustainability recalling the circular nature of past U.S. activities, and other U.S. analysts are worried about the increased focus on the role of China, India and other countries in Africa, and worry about the polarisation of the continent in some new 21st-century power struggle (Pham, 2009).

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Compared with western financial aid, China has provided billions of dollars in loans to African countries with no strings attached while disputes over China's exploitation of Africa's resources have often overshadowed Beijing's continued support for the continent, many African leaders have welcomed China's economic assistance and begun to see China as a more reliable partner than the west (Mlambo, 2019).

This paper will examine the key differences that the Chinese government and its fellow investors versus the west, the United States of America in particular, for the sake of our research. We will be looking at Africa as a big continent and use facts such as policies, words from countries' leaders, figures and collected data to demonstrate the issue both separately for China and the U.S. and together as a comparison.

The results appear that China is having a much better strategy toward the development of African countries while making a profit with all other western countries.

China's relation with Africa

Developing countries have technical difficulties in dealing with their natural resources, Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producer, producing an estimated 2.5 million barrels a day; however, most of the companies in the oil-rich Niger delta are foreign multinationals. China's increased economic and political involvement in Africa is arguably the most significant development on the continent since the end of the cold war as Sino-African trade reached U.S. $55.5 billion in 2006 and U.S. $74 billion in 2007 (Taylor, 2009). This says a lot about the focus that Chinese government is promoting: doing business in Africa by exchanging products from China to Africa while importing natural resources from Africa countries back to China. By contrast, critics claim that Africa mainly exports oil and other raw materials to China in exchange for cheap Chinese manufactured goods, in an exchange strikingly similar to colonial times (Taylor, 2009).

Picture 1. China's Assistance to Burundi Agricultural (援助非洲,中国和西方有哪些不同?

Available at: https://baijiahao.baidu.com/s?id=1595685163443813643&wfr=spider&for=pc)

In my opinion, this is not true because, in colonial times, the west would rather sell their products to African at a higher price, so that African would never have a chance to use their money on something else such as school, technology development, industrialisation, etc. Above (Picture 1) is when China's agricultural expert assisting Burundi farmers and teaching them how to upgrade their irrigation system.

Not surprisingly, the Chinese government was quick to counter this view. For example, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao said that "China was the victim of colonial aggression. The Chinese nation knows too well the suffering caused by colonial rule and the need to fight colonialism" (Mohan, 2008). I agree with this point because I was grown in China as a child, my parents shared their true-life story about colonisation back when the West was raping the Old Chinese empire land starting from 1854. At that period, colonisation was not like a corporation, instead it's basically using the area as much as they want and building a brand new political system, therefore Hongkong for example, was in chaos earlier this year (2019) because they are having the excuse of the prior colonist - the United Kingdom is better than People's Republic of China, so should be brought back to control, which is fatuous. The Chinese nation is also aware of the pain caused by colonial rule and the need to fight against colonialism, "China was colonised by western powers and supported the anti-colonial movement in Africa with a long history" proves that China does not want to control Africa's economic and political system (Mohan, 2008).

With China's state-owned enterprises (SOEs), private investment's role and its significance entrepreneurial activities need to be explored, conventional wisdom believes that the Chinese government is rapidly expanding its investment in Africa with a strong incentive and guidance force behind the positive and guiding roles, thus, since 2005, the private sector, rather than the government, more and more becoming the engine of economic exchanges between China and Africa (Gu, 2009).

Figure 1. Chinese loans to Africa (Mlambo, 2019).

By looking at figure 1 and 2, we note that the trend of Chinese loans to Africa was rising at a very high percentage every year, and stays around 10 billion U.S. dollars for the recent years. While we see potential benefits in increased trade with China, increasing resource flows may also strengthen authoritarian states and exacerbate conflict according to Padraig Carmody from Trinity College Dublin, but is yet to be confirmed (Moseley, 2004).

United State's relation with Africa

The impression in Africa are poor, lack of water is full of desert areas, actually otherwise, these places exists in parts of North Africa, most areas are land with high rain that is fertile and scarce soil in South Africa, that is widespread like our country's land in Australia. Most of the world's jewellery comes from that region as well, with so many precious resources, Africa is still so poor, is the reason is that Africans are too lazy? Or the international aid should be blamed .

Map 1. Climate and Vegetation of Africa (Climate and Vegetation of Africa. Exploring Africa. Available at: http://exploringafrica.matrix.msu.edu/map-three/)

Worldwide, much assistance from developed countries depends on economic and political conditions favourable to donors, including their security interests. From the perspective of recipient countries, this "collateral assistance" is a particularly inefficient form of development assistance because it does not help them grow their economies by creating new businesses and jobs; instead, most of the benefits remain in donor countries (Moseley, 2004). Bundling aid is also inefficient because goods and services bought from donors can often be obtained at lower prices from local producers or world markets (Moseley, 2004). The aid to Africa caused the people in the northern region becoming more languorous. These humanitarian organisations also distribute free materials also soon become a excuse to wait for a meal every day. Moreover, in some opaque areas, the materials handed out after layers of detention are being taken advantaged from the influential local people, and then sold by these people at a higher price, resulting in the local pricing to be very unstable, and many people who can work hard often suffer bankruptcy.

The U.S. State Department has proudly repeated the words of former Commerce Secretary Ron Brown:

"the United States will no longer cede African markets to former colonial powers" (Campbell, 2008).

However, the Nations humanitarian organisations have found that directly sending public money or food is useless does not help African people for reproduction, and some people as long as there is money being given would refuse to do any work. In some places, if not paying attention, seeds for planting as aid will be eaten by the local people, for these cases, many countries have begun to give up assistance gradually, the United States has publicly announced will not make any form of support anymore. But surprisingly, people in some parts of Africa are still so happy that it seems like dancing to sleep after eating every day is the most primitive kind of happiness. China's strategic strengthening of relations with Africa over the past two decades has prompted the U.S. to rethink its approach to the continent. At the end of 2014, the United States pledged $14 billion to help African industries such as aviation, banking and clean energy (Mlambo, 2019). This shows a slight transition of United States' relationship with African countries, as China went into the market, the U.S. is letting go of some of the aid for grabbing the ongoing underdevelopment of Africa, instead turned into more profitable and stable trades.

China versus the United States in Africa

China is undoubtedly an exciting case in the development economics: it not only through 40 years of market reform for more than 700 million people out of poverty, but also realised from low-income countries to high income countries such as the historic leap, and transformed itself from a recipient countries into one of the significant providers of funding for global development.

However, the explosive growth of China's economy is not achieved by external assistance, and China still insists on the central position of relying mainly on domestic resources to develop the national economy while continuing to provide foreign aid. As China has gradually become the world's leading economies as well as a large number of Chinese enterprises "going out", China is not only in theory for the foreign aid that is essential to the economic development of questioning the underlying assumptions, and is also in practicing as the mainstream of the international development theory of the core challenges for official development assistance.

Figure 2. China United States trade with Africa (as of 2013) (Mlambo, 2019).

While the United States insists on attaching conditions to its investments in Africa, China is only interested in mutually beneficial business with no conditions attached, which is China's advantage over the United States. In 2013, trade in goods between China and Africa was $200 billion, compared with $85 billion between the United States and Africa (Mlambo, 2019). Therefore, the illustration in Figure 2 supports the view that trade between China and Africa has increased significantly compared with that between the United States.

Picture 2. Djibouti Train Pilot Run (援助非洲,中国和西方有哪些不同? Available at: https://baijiahao.baidu.com/s?id=1595685163443813643&wfr=spider&for=pc)

Attitudes to China's fast-growing engagement in the continent have shifted from criticism and surprised and helpless reactions to co-operative pragmatism (Berger, 2007). A local resident who lives near the railway station in Djibouti warmly greeted the staff on the way to the trial operation of the locomotive (Picture 1). However, whether China's foreign aid supports the so-called "mainstream" development theory - the universality of the so-called "China model" - politicizes international development issues. There is a big difference between the way China provides foreign aid and development resources, or "Official Development Finance with Chinese characteristics" (ODF), and the OECD model advocated and practised by the OECD development assistance committee.

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Many African engineers emigrated to western countries: moe in the United States than in Africa, from 1985 to 1990, 60,000 African professionals migrated (Moseley, 2004). The reason may be due to the poor development and corrupting government and their over-dependency on aid. By half of the 300, 000 professionals, by 2005, 300, 000 to 500, 000 professionals, including 30, 000 PhD holders, had left, and more than 20, 000 professionals emigrated to the U.S. or Europe every year after (Moseley, 2004). China, on the other hand, is trying their best to save those professionals and build roads, school, facilities together for a better African continent, because once a country is capable of keeping its residents to stay, it then has the hope to develop and expand, China has been through poverty and seclusion, therefore is more capable of helping especially northern African countries to rise.


When looking at Africa as a whole, it's not true that the whole continent lives in poverty and hunger and disease, but it does exist in some places. The key is to get rid of Aid bound as much as possible. Just to remind ourself that Aid bound (Bundling Aid) refers to the donor countries in the process of foreign Aid and service procurement, using administrative measures for the recipient to purchase donor countries' domestic product due to the imbalance in international economic development, so the same amount of aid budgets that can be bought in developed countries are far less than those that can be purchased in developing countries, thus creating this inequality.

It's the best to seek help from donor countries who are willing to trade with no traps and building a long term relationship that benefits both sides. China is an example which helped Africa in the right way that is different from the traditional OECD, yet formed its new strategy on assisting Africa countries in stepping out of poverty. Therefore China is not a colonial power, but an ally.


Berger, B. and Wissenbach, U., 2007. EU-China-Africa trilateral development cooperation: common challenges and new directions.

Campbell, H., 2008. China in Africa: challenging US global hegemony. Third World Quarterly, 29(1), pp.89-105.

Gu, J., 2009. China's private enterprises in Africa and the implications for African development. The European Journal of Development Research, 21(4), pp.570-587.

Mlambo, V., 2019. Exploitation dressed in a suit, shining shoes, and carrying a suitcase full of dollars: What does China want in Africa?. Journal of Public Affairs, 19(1), p.e1892.

Mohan, G. and Power, M., 2008. New African choices? The politics of Chinese engagement. Review of African Political Economy, 35(115), pp.23-42.

Moseley, W.G. 2004. "Interpreting African Issues: Commentators, Scholars, Policymakers."

In: Moseley, W.G. (ed.). Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial African Issues. Guilford, CT: McGraw-Hill/Dushkin. Pp. xiiixxi.

Pham, J.P., 2008. America's New Africa Command: Paradigm Shift or Step Backwards. Brown J. World Aff., 15, p.257.

Pham, J.P., 2009. Been there, already doing that: America's ongoing security engagement in Africa. Contemporary security policy, 30(1), pp.72-78.

Taylor, I., 2009. China's new role in Africa. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers.


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